CEMS corporate partner, practical experience with a real company

As a student, Felix Nahlen was assigned to CEMS Corporate Partner DHL Consulting for four months as part of his prestigious CEMS Master in International Management qualification. Now working full-time for the company, he looks back at this crucial opportunity and assesses its impact on his career.

Authors: Tony Greenway, Interview with Felix Nahlen

Published: Last updated:

Culture & Career

Gesticulating hands at the meeting in the office

In 2019, Felix Nahlen — then a postgraduate student — got the opportunity to work with CEMS corporate partner, DHL Consulting on a business project for four months. It was, he admits, a fascinating, career-defining experience.

“I’d previously worked as an intern with other businesses, so had some knowledge of the corporate world,” remembers Felix. “But the work I did with DHL Consulting, and the trust they placed in me to do it, was of an entirely different size and scope. It was a first for me — and hugely enjoyable.”

The feeling was mutual. In fact, we enjoyed working with Felix so much that he joined us as a full-time Consultant in November 2020.

But let’s rewind. When we first met Felix, he was a student with CEMS, a global community of leading business schools, multinational companies and social partners, dedicated to educating and preparing future generations of business leaders through its prestigious international Master in Management (MiM) program.

All MiM students get access to best-in-class teaching and the operational expertise of CEMS’s corporate partners, which include world-renowned companies and organizations. We’re proud to say that DHL Consulting has been a CEMS corporate partner since 2017.

Our Work as a CEMS Corporate Partner

As a CEMS corporate partner, we help deliver a crucial part of the MiM program: an annual Business Project for students to complete. These Projects, which take place between April and July and are run in collaboration with the University of Cologne, aren’t simply a ‘nice to have’ that look impressive on students’ CVs.

In fact, they provide an unusually in-depth investigation of a strategic challenge faced by a leading company, and potentially offer a number of interesting post-graduation CEMS career opportunities. Successful completion of a Business Project counts towards half of an individual’s final MiM qualifications, so no wonder the University of Cologne attaches such importance to them.

In the case of DHL Consulting, CEMS students work on a Business Project in a team or three or four, and are tasked with solving a real-world management problem, closely supervised by a team of DHLC advisors and an academic advisor from the University of Cologne. It’s a chance for MiM students to hone their practical and analytical skills in a corporate environment within a multidisciplinary and culturally diverse team.

Portrait of Felix Nahlen

I wanted to join DHL Consulting full-time because I realized that if they gave me that much responsibility as a student, I knew I’d be given lots of responsibility and trust as an employee.

Giving Students Practical Business Experience

Yet it’s not just one-way traffic because the Business Projects we run also greatly advantage DHL Consulting. Firstly, they strengthen the company’s ties to academia; and secondly they allow us to meet, support and exchange ideas with some uniquely creative individuals who might just become the DHL Consulting employees of the future. People like Felix.

“We always welcome the opportunity to have MiM students work with us,” says Markus Werner, Expert, HR Marketing, DHL Consulting. “Every year, CEMS asks us if we would like to operate a Business Project, and every year we say: ‘Yes!’ It’s a no-brainer because it’s such an effective recruiting tool. Conducting Business Projects is an excellent way for us to closely interact with a small group of students for a longer period of time. Many of our team members are CEMS alumni.”

Getting on Top of the Business Project Brief

Felix, who had studied for his bachelor’s degree in International Management & Supply Chain Management at the University of Cologne, applied to join the CEMS Master in Management program in 2017 at the same institution. “CEMS MiM appealed to me because it’s a truly international program which offers the chance to learn in an environment with students from around the world,” he says. “Plus, the curriculum is very practice-focused, so I was looking forward to getting hands-on business experience with a real company.”

When CEMS assigned Felix to a Business Project run by DHL Consulting, he was excited to be part of a four-strong team of international and local students whose remit was to find ways of optimizing parcel pick up for DHL Parcel, one of DHL Consulting’s customers. This meant carrying out detailed research into the pick up process, and talking to DHL Parcel employees in order to identify pain points and devise workable solutions to improve the service.

It was a daunting but exhilarating challenge, but one the whole team was determined to meet. “First, we quickly had to get a deep understanding of how the parcel pick-up process works, which is extremely detailed and complex,” says Felix. “Not only that, we had to understand how any changes we suggested would impact other processes down the line.”

Creating Real Service Improvement Solutions

While working on their Business Project, Felix and the team were offered constant support via a weekly ‘catch-up’ meeting with advisors from the CEMS corporate partner team at DHL Consulting. “Whenever we had any questions they were always there to offer guidance and insight,” he says.

Students were also invited to attend two presentations: one to update their progress and another to present their final report. “When we compared our findings to the findings of a team from DHL Parcel who had been working on the same topic, it was gratifying to find that the results were very similar,” says Felix. “The final feedback we received from our supervisors was extremely rewarding.”

Happily for DHL Consulting, students’ ideas don’t always remain on the drawing board. In some cases, the solutions they devise are so good, they’re implemented into every day operations and make real, direct, positive impacts on the business. “Their findings can have tangible gains for us — and for our clients,” confirms Markus Werner.

Rewarded With Responsibility and Trust

After taking a year off to travel and complete another internship, Felix applied to DHL Consulting for a full-time position in 2020. “I kept thinking about the Business Project and how much trust DHL Consulting placed in us as students,” he says. “For example, we got to work directly with DHL Parcel’s end customers — and that surprised me. One of the reasons I wanted to join the company full-time was because I realized that if they gave me that much responsibility as a student, I knew I’d be given lots of responsibility and trust as an employee. And that’s exactly how it’s been from day one!”

Felix has been pleased to apply a range of skills that he learned during his Business Project to his work as a Consultant. These include breaking down complex processes and problems, identifying topics that require further research, aligning with different stakeholders and presenting findings in a clear and engaging way.

And, fittingly, he has volunteered to be part of the DHL Consulting team advising this year’s CEMS Business Project student intake. “It does feel a bit strange to be sitting on the other side of the table,” admits Felix. “But having been in the students’ position, I know exactly how they’ll be feeling and the challenges they’ll face, so I’m really looking forward to offering them my advice and support.”

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