The Columns

My W&L: Alejandro Paniagua ’17

— by on September 5th, 2016

Alejandro Paniagua '17

“The one thing that will set you apart and help define you is how you cope with the challenges you face, learn from them and move on.”

Coming to Washington and Lee, I knew I wanted to major in both business administration and environmental studies, but what I did not know was what I wanted to do with these degrees. As my first year at W&L advanced, I became aware of a group called Washington and Lee Student Consulting (WLSC). At that time, I knew very little about consulting and what that meant. I just knew you had to deal with clients and different projects, which was something that appealed to me. Especially considering I get bored easily if I only focus on just one thing. I decided to give it a shot and luckily was accepted into WLSC my sophomore year. I had a great experience working for Blue Lab Brewery trying to develop a marketing plan focusing on social media as my first project. It was a very rewarding experience that taught me a lot of what consulting is about: collaboration.

Fall term of my junior year, I studied abroad in Denmark and took a very interesting class called Creative Business. This class partnered with the Copenhagen Institute of Neurocreativity, whose goal was to improve our creativity level. In order to measure our level of creativity, we worked with the Volvo Group in Denmark as external consultants in a new creative design solutions project for the Chinese market. This experience proved to be a very rewarding and challenging one, since we faced high expectations, strict deadlines and a lot of pressure from Volvo. There was definitely a steep learning curve, but every struggle was worth it. I could not wait to work on another consulting project again to apply my new creative skills and to learn even more.

Coming back from Denmark, I became a project leader for WLSC and my client was the Rockbridge Area Relief Association. This was a challenging project that needed lots of hard work and dedication. Luckily my team members were great, and we managed to create a final deliverable that addressed our client’s needs while overcoming all of our challenges. I also learned a lot about building a relationship with the client and truly listening to their implicit and explicit concerns. Looking back at these three consulting experiences and what I have learned, I found a common thread: I always struggled.

One way or another I always struggled, but in the end I always managed. Each case was hard and pushed me to become a better professional, student and individual. And while I struggled, I noticed that everyone else was struggling as well! I realized that it is not our struggles that define us, but the way we approach and deal with them that will truly make a difference in our lives. Whatever you choose to do as a professional or in life, you will struggle like everyone else. The one thing that will set you apart and help define you is how you cope with the challenges you face, learn from them and move on. It is easier said than done, because feeling overwhelmed can be paralyzing, but coming from someone that knows this feeling way too well, my advice for anyone that is reading this is to always work on yourself and don’t let your struggles overtake you. Deal with whatever you can, at whatever pace you can. You will pull through as long as you always keep moving forward and persevere.