Milestone Solutions Lab has advertised two positions recently: hopefully, the team will grow with a resident and a non-resident intern soon, and further associates might join in the near future. On this occasion we spoke with Ádám Zeitler, co-founder of Milestone Institute and Director of Solutions Lab about Solutions Lab’s portfolio, its common future with Milestone Institute, and about the concept of a non-resident intern.
Milestone Institute: Why have you decided at Solutions Lab to hire two new interns at the same time?
Ádám Zeitler: I must say for the best possible reason, fortunately: we get more and more assignments, the workload is increasing, and, in parallel, we need to grow, too. We need more manpower to be able to maintain the quality of our work, so we decided to supplement the permanent team with two interns at once. In this respect, Solutions Lab is in a great position, as we are in touch with the most talented professionals trained abroad through Milestone; in addition, channeling back the knowledge acquired at the best universities in the world, so everyone could benefit from it in a domestic environment is a central element to our common vision with the Institute. The tasks of the resident and the non-resident intern will be different, but we are counting on both of them to contribute to the success of our projects.
M.I.: Speaking of projects, what sort of projects your prospective interns can expect to work on?
Á.Z.: Solutions Lab has a wide range of clients coming from various sectors: we work with small- and medium sized enterprises, multinational firms, but we have municipal clients, too. Our activities can be divided into three categories: we do market research (and write related studies), hold training sessions (primarily focusing on improving soft skills, like creating presentations, cooperation, or assertive communication), and provide organisational development consultancy. The interns joining our team will have the opportunity to get a taste of all of those, and, during the time they spend at us, to specialise in the field they find the most attractive.
M.I.: Solution Lab is less than two years old: why could an internship be more attractive in your team than at a major consultancy firm of hundreds of employees and several years or decades of market experience?
Á.Z.: Due to its size, Solutions Lab can be regarded as a ‘boutique consulting’ firm: this basically means that we work with a relatively small team, and our number of clients is also limited. No doubt, we cannot provide that sort of hierarchical, large enterprise background in which every colleague has their well defined, fixed role and responsibility, but I think this has more advantages than disadvantages – especially in the case of interns.
As I previously mentioned, we carry out activities of three, clearly distinct types, and our interns will have the chance of getting familiar with all of them – it is highly unlikely that they would be provided the same opportunity at a big firm. Young professionals coming to us as interns are interested in our fields of research, or the corporate, market world, but they are very likely yet to decide what specific direction they would like to improve themselves further. We support them in finding that direction, and departing successfully on the road to professionalism.
A further advantage of boutique consultancy – and this is probably one of the most important ones – is the close cooperation between different levels: interns work together with senior consultants on different projects, they have an insight into strategic decisions, and we all take part in creative work – a Solutions Lab intern is not there to bring the others coffee for sure.
M.I.: How do interns fit into the long term plans of Solutions Lab? Do you count on them even after the expiration of their contracts?
Á.Z.: Absolutely. Currently, we work with external consultants in some of our projects, but we hope than in 2-3 years time, we can recruit in-house for senior positions. The career path of the interns who will join us soon – if there’s a will from both sides, of course – leads through junior status to senior consulting, and we do our best that in the course of going along that path, they find the field in which they would like to specialise.
M.I.: I assume the notion of a “non-resident” intern refers to the physical absence of the person at the place of work, so they “work in” from a distance. Does this mean that the non-resident intern plays a smaller part in the vision you described?
Á.Z.: Absolutely not. The non-resident intern does work from a distance, but it doesn’t mean at all that their work is not just as valuable as that of the resident intern. Distant internship is far from being an unknown phenomenon: we adapted it because we understand that young Hungarians studying or living abroad does not necessarily want to return to Hungary immediately, but they would like to participate in domestic projects. With the position of non-resident intern, we create a quality professional practice opportunity for them, while we can benefit from the knowledge and expertise they acquired at foreign universities. In addition, its project-based work makes Solutions Lab ideal for non-resident interns, as we usually know exactly in what periods we need to utilise the intern’s contractually callable working hours. It is also important to clarify that the currently advertised non-resident internship is practically a pilot programme: we would like to keep and expand this model on the long run, so that we become a quality entrance point to the domestic market for as many foreign-trained young Hungarian professional as possible.
M.I.: You mentioned foreign top universities, which raises the question: are you targeting Milestone alumni with the non-resident intern position?
Á.Z.: Not necessarily, even though it’s true that – fortunately – a high proportion of former Milestone students attends the best universities worldwide. Nevertheless, we would not like to exclude anyone from the applicant pool: the selection of the interns will depend solely on their professional aptitude.
M.I.: You have mentioned professionalism several times as one of – if not the – most important aspect of Solutions Lab, speaking of either the selection of colleagues or your work itself. How common do you find this approach in Hungary?
Á.Z.: There’s room for improvement for sure. Milestone Institute and Solutions Lab share the long-term goal of becoming an opinion leader in Hungary: by strengthening a science-based, professional attitude, we would like to contribute to the birth of a society that responds, and offers professional solutions to the problems of the 21st century. To achieve this goal, we need to search for, nurture, and involve young talent. In fact, this attitude conjoins Milestone institute and Solutions Lab at the most essential level: the knowledge port concept, to which Milestone’s educational programme is just as integral as the corporate, organisational development work of Solutions Lab. It follows that in the future we would like to extend the operation of Solutions Lab further, so that even more outstanding researchers, consultants, and organisational developers join the team. With the establishment of the knowledge port, our professional, knowledge-based approach will hopefully constitute the basis of a socially active community.
M.I.: What do you consider to be the most valuable of Solutions Lab’s work – that hopefully the interns will get to know, too?
Á.Z.: To be honest, I keep being surprised by seeing that sometimes high-ranking managers of big – sometimes very big – companies, instead of being considerate and professional, make key decision out of gut feeling. For me, the most exciting part of Solutions Lab’s work s that we can introduce a scientific way of thinking, a professional attitude to these companies or institutions, and we incentivise managers to make conscious, well-founded decisions.