Student-led Axis Consulting demonstrates its value with first-ever paid project

Mar 28, 2024

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Axis Consulting consultants (L-R): Mina Labani, Yu Bin Chae, Ekam Khangura, Daius Steiner, Celia Fan.

SFU’s undergraduate student-led Axis Consulting has completed its first-ever paid contract. The milestone client, Green North Energy, is a Finland-based green energy development company.

“Axis Consulting teams usually complete pro bono work for nonprofits. I arranged this project so the team could experience the challenge and higher expectations of working for a paying client,” explains Simon Ford , SFU Beedie senior lecturer and Axis faculty advisor.

Over its history Axis Consulting has completed more than 60 pro bono projects. Founded in 2012 as the SFU chapter of Enactus, an international social entrepreneurship organization, Axis Consulting became an independent, extra-curricular student organization in 2019.

Axis Consulting comprises approximately 35 undergraduate students each year, filling roles on an executive team and consulting teams . Each consulting team is made up of two to five consultants with a team lead who has relevant experience through internships or previous years with Axis. Recruitment and appointment are competitive processes that emulate those of consulting firms by including resume screening and interviews.

BBA student Ekam Khangura, who has previous pro bono experience with Axis in addition to industry consulting experience, was brought on as team lead. Consultants included Mina Labani and Yu Bin Chae, also BBA students, as well as Celia Fan who is completing a double major in business administration and computing science, and Daius Steiner earning a sustainable business joint major.

“Knowing this was a paid project made me more conscious of the quality of our work and the level of professionalism that was required,” says Khangura. “I brought what I learned in industry to the role as team lead to support the consultants and the client.”

“There was pressure to meet the higher expectations of the client, and of ourselves,” adds Labani, who has previous pro bono experience with Axis.

Approximately 150 million metric tons of ammonia was produced globally in 2023. The production relies on fossil fuels and results in nearly 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, representing 1.8 per cent of total global carbon emissions annually.

Green North Energy, has plans for a pilot “green ammonia” production facility in Finland and wanted to understand the future potential of green ammonia applications to successfully position themselves in this budding market.

Green ammonia is an optimal fuel choice, and the primary market segment Green North Energy is interested in pursuing; however, the technology has not yet reached maturity for scale and boasts a significant price premium. The demand for this vital commodity is expected to increase as countries and companies alike work to hit net zero and decarbonization targets.

Consulting work began in September and wrapped up with a presentation of findings and recommendations to the client in December. Ford praises the student consultants for the work they accomplished. “From the first meeting to the delivery of the final report, the team managed the project and the client relationship incredibly professionally,” he says.

“Although the team was initially unfamiliar with green ammonia and its markets, they quickly developed expertise and showed their capacity for the type of rapid learning necessary for working in the consulting industry. At the conclusion of the project, both the client and I were left impressed with the team’s accomplished final presentation, and their detailed and insightful report.”

The team conducted research, expert interviews, client meetings, and delivered the final report and presentation while also managing course loads and other aspects of life. Both consultants admit the demand on their time was stressful for the entire team at times, but say this experiential learning opportunity was not only lucrative because of the pay.

“Being able to apply our knowledge while still being students is satisfying and worth the effort. GPA is important, but experiential learning allows you to flex your skills, demonstrate your reliability and work ethic,” says Labani. “I have a better understanding of some of the dynamics I enjoy in my work—research, strong collaboration with my team, and iterative processes.”

“This project was the cherry on top of the consulting career I already know I want,” says Khangura. “I would tell students to be intentional with your time and your choices, align your extra-curriculars with your goals and build up the skillset to get the opportunities, and career, you want.”