For senior Jes­sica Kong, a co-​​op in Ger­many last year meant dis­cov­ering a pas­sion for con­sulting and get­ting a first-​​hand per­spec­tive on how inter­na­tional busi­ness operates.

Kong, a finance major, worked in Munich at the Allianz Group, a leading finan­cial ser­vices firm focusing on insur­ance, asset man­age­ment, and banking. As a member of the company’s in-​​house con­sulting group, Kong designed a finan­cial cal­cu­la­tion tool that sorted crit­ical cost-​​accounting data.

This work was part of a project to track spending at the company’s enti­ties in Spain, Italy, France and Ger­many. During Kong’s co-​​op, the cost-​​benchmarking ini­tia­tive was rolled out else­where in Europe, including Switzer­land and Aus­tria. Kong also played a key role in expanding the ini­tia­tive to the United Kingdom, which she called a huge per­sonal accomplishment.

Her impres­sive work — which involved a great deal of market research — helped pin­point areas where the com­pany could yield impor­tant cost reduc­tions. Seeing this data used to improve oper­a­tional strategy imme­di­ately piqued Kong’s interest.

I liked the market research aspect,” she said. “For me, that was pretty chal­lenging. It was inter­esting get­ting to track all sorts of data.”

Kong’s global expe­ri­ence stretched beyond just gath­ering data. Working with col­leagues from more than a dozen dif­ferent nations—many of whom spoke three languages—broadened her world view further.

The amount of appre­ci­a­tion my col­leagues had for dif­ferent cul­tures was at a level I’ve never seen before,” said Kong, who is Asian-​​American and is pur­suing a minor in Spanish. “That was really rewarding.”

Kong’s expe­ri­ence helped her hone her problem-​​solving and ana­lyt­ical skills. Having to pro­vide strong fac­tual evi­dence for all her find­ings made her more detail-​​oriented. And the job boosted her confidence.

The co-​​op also solid­i­fied Kong’s inten­tion to pursue con­sulting and strategy work as a career. She’s already on the right track — she just accepted a post-​​college job in Dubai with man­age­ment con­sulting firm McK­insey & Company.

This expe­ri­ence shed light on what I want to do in my career,” Kong said, “and the things I learned on this project could be applied to any busi­ness or industry.”