When I graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, I wanted to do everything. I quickly fell into consulting when I discovered that it would enable me to do a little bit of everything. I learned that I wouldn’t be tied down to a specific industry, or sector; instead, I would be able to constantly flex in and out of different business environments. When I reflect on my mindset after graduation, I realize that what I wanted most was to be taken out of my comfort zone. As a consultant, every day is an opportunity to explore new and different things and work on something that I’m not too familiar with.
It sounds corny to say it, but the people I work with are one of the main reasons I feel fulfilled in my role. The human touch of Level5 Strategy was actually what drew me in from the start. Once I got to the final round of interviews with Level5, I received a text message from one of the directors who wished me good luck. He also said, You have what it takes to crush it. Realizing that they cared about the applicants as people, and didn’t see them only as job interviewees, was telling of the empathy that resonated across the firm. People refer to Level5 as a family and that’s because it does feel like a family.
Consultants can’t go into a project with a preconceived notion of what the solution is. They have to understand the clients’ nuances, where they’re coming from and how they differ from client projects they’ve done in the past. As consultants, we work with a variety of clients and adapt in accordance with information that often changes on the fly. Changes are routine and you can’t be too tied down to your idea of how things will play out. You have to pivot when necessary because the solution may be entirely different from what you thought going in.
A big part of my job is to learn quickly about industries I don’t know much about. When I first started presenting our solutions to clients I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable. On most projects, I have the pleasure of working with seasoned executives who have spent their entire careers with their company or in a single industry. I naturally questioned my ability to deliver value above and beyond their own capacity. I also wondered whether I was punching above my weight, particularly when facilitating abstract, strategic concepts. As a young strategic advisor, I often asked myself if I had the confidence to deliver the value clients were looking for.
I quickly learned that the best way to overcome it was to gain confidence and trust from the clients by building an authentic relationship with them. As time went by, I shifted my mindset that I was advising “intimidating” executives – they’re people, like the rest of us, with problems that need to be solved. Eventually, the impostor syndrome went away because I understood that I didn’t have to be the smartest person in the room, which was never my intention anyway. I want to learn from my clients and learn with them so that I can leverage those learnings to support driving and realizing solutions for them.
First, the management made sure that the firm was sustainable during the pandemic so that we were ready for all the changes that were happening. But what they were really doing was future-proofing the business. They understood from the get go that the pandemic was disorienting for clients and that our interaction with them had to change. Level5 proved very agile during lockdown and the management advised us to be personable and empathetic with the clients so that they could receive all the support in whatever capacity they needed. As a result, we continued to operate with the highest level of integrity and deliver value that was relevant to clients amid the new circumstances.
Internally, Level5 did a great job taking care of us. They paid attention to many small things to make sure that the firm’s culture wasn’t compromised. During every employee meeting, they were completely transparent. Even as a junior consultant, which I was at the time, I was in the know about everything. They sought our advice and kept telling us about the next steps. We were given foresight into the actions that they were taking, which gave us confidence as a team. I felt that the management had demonstrated true leadership by creating a caring and transparent environment and making an effort to minimize the impact on employees.
At the end of the day, as a consultant, I help clients improve the way they work and earn their livelihoods. I’m making an impact on something that our clients spend a huge chunk of their day, and life, on. I understand that work isn’t life for lots of people, but I also know that many people work long hours at their jobs. We go in and make their lives easier so they can sleep better at night. That’s a big driver for me.
Soak in every single experience and be curious about everything. Ask smart questions. Ask stupid questions to gather a wealth of knowledge from projects in various industries. At Level5, we have a multi-project approach, so consultants get exposed to many different experiences in a short period of time.
It’s exciting to be part of Level5 because it’s a boutique firm that continues to expand. I want to continue to harness this excitement, gain new skills and build strong relationships with clients. My plan down the line is to start bringing in work myself so that I can contribute to Level5’s growth. I just don’t see myself living in downtown anymore, regardless of the entertainment and convenience. I’ll probably move to the suburbs where I can get outdoors faster and enjoy nature more often.