Right now I’m growing into my role as a bridge between the consulting team and middle management. I still spend time on building deliverables and project managing, which I naturally lean towards. But now I also get to feel more confident taking leadership roles and approaching projects from a value-add and solutions-oriented perspective beyond solely execution and delivery – which has been really exciting and rewarding.
This is a crucial growing moment in my journey, and I am enjoying the opportunity to balance both ends and put the puzzle pieces together.
As much as I’ve gained hard skills, it’s the soft skills that play such an important role. It’s often said, but I’ve come to understand more and more that business is not only about people, but more importantly, how you approach communicating with them.
To be effective, soft skills are what need to be learned and practiced. Navigating different working styles, reading people, and understanding their perspectives and needs is crucial, especially in consulting. Our role requires a level of emotional intelligence to ask the right questions, which is a key step to developing an in-depth understanding of unique client needs.
Managing up and down is also extremely important, and something that we try to instill from the Analyst level at Level5. Being the go-to for knowing the ins and outs of your client and your project is the ultimate goal, and this requires a finger on the pulse of everything, from the Partner to the Analyst. Communication is key here to ensure everyone is on the same page.
When I finished school and began my professional career, I was naïve to think there were no challenges related to diversity. I often found myself as one of the only women in the room and started to notice the difference it makes.
There are a lot of ‘big-idea’ conversations around the challenges of underrepresented groups in business that get a lot of attention, but it’s not always from a place of empathy. In the corporate world, we live in a bubble – many had similar experiences attending prestigious business schools and having support systems who helped pave the way. But to make change we need to think beyond our own lived experiences and prioritize understanding the perspectives of those who are underrepresented. I want to keep conversations going to recognize the privilege that so many of us have and help others remain open to understanding and solving systemic challenges.
I’m proud that Level5 cares about championing equity, diversity, and inclusion. We’re a small firm, so we can test and learn when it comes to internal DEI initiatives.
My role within our DEI committee lies within communications and events. We educate the team on core issues facing marginalized folks by sharing information and hosting activities for the firm to participate in. Our priority is promoting ongoing conversations by providing actionable ways to think critically about DEI-related topics. For me, it’s about finding ways to encourage everyone to be open-minded.
At Level5, the range of projects we work on and problems we solve is truly endless. While no two projects are the same, some follow more of a ‘recipe’ while others are rooted in an approach that is modified as we go.
The ‘recipe’ type of projects are often more linear. As a firm, we’ve honed the process and our leaders have a good sense of how to identify pitfalls ahead. These projects are great opportunities as a junior team member because they are methodical and structured. You get to see how experts apply tried and true approaches in the context of different stakeholders or industries.
On the other side, there are more complex transformative projects that are grounded in a pre-meditated approach but typically grow to have countless moving pieces and dimensions you must manage. Often these are larger projects that require you to juggle several intricate stakeholder groups. Here, we get to be orchestrators and connect the dots. Our role is to establish ongoing synchronicity across teams to hit an always-moving target.
For me, there is beauty behind both. There is something motivating about being able to flex different muscles across our diverse service offerings. It means we’ll never stop learning.
I’ve grown a lot since my intern days. I’m proud of the relationships I have built, both internally and externally. In my experience, early on in your career, there is a lot of second-guessing and imposter syndrome that creates internal roadblocks and limits your potential. I owe a lot to my teams and mentors at Level5, who helped pull me out of that limiting mindset. The environment here is helping me find my voice.
When it comes to accomplishments, I tend to focus on the day-to-day, incremental learnings. I feel proud of the mindset I have established – I try not to rush progress and trust the process. Reflecting on my day or week and what I’ve learned in those shorter time frames helps ground me and allows me to pivot if needed.
It’s important to be ambitious and set goals that you want to accomplish, but I’ve found that when you tie yourself to time-bound targets and are laser-focused on where you want to be in 5-years, you can miss out on the here and now. Balancing long-term goals with embracing the present opens the door to opportunities you might have otherwise missed. What’s that Ferris Bueller quote – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Professionally, I have learned everything I know from my experiences at Level5.
My main marker of professional growth is my confidence. And it took time! Leading by example rather than associating leadership with ego is something I want to continue to prioritize. This mindset is truly a product of the culture Level5 leaders have built. We work together, we help one another, and we genuinely push each other to be better.
First: Say yes to everything. Soak in all the different opportunities that come your way and dive in head-first because learning by doing is key. It’s crucial to establish yourself as a trusted team member that can deliver quality work. But beyond deliverables, being exposed to how different leaders think and operate is what will influence your own style and expertise as an advisor. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it goes without saying that if you’re open to being exposed to a variety of perspectives, the more you learn. As you go, take notice of the styles of those you admire, and the tactics that lead to success in different project types or industries, and start applying them. You’ll be surprised how much what you pick up on will start to come naturally in your own work.
Second: Do not discount soft skills. Networking and relationship-building all used to sound like fluffy buzzwords to me. But it’s true that if you place emphasis on establishing connections early in your career, you will go far. Learn how to clearly communicate and be flexible to match your style to the needs of your audience. You will not only position yourself as a value-add team member, but you’ll create more meaningful relationships. The way you present yourself and your ideas directly relates to how much people will trust you.
To me, mentorship goes beyond sharing inspirational success stories. Strong mentors balance motivation with providing direct, tactical advice. It’s all about sharing experiences and solutions.
I’ve found it hugely beneficial to hear about the day-to-day experiences of those that came before me. It not only provides a level of comfort to know that you’re not alone in the challenges you might be facing, but in hearing how others overcame challenges, you get exposure to different tactics to employ in your own experiences.
When supporting junior employees, my goal is to proactively provide these tactics. As a young consultant, you don’t know what you don’t know. It can be tough to know what questions to ask. I want to equip our team with tactical solutions required to be successful based on what I’ve learned in practice.