Skip to main content
“I get to wear a number of different hats.”

Employee Interview - James Hunter

“I get to wear a number of different hats.”

James Hunter started at Level5 as an Analyst and has grown immensely in his 3+ year tenure at the firm. Now a Manager, James shares a snapshot about his role, his journey to entering the world of consulting, and offers candidates interested in joining the firm some advice.

Tell us about your role at Level5.

I’m currently a Manager at Level5, which means that I get to wear a number of different hats. In my role, I’m able to manage client projects, act as a coach and people manager, and lead internal firm initiatives.

On the project side, I play a very active role in ensuring that projects are successful. This includes anything from helping to shape our project approach, developing materials, presenting and facilitating, and building client relationships. The added opportunity to connect with and learn from my clients is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

Growing as a coach and a people manager has been one of the recent – and most exciting –development opportunities that I’ve had. Over the past year, Managers at Level5 were given HR responsibilities. While this experience was definitely new to me, it has also been very rewarding and helped to reinforce our focus on people and the role everyone has in helping each other grow and thrive.

The last big bucket of responsibility that I have is firm-building initiatives. In recruiting or coffee chats, we often talk about Level5’s entrepreneurial culture; while that comes to life in a number of different ways, I’ve personally found a lot of opportunities with internal initiatives. When I first joined Level5 in 2019, I was able to help develop our internal marketing strategy and implement an updated approach to marketing. Now, I get to lead our on-campus recruiting efforts and work with a fantastic team to update our recruiting processes, conduct interviews, and bring in some really talented, engaging people.

You’ve had a really colourful career path leading up to Level5, can you talk about some of the experiences that you had before consulting?

I’m happy to! Though, I’ll warn you that most of them involve steel-toed boots!

Before Level5, I worked in demolition, at a tree service, putting up bus shelter signs across Mississauga, and being a customer service representative at the Spadina-Dundas LCBO. Most of the boards that I dealt with were 2x4s.

While I didn’t have what many consider to be the ‘traditional experience or prerequisites’ to enter consulting, when I reflect on my path, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those different jobs shaped who I am and helped me develop some core skills that are highly relevant to consulting: namely, hard work, humility, and empathy.

So, how did you land on consulting as an area of interest?

Truth be told, I didn’t really know what ‘consulting’ was until I was well into my undergrad degree at Western University.

In fact, for most of my life, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

From an early age, I knew that I liked to write, read, and form arguments, and that I was brutal at science!

Because of that, I pursued a degree in English Literature. English was a good opportunity to double down on what I thought was a strength, and broadened and challenged my perspective and understanding. In English, you can cover everything from 14th-century old English through to modern, post-modern African queer literature. It was a great way to push me outside of my comfort zone. It opened my eyes to perspectives and experiences that I was completely ignorant of and helped me refine my ability to learn about a topic, form a hypothesis-based perspective, and credibly support or defend it. I see many parallels between my approach to developing essays during my undergraduate degree and what I do now as a consultant.

A fault I had during my undergraduate experience was thinking the path forward was narrow: the assumed next steps were a Masters and PhD. While I could have done more to identify other paths, I didn’t think that the program at large did a great job of promoting and celebrating the other career options and transferable skills that come from English Literature.

Luckily, or unluckily for me, during my undergrad, two of my best friends and roommates went to Ivey Business School and then into consulting. While this meant that our house was taken over for ‘48 projects’, it also meant that I got exposure to what business school looked like and could eventually pick their brains about what consulting actually was. That really started to pique my interest and motivated me to pursue a Masters of Management degree at Schulich, which helped me confirm that consulting would be a great fit for me.

What were some of the reasons why you were interested in consulting, and what was it like to transition into the field?

I got into consulting because I wanted to get exposure to a number of different industries while tackling a variety of different challenges. I really dislike monotony and knew that I’d be more engaged if I had the opportunity to build relationships while being pushed out of my comfort zone on a day-to-day basis.

Transitioning to consulting is not easy, and I’d encourage anyone who’s considering consulting to think through why they are interested in it and if it’s aligned to the employee experience they’re looking for.

Over my Masters program, I asked myself that question, and always came back saying ‘yes’.

As a non-traditional candidate, one thing I quickly realized was the importance of communicating my points of difference; while this is always important, I think it’s particularly critical if you’re applying to boutique firms.

One other important part of transitioning to consulting is to celebrate and leverage your past experiences. While I think I initially viewed my past experiences as a disadvantage [vs. a high profile internship], they helped me stand out and demonstrate core consulting skills – such as empathy, humility, and collaboration – in a unique way.

While the tactical aspects of my past experiences didn’t really translate over to consulting, the impact that those jobs had on me as a person and as a leader were very relevant.

So Level5 was your first consulting job?

Not just consulting; I like to joke that this is the first job I’ve had where I needed to shower before work!

You’ve said Level5 has been a special place for you to spread your wings and grow. Can you bring that to life?

Despite choosing Level5 – in part – due to the development opportunities, I was still initially surprised by the runway I was given and the opportunities all levels have to make an impact.

One early example of that development for me was with our marketing.

When I first joined Level5, I had a casual coffee chat with Hua Yu, one of our Partners. During the chat, Level5’s marketing came up; I had a few thoughts on how I could contribute, especially given my background in English.

What was really cool was Hua’s genuine interest and the trust and empowerment she gave me. In short order, I had the opportunity to actively collaborate with her to shape Level5’s marketing approach and process. This was a great opportunity to learn from her and contribute early on.

As someone who was 1-2 months on the job, it was a powerful proof point that demonstrated our people focus and employees’ ability to drive change.

Now that you’ve been with the firm for over three years, what are the types of projects that excite you the most?

I’ve had the benefit of working across our service offerings, both in strategy and transformation. For me, it’s less about the type of work and more about the relationship we have with the client.

I’m most excited by the engagements where we’re able to work closely with the client’s project team, learn from them, and collaboratively develop solutions.

One of our differentiators is that we don’t try to come down from the mountain top with the solution. We embrace a practical approach where we take our expertise and our processes, while also leaning on the expertise that our clients have. This helps us as individuals develop, but also helps to ensure that our solutions can be implemented and that the client has a high degree of understanding and ownership.

As a Manager, one of the things that I try to prioritize is embracing collaboration, both internally with our Level5 team and with our clients.

When it comes to Level5’s service offerings, what do you see yourself doing more of in the years to come?

As a firm, I think it’s important to recognize how quickly and rapidly our transformation offering is growing. When I first joined around 3.5 years ago, that service offering was still relatively nascent. Now, it’s a core part of who we are and what we offer.

As I’ve seen that growth, I’ve been most excited by the potential for more integrated, end-to-end projects: helping brands develop their promise and then create the processes, tools, and other products to consistently keep it.

As I continue to develop, one of my goals is to keep building long-term client relationships where we can help our clients truly unlock the value of promises consistently kept.

You said that recruiting has become a passion of yours at Level5, can you share a bit about Level5’s recruiting philosophy and strategy?

Recruiting is something that I love to do. It’s been a fantastic way to meet many bright, keen, and interesting students to support our firm’s growth. I’ve also been fortunate enough to drive a lot of change in our process and approach.

Like the brands that we advise, an important consideration for any candidate is their point of differentiation.

Consulting has a very high floor when it comes to overall applicants and the qualities that they have. That necessitates the need to stand out and cut through the noise.

One of the implications of being a smaller shop is that we are highly selective with who we ultimately interview. Candidates who put time into creating a compelling and differentiated cover letter (yes we read them!) are generally the type that make it through our application stage.

Once the formal interview process begins, we look at core capabilities such as analytical thinking and communication. It is always a positive when candidates can draw on their experience: whether it is lived experiences, past work, or even interpersonal relationships, to demonstrate their skills.

I think that being comfortable with your voice and story is especially critical at Level5. We don’t have a ‘prototypical consulting persona’ that we look for. Rather, it’s the people who demonstrate the core skills in a unique and compelling way. The other reality is that we really do encourage everyone to have an active role on projects – this means interns and analysts are client-facing very early.


    Pin It on Pinterest