My journey to consulting was nonconventional. I started my adult life as a History student, sparking an interest in business when I moved on to graduate school. It was during this time that I, much like most students, was at a total crossroads. I would take a marketing class, love it, and want to be a marketer. Then, I would take a finance class, love it, and want to be in finance. This rollercoaster of questioning became a daily occurrence.
Unsure what avenue to take after completing my master’s degree, I went to one of my professors for advice. She told me that there was a “field for that” called consulting which could give me what I was looking for in a career: variety.
She was right! Over my career I’ve worked with public, private, and non-profit organizations in a diverse set of industries from energy and utilities to retail, healthcare, mining, insurance and more. It’s been quite a ride. In consulting you get the opportunity to go behind doors that usually say “employees only”, and for me, this is something that never gets old.
I am a manager which is part of the consulting team at Level5, this means I am in the driver’s seat for delivering projects. On the Level5 side, I make sure everyone from Partner to Analyst are tapped in, moving in the right direction and meeting objectives. For our clients, I am often the point of contact for delivering the project. Managing both sides is very engaging because you are in an excellent position to build relationships with smart and interesting people both here at Level5 and on the client side.
Most people in consulting answer this question with the classic “no two days are the same” line. While that is largely true there is a common point that is consistent day-to-day. Everyday is all about talking to different people, which is exciting. I focus on understanding my client’s business, their problems, and what can make them more effective. From there we work together to find solutions. It is important to recognize that everything we do is in a team environment, nothing is done on your own. So to answer the question more directly, a typical day involves working with a lot of different people to solve a lot of different problems, and that never gets boring.
This question has always been a bit difficult for me to answer. The reason I pursued a career in consulting was never about the types of projects that I work on, instead it was more the diversity of industries and people I get to know and understand. I’ve always been a curious person who likes knowing how the world works. Frankly I think our whole service offering aligns quite well to this curiosity because we are equipped to help our clients with end-to-end integrated projects… I like to think I don’t use too much jargon but sometimes it slips out. What I mean by this is that our offerings can help clients set a strategy that articulates their future, and from there we have the expertise to help transform their business to make that future a reality.
For me, the best projects are the ones that blend strategy and transformation, put another way, these are projects that change how a business operates in order to effectively deliver their vision. My personal consulting experience has focused mostly on the transformation side. What is particularly exciting about Level5 is bringing both of these important pieces together. What excites me most is how our firm and projects are scaling just as my own skills develop. With more of these integrated projects, particularly in the transformation space, it gives me the opportunity to solve more complex and interconnected problems.
The initial draw for me was related to the multi-project approach and diversity of clients. This is not standard in consulting but was really appealing to me. I said this before and I’ll continue to do so, I love the variety of work that this firm has been able to provide.
Initially it was the diversity of work that drew me in, but what I’ve found to be the most impactful part of working at Level5 is the collaborative and enabling culture. We have a fairly typical hierarchy, but culturally the firm is quite flat, which came to life most clearly in my first few months.
I was working on a large proposal with a few other L5ers and what became immediately clear was how truly involved everyone from Partner to Analyst was in drafting a winning response. There is a bit of a stereotype in consulting where senior leaders play an ‘advising’ role and the junior team are the ‘doers’. However in this case, rather than focusing on ‘advising’, the Partner was right in the mix drafting and developing sections to help the team. Collaboration like this not only led to a great proposal but was also an awesome learning opportunity to see exactly how they were approaching the problem. While this was a small story in the grand scheme of things, it really spoke volumes to me about why this is a special place to work. Simply put, we care about one another, and it shows in how we work together.
In hindsight it’s funny, when I first started looking at Level5, as people do with any workplace, I came up with ‘the list’ of what I was looking for. My list focused on the work; I wanted variety, interesting clients, and a smaller boutique environment. When I joined the firm however, I realized how lucky I was because there were so many boxes all focused on the people and the culture that I never put on the list but should have. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely love the work we do here at Level5, but you can ask anybody here and I’m sure they will say the same thing, it’s the culture that makes Level5 such a unique and special place to work.
There are three reasons. The first is related to my own journey into consulting. There are so many exceptional candidates out there who may miss out on a fantastic career opportunity simply because they are not in the typical channels. I was lucky to have people in my life that guided me into a fulfilling career that I may have otherwise totally missed. I have always wanted to play some role in finding those people with unique experiences who might just need a bit of advice along the way.
Secondly, Level5 is a boutique firm. Who we hire is extremely important; say we hire five new staff, that is a sizable percentage of new faces. This creates an opportunity to be involved in shaping the firm by playing a role in our culture and capabilities. It is important work and I feel privileged to be part of it.
Lastly, I have always spoken to students a lot in the programs I came from to offer mentorship. As a member of the recruitment team, I can do this in a more official capacity which not only gives me the opportunity to participate in more of these forums but to also provide better advice to students.
To me mentorship is part of a bigger question of surrounding yourself with the right people to help you develop. When I first started my career I got some great advice about this that has stuck with me. I was told that you need three types of leadership to help you develop; a coach, a mentor, and an advocate. For some people all three of those roles are filled by one person, for others it’s multiple. The important part is knowing how each role helps you develop and then finding people who are the right fit.
A coach is probably the most tactical, and companies often assign people an official ‘career coach’ or ‘HR lead’. They are your performance evaluator, the one you set your annual goals with and the one with whom you track your personal growth.
A mentor is someone who shares experiences, advice, and stories. As a young employee, I remember not even knowing how to think about career development or what questions to ask. Your mentor needs to be someone who can share stories, experiences, and advice to help you plot your own journey.
Lastly, the advocate is someone who does what the name suggests, they advocate for you when you aren’t in the room. They are your champion who can vouch for you.
When I think about mentorship I think about it in the context of all three of these categories. People don’t need to freakout if they don’t have a clear ‘team’ of people who fit neatly into each of these categories, it’s more about taking a step back and seeing where you may need more support.