Could you please briefly describe your academic and professional background?
I’m an Owen MBA ’16, currently working as a consultant with The Bridgespan Group. Prior to Owen, the majority of my professional career was spent in the public education sector: first as a 6th grade teacher in Hartford, CT through Teach For America, then in project management roles with the New York City Department of Education and Pittsburgh Public Schools.
What is your role at The Bridgespan Group?
Bridgespan is a non-profit organization focused on improving the social sector and breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. We’re best known for our consulting work, where we support other non-p
rofit organizations—direct service providers, philanthropic organizations, and advocacy groups–solve complex strategic problems.
We recognize that the needs of the social sector are greater than what we’re able to support through our consulting model, so we’re also invested in researching and disseminating best practices for strategy and organizational effectiveness.
My role as a consultant is to support these efforts. It’s an incredible job to have: not only do I get to provide strategic and analytic support to some of the most dedicated and brilliant people working in the fields of education, children, youth and families, public health, and global development, but I also get to think about how everyone working on these incredibly important issues can learn and benefit from the successes and failures of others.
What was your role at the TFC? How did your leadership at the TFC impact your overall experience as an MBA student at Vanderbilt?
I served as the president of Project Pyramid and as one of the founding members of the TFC’s programming and advisory boards. I honestly could not imagine my time at Owen without the TFC. Most of my education about what it means to have a strategic vision and a high-performing organization came from my experience with Project Pyramid and the TFC, as well as how challenging it can be to create those two. More important, Project Pyramid and the TFC introduced me to brilliant student leaders, staff, and practitioners who were constantly challenging my understanding of poverty and approach to problem solving. I am incredibly grateful for the learning opportunities I experienced through the TFC, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do the work I do now without it.
How did the TFC shape the direction in which you wanted to take your career?
Prior to the TFC, I was planning on continuing my work in public education because I thought that ensuring that every person had access to excellent educational opportunities was the best way to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Now, I’ve begun to appreciate how complex poverty actually is and how multiple approaches to breaking cycles of poverty, including those that are market-driven, are necessary. The TFC forced me to think critically about what it would mean for those cycles to actually be broken and what it would take to break them. It also forced me to think about not only the role I wanted to have in addressing cycles of poverty, but also how I would want to operate in that role. Finally, Project Pyramid gave me my first experience as a consultant and showed me the value that the perspective of a respectful partner can provide.
Do you have any advice for someone hoping to build a career in this field?
I’m still very much building a career in this field myself, but I would suggest that any aspiring consultant should build their analytic abilities, both the hard stuff (e.g. Excel, statistics) as well as the soft stuff (e.g. communicating your findings). All organizations struggle with their analytic capabilities in some fashion and are always looking for help in making sense of data. A lot of my job is knowing the right question to ask, knowing how to find the right data to answer the question, and then communicating the answer so that the client can make the right action off of it.
Additionally, I would suggest that you read as much as you can about as many things as you can. Very rarely do any of our clients face problems that can only be solved by the experiences of others in the same business or field. When we work with education clients, for example, we’re often incorporating learnings from cases with public health organizations. Having a broad knowledge base from which to draw can be really helpful when you’re looking for innovative options.
Finally, take Project Pyramid! Consulting is different than other types of work and Project Pyramid will give you an idea if it’s the type of career in which you’d be happy.