What is life like for women in consulting, and at Simon-Kucher in particular? In this series, we ask our female consultants about their personal experiences in the consulting world. This time Lisa Jäger, Partner in the Frankfurt office and Co-lead of our Global Software, Internet and Media practice, shares her inspiring story and shows that family and consulting aren’t mutually exclusive.
When people ask you about your job, you say…?
Lisa: I help companies grow – by selling better products to more customers at higher prices. I mainly work for media clients who are heavily impacted by digitalization. More or less, every business model needs to change, so I help to make them future-proof and manage the digital migration. What’s very important to me is that at Simon-Kucher, we work on the bright side of consulting. Instead of cost cutting and restructuring, we focus on growth. Therefore, I sleep well at night.
What motivated you to choose a high-performance industry like consulting?
Lisa: At the beginning of my career, I wanted to improve my analytical skills and get to know different companies, people, and personalities as fast as possible. That’s why I started working in consulting. It wasn’t my plan to become a partner in a consulting firm from the beginning. I thought I’d stay for two or three years and then look for another job. But with every new position, I discovered that consulting is highly motivating, so I stayed.
My dedication to consulting became even stronger when I transitioned from another consultancy firm to Simon-Kucher, because the focus on topline growth fascinated me even more.
It’s generally known that a job in consulting means hard work, time pressure, and a lot of traveling. Is that your experience as well?
Lisa: These are definitely not myths, but hard work is required in any corporate job as well, even though consulting usually means working past five or six in the evening. However, time pressure can be challenging in a positive way if you learn to organize yourself, processes, and teams. During the past years, I traveled to projects all over the world. For example, I spent ten months in Brazil and rotated to Singapore for a big project, living and working there for six months. I wouldn’t want to miss any of these experiences, because all the amazing places I visited broadened my horizons significantly.
You have a nearly 2-year old son. How do you manage both work and family life?
Lisa: First of all, organization is key. After three months of maternity leave, I came back for two days per week to take care of important client meetings and business development. Later on, I slowly stepped up towards a part-time arrangement with two free afternoons per week being exclusive mom-and-son-time. My husband and I share the tasks at home, which meant that he also had to organize his work differently. As both of us are working in consulting and traveling is an essential part of our jobs, we decided to get additional support from a nanny. For us, this arrangement works out very well and we’re super happy with it.
What does Simon-Kucher offer to support you in balancing the two?
Lisa: Simon-Kucher offers a high level of flexibility, which every family needs. There’s not just one part-time arrangement – every parent can choose individually according to their respective situation. We have colleagues working full-time for three days and taking off the other two days. Others are working until the afternoon and then pick up their kids from kindergarten. There are many possibilities and there is a lot of positive feedback from colleagues, showing us that we’re on the right track.
Have you experienced any gender-related challenges in your career? And if yes, how did you deal with it?
Lisa: I’ve never felt any disadvantages or experienced bad remarks from my male colleagues. There might be some odd comments if you’re the only woman in the room – which happened to me quite often during meetings and presentations. Most of the time, they are insecure but well-intentioned attempts of saying something nice, turning out sounding strange sometimes. My personal advice for those kinds of situations: Stay positive and keep a good sense of humor, as long as they don’t cross a certain line.
How can projects profit from mixed teams?
Lisa: From my own experience, the team dynamics significantly benefit from working in mixed teams – internally as well as externally with clients. But it’s not only the improved atmosphere what makes mixed teams valuable, it’s also the direct effects on project results. Women sometimes have different ways of doing analysis, interpreting findings, and deriving recommended actions, and these diverse perspectives will always lead to better solutions.
And what initiatives are in place to encourage and support other women in building their careers with Simon-Kucher?
Lisa: We have launched some career talks particularly for female graduates, for example our international Women in Consulting Roadshow. At these events, we are discussing questions about consulting amongst women. Apart from that, Simon-Kucher offers many activities and trainings to support employees’ personal development – not particularly for women, but for everyone. We strongly believe in our core values, one being meritocracy. Our employees are solely and exclusively assessed by their achievements, which means everyone has equal opportunities.
What are commonly asked questions or concerns you experience at these events?
Lisa: The reconcilability of family and working life is a popular topic and many women are thinking far ahead. Apart from that, my impression is that women tend to be less confident about working in a quantitative way such as analyzing data in Excel and Access, or programming SQL. Many male applicants don’t have these skills either, but their overall approach is a little bolder. There will always be many situations where both men and women don’t know the answer yet, and I try to encourage all talented women to take up these new challenges.
Finally, looking back, how do you feel about your decision to work in consulting and at Simon-Kucher in particular? Would you recommend it?
Lisa: Yes, definitely! There’s no career step I regret – I would do it exactly the same way again. Consulting offers a steep learning curve, especially in the first years. It helps you to grow professionally and personally, and gives you exciting travel opportunities. Besides, it’s a fantastic door opener even if you decide to switch to another job afterwards. A good consulting firm always looks fantastic in your CV. I am super happy to be part of the Simon-Kucher family. We are a fantastic team with interesting topics and I see every day the purpose and benefits of the work we are doing. So be brave, be bold, and start your career in consulting – ideally with us!