#mentormonday: Jessica Wolfe
Name: Jessica Wolfe
Current job: Principal, Marketing & Consumer Practices at A.T. Kearney
Industry: Management consulting
Between her drive and positive personality, there's no wonder that Jessica is seen as a mentor and leader in her field. In her interview, Jessica talks about why she enjoys being a mentor and how mentoring should be a two-way street.
"Most of the people that I mentor are newer in their careers, so a couple years out of college, and the ability to help shape their careers really excites me."
Tell us about A.T. Kearney.
Absolutely, we are a global management consulting firm; we operate in over 40 countries and serve as problem solvers for big companies.
Large corporations constantly have questions they need help answering and they look externally to people to help them structure and figure out the right answers but also come in with a certain level of experience to help in that problem solving effort. So, the work that I do at A.T. Kearney is a little more focused in the marketing and commercial and strategy space. What I'm doing is working with large clients, typically, consumer companies or retailers, a little bit of Telecom, and financial services in helping them figure out their burning marketing questions. In terms of anything from marketing strategy, portfolio strategy to how to actually set up the organization, how to build a brand, how to create really effective ad campaigns, so anything like that.
How did you start your career? What does your day-to-day look like now?
I joined A.T. Kearney after business school. I actually started my career in an advertising agency here in New York and I had a mentor at the time, who really pushed me to go to business school and I wasn't really considering it. He really pushed for me to go and thought it would be great experience for me to really broaden my horizons.
I'm so happy that he did. I had a great time in business school. And then, joining Kearney as an associate, again I found mentors and sponsors who saw and understood and listened to me and help support me in doing that kind of work that I wanted to do. So for me it was a natural progression to work in advertising prior to business school, then in marketing consulting after school, to be able to take that foundation that I have, and really expand it, and work on broader, bigger, marketing commercial topics.
We're so impressed with all that you're doing. And I love that you actually mention your mentor let's talk a bit about that. You mentioned that your mentor really motivated you to get into business school. Have you had other mentors that have helped you in your career?
Definitely. Mentorship comes in many different forms. I found that I had people that I've gone to for mentorship for advice, for career questions, for personal questions, family issues and so I look for mentorship wherever I can find it. There is no shame in asking for help and there is no shame in asking for someone to provide you advice in a very supportive way.
I would say, from a professional stand point in management consulting building your network and building your kind of group of supporters is extremely important because it's very big and we're project oriented. Whereas at a large corporation you might get assigned to a boss, and you work with that boss and that's it.
In consulting, it's all project based and so how you jump from one project to the next, depends on the strength of your network and the strength of your mentor to help guide you along in that process.
Is there someone specific that you attribute to being a great mentor out of everyone that you've worked with?
It's so hard to narrow it down to just one, because even now at my job I have multiple mentors. There is a woman partner that I work with almost every day and she's been a fabulous mentor to me. As I think about the types of issues, ideas, challenges that I really kind of bounce off her, they have to do a lot with navigating the organization, internal politics, understanding how to make consulting a career considering work/life balance concerns that we all always have. And she's been someone that's always kept me very passionate about work here but also really opened doors for me and helped me work with clients that I found to be really kind of cool and exciting and interesting.
I have another mentor who is a more formal mentor in the organization. He's been assigned in a mentor/mentee relationship and he's been someone who has provided me a lot of support but also encouraged me to go outside of the mold. Getting out there more and doing things that aren't always comfortable for me, like writing articles and publishing more. He's been someone that pushed me to break the boundaries a little bit which I think is also a really valuable trait for a mentor to have.
What has been the best moment in your career thus far?
It's so hard to say. There is definitely extremely rewarding moments when you work with people that are more junior that people who are working for you and you're able to coach them, shape them and they come back to you a year later or 2 years later, whatever it is, and says “The advice you gave me had such an impact. Look where I am now” or “The help that you provided me has lead me to this great path”. It's just that kind of thing that I find extremely gratifying and a really great moment. In the past year I made principal of the firm, selling my first project and going through the entire process of selling and engagement letters was a proud moment for me.
What's the most exciting part of being a mentor?
Most of the people that I mentor are newer in their careers, so couple years out of college, and the ability to help shape their careers really excites me. They're just starting out and they can go so many different directions, and being able to really work with them to get them to the best place is something that I find extremely rewarding. I love seeing their success. I love when I have a mentee who gets promoted quickly, who is able to demonstrate superior skills in certain projects.
Is there anything you'd change about your career?
There is nothing that I would do differently than what I've done. I'm so happy in terms of the path that took and where I am and the career that I chose and the challenges that it gave me in a good way. I think what I would say to my 24 year old self is: to be adventurous. If someone comes to with an opportunity and it feels right in your gut, it probably is right. Just go for it. Don't be afraid to try new things, but also keep in touch with the relationships that are important. Not just your peers and your friends, that you meet along the way, but also professionally as you meet people that you find to be extremely impressive. Make a formal relationship with them and you never know what's going to happen. You never know if you'll need to call them and ask them for a favor or for a job or even just for advice. Just having that sort of broad network is something that's really important to have as you advance in your career.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself here. I'm super happy in my job. I'm super happy living in New York. I'd like to continue to develop as a mentor as well to others. When I think about the progression of mentorship, to me, it’s a critical turning point in moving from a mentor to a sponsor is that advocacy that you can create on behalf of other people and being a good sponsor, being a good advocate for others which requires a certain amount of political capital, certain amount of standing in the firm. And so as I continue to grow and mature in consulting, being able to also bring up others and being advocate for them is something that I look forward to doing in a few years from now.
I really, really enjoy working with the younger people in my firm, and helping them and coaching them and guiding them. I work in the marketing space so they also provide me with the pulse of what is going on, because I'm not always aware of the hip and trends. So I rely on them for that as well. It's always the best, in a mentoring relationship, to be able to find the way to make it a two way street and to make it equally beneficial to both people because then it's not a burden to sit and have this conversation, it becomes enjoyable for both sides.
Who is your career crush and why?
I met Anne-Marie Slaughter two weeks ago. She is extremely impressive. I met her at a meeting that she was speaking at, just 20 people, it was actually an A.T. Kearney Women Leadership Meeting. And she came and spoke to the leaders of my firm and I was invited to attend as well. And she is definitely a career crush of mine. She is so poignant, so articulate, so intelligent, so quick on her feet, which such excellent presence. She really brings you in and draws you in as she tells her stories and I think that being able to communicate in such an effective manner is so important.
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