Running the Partnership Gauntlet:

In an industry with very few minority professionals, AASU’s accomplished management consulting panel showed us amazing examples of success, featuring some of the most senior African-American professionals in the industry.

Tonicia Hampton (MBA ’99, OH), an associate at Booz Allen & Hamilton, moderated an informative panel that addressed the role of a consulting firm partner, the partner career track, and support system development at a firm.

Reginald Van Lee (MBA ’84, OE) is a Vice President and Managing Partner for Booz Allen & Hamilton’s New York office, as well as a leader of the firm’s Global Media and Entertainment Group. He was named one of the Top 25 Consultants of the year by Consulting Magazine in 2000.
Vivian Hunt (MBA ’95, OC) is the newest African-American principal at McKinsey & Co., elected in the firm’s London office in 2001. She is one of only seven African-American partners worldwide and is the only African-American woman. Her expertise is in healthcare including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical products. Ms. Hunt reflected that we should “find people who share our values and approach to work” as we seek opportunities within firms.

James H. Lowry became the first African-American professional hired at McKinsey and Company in 1968, in the area of Urban Affairs Development. He stayed at the firm for eight years before starting his own firm that focused on diversity and minority business enterprise development. In 2000, he joined the Boston Consulting Group as its head of Worldwide Diversity Practices.
Lowry, in particular, gave attendees ten key pieces of advice on how to be successful in consulting:

1. Play the game to win
2. Analyze, in depth, the people who are doing well in the firm
3. Define what constitutes strong analytical and problem solving for the firm
4. Define 3-5 areas to add value
5. Plan your short and long term trajectory
6. Make a good first impression
7. Research partners and managers on every case that you’re working on
8. Builds sponsors within the firm
9. Be selectively bold and out of the box
10. Be loyal while you’re at the firm

Each panelist agreed that the most important role of in a partnership is to bring in revenue through work that adds value to clients. Moving through the typical 6-8 year partner track requires managing relationships both inside the firm and with clients, ultimately proving that you can sell work and create benefit to the partnership.

To develop a career in consulting, many suggested being explicit about partnership goals to advisors and mentors as early as possible to promote ‘apprentice’ relationships with firm partners. The panelists further suggested being aggressive in choosing a balanced set of projects that will build your skill-set. While the firms differ in required level of industry specialization, each emphasized the importance of defining the key analytical problems to solve in every case situation and delivering accurate and insightful results.

Andrew Jackson, a lead client partner at Accenture in its Finance and Performance Management discipline and only the 10th partner from Accenture’s Cleveland office, shared that the road to partner can be tough, but is worth it. “I’ve quit 25 times in 20 years-in my mind. I truly wanted to stay and become a partner because I have found my roles impactful.”