SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 | BY EKIM BUYUK AND MARIELLE RODGERS
Kristen is a Manager in Deloitte Consulting’s Operations Transformation practice. She graduated from Duke in 2010 with a BS in Economics and a minor in Chemistry. After graduation, she spent several years with Deloitte Consulting, serving clients predominantly in Pharma / Biotech and also in Financial Services and Consumer & Industrial Products sectors. Following this, Kristen received her MBA from Wharton with a focus on Health Care Management and Entrepreneurial Management. During these years, she interned in Biogen’s Pricing and Reimbursement Strategy group and led new product commercialization for a dengue diagnostic at a biotech startup. After graduation, she joined back with Deloitte Consulting in its Boston office where she focuses on operations transformation for pharma / biotech clients. Kristen is a big Duke fan and a strong supporter of women in business, being a member of BOW while at Duke and participating in her local office Women’s Initiative Network.
Thinking back, what led you to join BOW?
I saw college as my bridge to the professional world. This led me to pursue many different opportunities while in school and consider how those experiences would translate into a career. For example, I participated in extracurricular activities ranging from TV production to student government, and even consulting for Duke dining. Amidst these activities, I found BOW. I was looking for help in sifting through my experiences and building a coherent path forward upon graduation. BOW offered opportunities to explore careers and receive mentorship. Beyond that, I found its leaders inspiring – they were ambitious women who had broken into meaningful professional careers. I am very grateful that I joined because through support from BOW, I was able to land a great offer to kick-start my career.
What was the best experience you have had as a part of Duke?
My favorite part of Duke has been the longevity and depth of the relationships I made during my time there. These friendships have stood the test of time more than I would’ve imagined. Second to that, I’d have to say my experience writing an honors thesis. The process of writing a thesis is challenging in and of itself. But, the part that really resonated with me was that through this process, we were being asked to examine the world around us, really scrutinize it, and think about how it could be shaped differently. In this writing process, I came to several realizations: we are part of a community and as such, have an obligation to improve its circumstances; we can apply our minds to help shape our world; and we can become the people we want to be and achieve great things if we keep persistent.
Were you expecting to end up in the current industry you are working in?
I started at Duke without any expectations as to what I would do afterwards. I was hugely excited that I had gotten accepted and hadn’t formulated much of a plan beyond starting classes. After a couple years, I began to attend employer presentations as part of figuring out my next step. This was when I encountered consulting. I knew of a range of career options at the time but had never heard of consulting. I realized that I had a grasp on what I knew, but there was a lot more to explore in what I didn’t know. Consulting ultimately appealed to me because of the diverse array of projects and roles even an entry-level consultant could contribute to. I thought I’d find it both challenging and engaging.
Could you share one piece of advice you have for current BOW members trying to hone in on their interests?
Explore and keep an open mind. Every learning experience is an opportunity, so take advantage of them when they present themselves and reflect on them. Do not feel limited by trying to find an experience that exactly replicates your target career – rather, try to see how your experiences are interconnected and build upon one another to grow your skillset and provide insight into your own interests. The more you participate in learning experiences and reflect on them, the more you will be able to find the common thread of who you are and what you want from a fulfilling career. Tactically, I’d recommend going to employer information sessions and see if you can envision yourself as a colleague of theirs and ultimately in their role one day. If you can, then it’s worth following up for an internship or apprenticeship. Otherwise, keep exploring and you will find something that resonates.
It’s also ok to not know right now. Know enough to get to the next step and then take a breath to look around, assess the situation, and move forward. We live now in an “on demand” society but career progression and satisfaction take time. I was on a project that took a year and a half to fully deliver. Some things in life are worth the wait and require more work to reach the end goal. Your life will be a continual path towards learning more about yourself and what you enjoy in a career.
What is the most difficult obstacle that you have faced in your career?
My most difficult obstacle has been being afraid of failure. When I started in my career, I took limited risks in the type of projects I’d be on and deliver to our clients. I was afraid that if I did projects outside of my core skillset, I might not be successful. However, after several years, I realized that there is not a single “right” way to perform a task or lead a project. There are many paths that can lead to a successful outcome. As I participated in more senior discussions, I saw well-informed colleagues debating over the best approach forward. We are all continually learning. Fear should not limit what we do. We all make mistakes, so worry less and stay persistent.
What is something interesting you’ve learned along the way?
People are everything. Life is about relationships – a career is no different. Building a relationship with your peers is a great way to have a support network at work and get insight into opportunities that exist within the business. Beyond that, colleagues can be mentors, managers, team leaders, advisors, and counselors. As you move ahead in your career, you may also have direct reports and be responsible for someone else’s development. Your network will be a critical foundation in any career. In consulting, repeat business is based on capabilities but the client will also often ask ‘have you done work with us before?’ Strong relationships build trust and these can help move your career and your business forward.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Five years from now, I see myself as a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting on track for Partner or as a VP of Operations in an industry outside of consulting. Both of these career roles are focused on executing strategies and measuring results within time, resource, and budget constraints. I expect technology to also play a large role in these careers, as it continues to more deeply permeate day-to-day business operations. I am looking forward to the next few years!