“When I think about the kind of work environment or culture I want to create for the teams I lead, I often think about BOW as a reference point.”
JANUARY 27, 2021 | BY LILY ZHU
Pauline is an Associate Director at a London-based customer insights agency, where she consults brands within the tech and mobility sector on building more customer-centric products, services, and experiences. Before moving to London, Pauline spent four years at Accenture in the Retail Strategy practice, across the Boston and New York offices. Pauline graduated from Duke in 2015 with a degree in Public Policy, a minor in French, and a Markets & Management Studies certificate.
You were President of BOW during the 2014-2015 school year, and you previously served as VP of Events and Logistics Chair. What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time in BOW?
Beyond any individual achievement, I am just proud to have been part of BOW full-stop. When I think about the kind of work environment or culture I want to create for the teams I lead, I often think about BOW as a reference point. I remember BOW as a group of highly-motivated, high-performing and open-minded individuals interested in challenging themselves and supporting each other to learn and to grow, and I feel lucky that positive culture was modeled for me so early on.
How did you decide that you wanted to go into consulting? How did your summer internships and Duke experiences play a part in your decision?
While I found the path to consulting challenging (the interview process can be unforgiving—hang in there!), the decision to ‘choose’ consulting was easy for me. I thought consulting offered the best training to learn business fundamentals quickly and build a skillset that would be highly transferable to any industry or functional role in the future. My internship experiences helped inform my decision because those experiences were extremely different: investment banking and fashion. I think the exposure to vastly different industries, cultures, and ways of working gave me confidence that consulting was a good fit for my personality, professional aspirations, and learning goals.
Finance and consulting are career paths that generate a lot of excitement at Duke, so that also shaped my perspective in that it put consulting on my radar early on and reinforced the idea that consulting is an attractive and prestigious career option. Those two paths are certainly not the only options though and I think it’s good that it seems there is a healthy shift towards exploring more career options beyond those two fields. I hope that goes some way towards relieving the pressure I know I felt at times.
You participated in Duke Venture Forward in college, and you worked as a Social Innovation Manager toward the end of your time at Accenture. Do you see yourself further pursuing your interest in venture alongside your consulting career in the future?
Absolutely—especially if we think about ‘venture’ more broadly (new and uncertain business opportunities), and not just in the context of startups or venture capital. In my last year with Accenture, I was seconded to an education company and was responsible for leading a corporate venture capital initiative that invested in early-stage edtech ventures developing learning solutions for underserved customers in emerging markets. My favourite part of the role was working with those venture teams on how to translate customer needs into new (and profitable) business models—something that hadn’t been done before because of how hard those customers were to reach. That experience inspired me to consider new career possibilities and what led me to my current role. The ‘translation’ from customer need into business solution is what I do now, though with more established brands instead of early-stage ventures. I think customer-inspired business model innovation is something I imagine (and hope!) will always be part of my day-to-day job.
Could you talk about the work you’re doing at C Space? How has your work at C Space changed due to COVID-19? My current role with C Space has two parts, one external and one internal. From a client-facing perspective, my role is to advise clients on how to design for their customers, where we work directly with their customers to do so. Internally, my remit is to integrate more data and analytics based tools and methodologies across the agency—my focus so far has been on changing the way we do segmentations, which I find really interesting. Beyond my day-to-day work routines being impacted by COVID (I do love WFH!), the work has changed more fundamentally because customers have completely different demands and expectations of products and brands. It’s a new challenge to help clients grapple with, and we’ve followed that evolution here. One of my favourite projects that I worked on during the pandemic was about redesigning connected devices and connected device ecosystems for 24/7 life at home, something we wouldn’t have looked at (or at least not in the same way) had we not all been confined to our homes for the past year!
How did you decide to work abroad? Did you find it difficult acclimating to London’s distinct culture at first? What is your favorite part about living in the city?
I have always wanted to live abroad (honestly my dream looked a lot like Netflix's Emily in Paris!), because my mom is French and I spent a lot of time in France growing up. I felt like I partially fulfilled this dream studying abroad in Paris my junior year, but traveling abroad for work and watching close friends move to London reignited my interest in moving abroad. For that reason, when I was ready to leave Accenture I expanded my search to include London-based opportunities. Thankfully, I have a French passport so that massively eased the process! My favourite part of living in London is feeling like I belong to a neighborhood and have local routines; travel-based consulting and the fast-paced rhythm of NYC weren’t very conducive to that feeling and it’s a nice change (though I really miss Trader Joe’s and Joe’s Pizza…).
What is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021?
I have a fitness-based resolution to do yoga every morning for 20 minutes (before I check my email), but I also want to get better about carving time out for gratitude. I have a calendar reminder set for 3:30 PM every Wednesday to spend a few minutes sending an email or text to someone who gave me their time in a meaningful way—however big or small that act of generosity was.