Meet Jennifer, a business consultant with expertise in technology. Jennifer spoke to Girls Inc. about her path to her exciting career, her love of teamwork, travel, yoga…and that one time she almost went by the name “Jimmy.”
Did you know that you have something in common with high-powered business executives? Imagine this scenario: you have a problem that you just don’t know how to deal with. Maybe it’s a friendship dilemma, an argument with your parents, or even something going on in school. How do you solve it? Who do you turn to when you need an opinion or a unique solution to your problem? Your friends, of course! They are like a team of experts in advice giving.
“As a consultant, we spend our days basically helping our clients solve some of their most complex problems. They feel they need a trusted advisor or [outside] support to help,” says Jennifer.
In the business world, a company will often reach out to teams of experts to offer that fresh P.O.V. on solving a problem or achieving a new goal. These experts, who usually call themselves “consultants,” might hire themselves out as individuals or work for a consulting firm that teams up its employees to tend to individual clients’ needs. Jennifer works for one of these firms, Deloitte Consulting LLP, which has offices around the world and works with clients you’ve probably heard of like Sprint Nextel, Boost Mobile, AOL, AT&T, AND Girls Inc.!
Since consultants often travel to work in their clients’ city, their schedules and locations vary. Jennifer, whose home base is New York City, will be on a plane by 7 a.m Monday morning. She’ll spend the week working in her client’s city, whether it’s Kansas City, Los Angeles, or beyond.
Teamwork is a huge part of a consulting career. This is another thing you probably have in common with business execs! Have you ever been assigned a group project for school that you just KNOW you couldn’t have completed as well without the help from your group-? Have you ever won a big sports game that made you appreciate the talents of your teammates? “[Our firm] sells services. They happen to be delivered by a collection of individuals who are each very talented, but as a team, we are more talented!” says Jennifer, who truly believes in the major role that teamwork has played in her career successes.
As a senior manager at her firm, Jennifer is like the captain of each team of colleagues she works with on projects for clients. A skilled leadership style is part of what makes Jennifer and her teams succeed. “I don’t have people who work FOR me,” says Jennifer, “For all intents and purposes, I work for THEM!”
What’s so great about her project teams, she says, is the diversity of everyone’s background and thinking. “And it’s fun!” says Jennifer. “We’re spending hours upon hours together away from home working hard, and it can be stressful. Imagine those circumstances if you didn’t enjoy the people you work with!” That kind of togetherness is like the professional version of summer camp bonding!
Creative thinking, problem solving, travel...if you think these things might be up your alley, you might be wondering how Jennifer has reached this point in her career. Even though she didn’t always know that she would wind up in the corporate world, Jennifer says that she owes much of her success to team playing, sports, a supportive family and community of friends. These things have also helped her break through a few gender barriers she has encountered in the male-dominated field of business.
Jennifer has always loved sports. Although she played basketball in college, soccer was one of her first passions and it led to unique experiences as a young girl. When Jennifer’s family moved from Detroit to London when she was nine years old, she had to leave her co-ed soccer team behind in the U.S. and face the task of getting onto the boys-only soccer team in London. Her father suggested that maybe she could use her short haircut to her advantage. “Just tell them your name is ‘Jimmy,’” he said. “My name isn’t Jimmy, it’s Jenny!,” she insisted, because Jennifer knew that she wanted to play soccer, and she wanted to play as a girl.
Eventually, Jennifer went on to join all-boys soccer teams in London and Germany, but she had to fight hard for each small success—at first she was only allowed by the coach to practice with the boys, then scrimmage, and then finally play in games. Along with another female teammate from the U.S., Jennifer became a star on the field of her international school, causing spectators to focus on her stellar kicks and goals and less on her gender. “We ‘tried out’ for the team and we made the cut because we were qualified,” she says, “It wasn’t our gender that people focused on once they realized we were there to play and that we could play!”
Off the field, Jennifer says she always loved math. In fact, she still remembers how excited she was when she learned her multiplication tables with her Mom’s encouragement, help and sense of humor. She also grew up in a tech-savvy home. While she continued to study International Relations, Economics and German during the school year in college, she interned during the summers at a technology-driven company to balance her interest in global political affairs with hands on experience in the exciting technology space. Eventually, she decided that her love of technology and the “cool” tech gadgets and possibilities she was introduced to through her internship would become her career and set her sights on “going global.”
Jennifer’s experiences as a young soccer star and then as the captain of her college basketball team for an all-women’s college have taught her a lot about how to deal with being a woman in male-dominated fields. Jennifer’s advice to herself—and to her colleagues when she is managing projects—is “trust your talents, work smart and stay true to your values.”
“What we should be measured on are our talents and values,” as opposed to being measured by gender says Jennifer. This really hit home when she was beginning her career working in Malaysia. Jennifer was invited by her male boss to play golf with a group of male business associates from the US, Malaysia and Hong Kong. She was the youngest of the group, the only woman and non-Malaysian. It was, she admits, an intimidating scenario, especially when the group walked up to the first tee and waited for one associate to volunteer to take the first swing—and be silently critiqued and judged by the whole group!
Jennifer stepped up and volunteered: “I’ll tee off first,” and calmly walked to the first tee, separating herself from a group of nervous and surprised businessmen.
“I cracked that ball about 200 yards straight down the fairway!” Jennifer remembers with a proud smile. She was nervous, but she trusted her talent: she was confident in her skills as a golfer and confident in her relationship with her boss. It was that trust that helped her put her nerves to rest. It was also the many experiences nudging and battling to be included in traditionally male dominated activities as a girl, a young woman and an adult. She was again reminded of the encouragement and support she received as a determined 9-year old fighting for her chance to share the rights to the field with the all-boys soccer team and the instincts she’s developed through similar experiences.
Now, “trust your talents” is not only a personal mantra, but it’s also wisdom she shares with the project teams she leads. “I am always reminding people just how spectacular they are and encouraging them to continue to excel! Truly, part of what I really enjoy about my job is that I have teams and I can coach them,” says Jennifer. “Empower yourself to make the decisions because you are experienced and your opinions are valuable and respected!” she tells her colleagues.
Jennifer is lucky: she’s excelled at a career that she loves and works for a company where the values match her own. How do you make sure you love your job?
According to Jennifer, learning to trust your gut instinct and acknowledge your personal values as you grow up helps when it comes to finding the right job. When you really know what makes you tick and what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning, it’s easier to spot those ideals in an employer or industry.
“Get out there! Go play, climb a mountain and enjoy the view, spend time with your friends, be part of a team!” says Jennifer. After all, those experiences have shaped an inspiring career for her.
Jennifer Ramsey is a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP. When she is not working, she loves to run, play golf, do yoga, hike, read, and travel the world.