My former employer is interviewing me tomorrow. And instead of just preparing for it, I want to write a blog post about it. Perfect opportunity to re-introduce me and also share how vulnerable I feel about some of the questions. Here are the questions, my thoughts, and then my answer. And you read it first here!
1. Your career path and the transition from Kearney to your current role, including skills, challenges, and success factors learned, gained, and mastered along the way.
This is the classic question to get things going. I am bored of reading the traditional answers. So I for sure want to spice it up from the very beginning. Catch the attention and signal to the journalist that this will be a fun ride, not her classic conversation with a former consultant. I will start with a vulnerable statement, make my career path simple and elevate the defining moments (selecting the most unexpected ones).
“I went into consulting because I could, and I had no idea of what I liked (other than money). It was a sign of success; for me, in hindsight, it was a sign of cowardice. And I was a coward for a decade! All changed after the MBA. My classmates were thinking BIG, e.g., renewable energy, changing their communities in their home country, etc… Did I want to stack and spend money? I started with organizing events, became involved in Black Networks, and raised money for crazy projects. That developed my appetite to do new things and led me to quit consulting and join a start-up. The start-up life was so different. In Consulting, you know 80% of what you should do on a project. The objective is set. In the start-up, you know 20%, if lucky. Consulting is about excellence. Start-up is scrappy, creative, resilient. Consulting is management. Start-up is growth.
My main learning was to be unapologetic. Consulting trained me on how to dress, how to speak, how many hours to sleep, etc… What to do when you do not have rules to follow? I tried to find other rules to make myself comfortable, and that was a mistake. I forced myself to fit into something that did not exist. I looked for instructions from my hierarchy on what to do. It was a disaster and probably the most challenging time of my professional career. Once I accepted to show my passions and go after them, a new world opened up. I always believed that I was an Operations person because I am good at it. The moment I realized my passions are elevating my communities and pushing a cause bigger than myself, new horizons opened up.
2. Looking at your current job, I want to speak about strategies for a successful platform (today and tomorrow) and how brands manage to stay relevant, especially when having a relevant past.
This is a technical question. A question that books explain better than I ever could. So I do not want to compete on that front. So I will skip the first part of the question or give a vague answer. I am also uncomfortable discussing my current role too much. So I will throw the question back at her. The last part about how a brand manages to stay relevant is a question worth discussing.
“Strategies for a successful platform have been well documented in books likes “the platform revolution.” I won’t attempt to come up with something better or regurgitate what I learned in the book. The real question is, how come so few companies successfully build a platform? It is not because it is complicated or that the roadmap has not been created. It is likely for the same reasons that Nokia did not address the new wave of smartphones or that Blockbuster did not move their business online. The critical mass did not believe it would be essential to their survival.”
The relevant brands are the ones sustaining a conversation with their core consumers. That’s all it takes to stay relevant. Imagine two scenarios. 1) we talk non-stop for the next 12 months 2) After today, the next time we talk is in 1 year. In what scenario do you believe I would be the most relevant to you? In what scenario do you think I would have evolved with you? Maybe the trick is to have the conversation with the right people and support them in achieving their passions/missions because if they win, the brand will win. In my opinion, the worst thing to do is to follow a trend and give people you do not know what you “think” they want.
3. A few words about Covid: What you learned about yourself in the crisis and how businesses mastered it and evolved during the pandemic, the lessons learned, and actions are taken.
That question was excellent at the beginning of the pandemic… not anymore. I might as well have some fun with it.
I can be an excellent baker. My sourdough is solid, my pizzas acclaimed by family and friends, and I am close to mastering the art of croissant making. This has been a moment to be grateful for the position my family and I are in. That a walk in the forest altogether, cooking together, playing board games together is all it takes to be happy.
In negotiations, I believe that people revert to their most authentic self negotiation style when under pressure. COVID-19 had the same effect on companies. It showed what they were at the core. Employees should take note.
4. On a more personal note: The importance of being a team player and leader, inspiring and driving you, and most important: your engagement for intercultural students and Blacks.
This is the money question. This will probably be the conclusion of the article what people will remember of me. This is the moment to plug the one thing I want readers to leave with. Beyond the message, the right tone will be critical. My voice will switch to the “late-night DJ” tone when I speak. You may not like me, but you will remember me and my message.
Without outstanding leadership, your career will hit a clear ceiling. You can’t achieve outstanding leadership without having been a great team player. This is how you get to know people, what works, what does not, build relationships, find mentors.
I want to be the equivalent of Clarence Avant in Europe. He is called “the Black Godfather in the US.” He has been instrumental in elevating the Black community. I want to contribute to something bigger than myself. I want my children to understand the importance of driving positive change. I need to build a strong allyship. I must take some risks because I am in a position where I can.