Join us each month for a series highlighting the unique career journey of employees.
This month, we talk to Senior Manager and Marketing Liaison for Centric Cleveland, Kindra Helm.
1. When did you start with Centric? Tell me about your career path.
My Centric career journey started in June 2011 at a charity event called America Scores when a mutual friend introduced me to Anne Kelly (Cleveland BU consultant extraordinaire). Within about five minutes (no joke) I had her email and agreed to send my resume to this company called Centric. At the time, I loved the work I was doing, and I loved the people I was working with so there was no urgency to interview. But the more I learned, the more I liked so the dance began.
Not too long after that first meeting with Anne, we found out we were expecting my daughter. I kept in touch with Centric along the way, and yadda, yadda, yadda I joined Centric in January 2013. Truth be told, I do enjoy holding one of the longest Centric recruiting records of 18 months… at least in Cleveland.
2. How did you end up in consulting?
I graduated from Ohio University (Ohio’s first and finest) with a degree in Marketing, and concentrations in Finance and IT. While interviewing, the CEO of a business and technology consulting company told me, “It’s a lot easier to teach someone with the business mentality the technical skills than it is to teach someone with the technical mentality the business skills.” It resonated with me and convinced me to take the plunge.
So like many college graduates, I found myself at a job doing something completely different and started my career as a junior programmer. Blech! This was NOT what I had in mind. I was fortunate to have some pretty amazing mentors, and it didn’t take too long to appreciate the blend of logic and creativity involved in programming. It wasn’t a path I would have EVER chosen for myself as a new graduate, but I’m truly thankful for the experience.
The code does exactly what you tell it to do – not what you want it to do. Applying that logic to understanding a business process is key. When understanding a business process we’re often initially told by the client what the business process should be – not what really happens on a day-to-day basis. Knowing how to dig deeper to get to the heart of the issue is what truly helps make an impact.
3. If you had to pinpoint a definitive moment in your career, what would that be?
Early in my Project Management days, I was managing a challenging project. Challenging issues, challenging personalities, tough travel schedule, you get the idea. I was the only woman on the team for the first half of the project, and then something tragic happened. A project team member and friend died unexpectedly. We never received any details, and I guess it really didn’t matter. All that did matter was that a sweet man and coworker was inexplicably gone.
A new team member was introduced to the project team, and I was surprised by the change. Specifically, the new team member was a woman, and as a young Project Manager, I didn’t think it would have an impact. I was wrong. The dynamics of the team changed almost immediately. She approached technical problems differently than the other team members. It wasn’t better. It wasn’t worse. It was different, and it encouraged the team to continue to press for better approaches and better solutions.
I now gravitate to both recruits and team members alike that have unconventional backgrounds and approach problems in different ways than I do. It really did change my approach to business and life in a profound way. The diversity of thought is tough to measure but is so critical to our success.
4. What motivates your career and drives you to keep going?
I take pride in my work and I get a big sense of accomplishment when I’ve worked with a team to make a significant, positive impact on a client. Change is hard, and more often than not introducing a consulting team to a client team is a delicate transition.
The moment when a client embraces the team and the strategy is key. Specifically, I’m motivated by those moments when a client understands she is respected, her institutional knowledge is invaluable, and she fully embraces the fact that we are committed to the goal and to making her and her team champions. It’s like a light is turned on, and there’s a subtle shift and renewed energy.
On a personal note, I have young kids and I want them to know that their parents work hard and have a passion for what we do. We’re also working to teach them the value of a dollar. This would be a lot easier if they didn’t have grandparents that spoil them as only grandparents do. And to be fair, It’s really only the grandmas. There are three of them and our kids often refer to them as one, “The Grandmas”, when they want something big. It’s a work in progress.
5. What is your position at Centric like? Describe what your typical day looks like.
Business consulting provides a brilliant window into different industries, technologies, people, personalities, and business motivations. For personalities (like mine) that thrive on constantly learning something new and love the notion of continuous improvement, consulting is a great fit.
My current role as a Senior Manager allows me to do Account Management, Program/Project Management, Business Development, and I serve as Cleveland’s Marketing Liaison among other things. It allows me to continue to work with clients and team members while also diving into the business. Those that know me well are not surprised in the least that I gravitate toward opportunities that are diverse and changing rapidly.
I don’t have a typical day, but my priorities remain the same. Client delivery always comes first, business development activities are second, Marketing is third, and all other internal initiatives follow.
I’m currently an Account Manager and am also actively engaged as a Project Manager on a project. About 60-75% of my day is spent working with the client, ensuring the configuration of the solution is on target, creating a deployment and training plan, and creating a post-deployment support strategy. The remainder of my time is spent working on marketing upcoming events in Cleveland, as well as marketing/sales activities for Centric’s Enterprise Project Management service offerings. My time is also spent on proposals, Statements of Work and related business development activities throughout the year.
6. Is your practice currently hiring? Or, is the company currently hiring for roles like yours?
We’re always recruiting for many different positions across the country. We’re always in need of project managers, tech careers and more. Head to our career page to join our team!
7. What tips would you share with future Centric recruits?
- Be a good person. Centric has a ‘hire to retire’ model, and we live by it. At its most basic, we work with people we truly like working with.
- Be genuine. Your perspective matters. Your ideas matter. Work with a company that values that.
- Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. Learn how to find the answer quickly, and communicate it clearly.
- Communicate well. Written. Verbal. It all matters. Some clients only want to talk in person. Others prefer written summaries. Communicating well will become your greatest asset. Refer back to #3 often.
- Do good work. None of us produces perfect work all of the time. We are all constantly improving. Embrace it. Refer back to #3 often.
- Learn to be comfortable and even thrive in ambiguity. The path won’t always be clear. An open mind is needed to drive to the right solutions.
- Know when to ask for help. Spooling on a problem for a day without any progress helps no one. Give yourself a time limit, and then act on it.
- Don’t pass judgment. More often than not, the true answers in a project come from those not in the C-Suite but from those that have deep institutional knowledge. They are proud of the work they do, they want to make it better, and they will be your champions.
8. Given that Centric values work-life balance, please share some of your hobbies or special interests outside of work.
I participated in a group discussion at Centric recently about what makes each of us thrive. One of the exercises we did was about identifying those things that make us happy and at peace, and almost without exception all of my activities involved me being active and outside. Running, biking, yoga, snow skiing (although not as frequently as I’d like), swimming, it really doesn’t seem to matter. Even as I find myself morphing into a ‘Kid’s Sports Taxi Service’, I still always try to find a running path during soccer practice.