This Black History Month, AlixPartners’ Black Professional Network employee resource group (BPN) is celebrating Black talent.
In part one of this conversation, BPN members Sydney Lapeyrolerie, Daniel Osafo, and Taylor Robinson talk with Russ Kumar, AlixPartners’ Global Head of Talent Acquisition, about their career journeys, why representation matters in recruiting, and how to attract more Black professionals into the consulting industry.
Russ: I would love to learn about each of your career journeys into consulting. Sydney, can I start with you?
Sydney: My journey to consulting started at business school. Prior to that, I worked in the retail industry, primarily as a buyer at Macy's. I wanted to stay close to industry but move into the client services side and get more involved in strategic work. I arrived at consulting through the standard MBA recruiting process.
Daniel: My path was a little different. I started out as a structural engineer in the UK. It’s funny because as structural engineers, we would design structures and then a contractor would build them. We were consultants, being the consulting engineers on the project. So, I always thought of myself as a consultant, but it wasn’t management consulting, which I was not familiar with.
When I decided on a career change, I went to business school and later got a summer internship at a management consulting firm and it’s been management consulting all the way since then.
Taylor: I actually work on the People side of the firm, supporting our consultants. My career started in the non-profit sector working with a racial equity organization near my former university. I later relocated back to metro Detroit and joined a large staffing agency as a talent manager.
I wasn’t very familiar with human resources beforehand, but I developed a deep appreciation for helping people start and progress within their careers. I had a personal relationship with someone in AlixPartners’ Detroit office who connected me with Jeremy Borys, AlixPartners’ Head of Organizational Development. I was intrigued by the way they both talked about AlixPartners and the great work the firm did. A recruiting role was posted a few months later and the rest is history.
Russ: It's interesting to hear the different paths we have taken to get here. Considering we’ve all found our way into this industry, I’d be curious why you think more Black professionals and students don’t consider consulting careers?
Sydney: I'm a believer that people are inspired to pursue careers based on who or what they've been exposed to. I considered consulting because I grew up knowing individuals in that field, like family friends and whatnot. So, when I was in business school, I knew that this was a profession I should consider.
But to be honest, until the industry gets to a point where there are many visible Black consultants in leadership positions, students and other professionals that didn’t have the exposure I had may often not know that this field or career is possible to pursue.
Daniel: I think Sydney makes a good point. It's about exposure. Some years ago, there was a perception that consulting was kind of an old boys’ network and tough to break in. When I became exposed to consulting in business school, I was basically bitten by the bug. But many other people of color were not as drawn to consulting because there wasn’t a lot of minority representation. This, I think was discouraging to a lot of Black students.
Taylor: Piggybacking off what Daniel said, the nature of how the referral process works both formally and informally has a big impact.
If you’re graduating from school and don’t have connections within the industry or to a specific firm, you have to rely almost exclusively on what you find online. If you visit a firm’s website, or several firm’s websites, and notice a lack of representation, it’s easy to assume that might mean a lack of opportunity; especially if you don’t know anyone internally that can tell you otherwise.
Russ: How do we raise awareness about this industry and the opportunities it offers to Black professionals and students?
Daniel: Great question. I think AlixPartners is already doing some of the things that we should be doing, like going directly to the schools and talking to students. Our partnerships with Consortium, the National Black MBA Association, and Jumpstart are also helpful to identify those sources of Black talent. Then, to Taylor’s point, it’s about having the representation in our firm to ensure we’re making the most of these relationships.
Taylor: I think targeted recruiting is really important, particularly for entry-level hires and MBA recruits.
Sydney: With on-campus recruiting specifically, it’s important for firms to show up year after year and share their value proposition both through affinity organizations at target recruiting schools and also by establishing connections at HBCUs or any other educational community where there is great talent.
Diversity has been a priority for every company I've worked for, although not all companies have had a recruiting strategy with specific action items to attract diverse or Black talent. It’s a process that requires intentionality and commitment.
Russ: We have talked a lot about the different recruiting channels that are available to make Black talent aware of and interested in consulting. At AlixPartners we have put a number of programs in place as well. We recently established our MBA Scholarship for Achievement, Daniel mentioned that we are partnering with organizations that focus on advancing the careers of Black talent, we’re actively partnering with our Employee Resource Groups, and we have built strong relationships with diversity organizations at universities where we recruit.
Taylor: Just to add onto that—it’s not that we’re targeting certain demographics to hire them, we are targeting certain demographics to ensure our pipeline is far-reaching, and that our recruiting process is as inclusive as possible.
Daniel: I agree. It’s about making it more inclusive because once you’re inclusive, you can pick the best talent from that broader set of candidates. That best talent will definitely include solid minority candidates.
Russ: As a firm, we’ve really led with inclusion and now we’re seeing our hiring become more representative of the culture we have built internally.
Taylor: Inclusion should continue to be the forerunner of what we’re doing so that as we bring in diverse talent, we bring them into an inclusive environment that will retain them. I think we are on a great trajectory, and it’s just about continuing to take the right steps.
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