Opening doors: a conversation with Harrison van der Lee

April 11, 2018

As part of AlixPartners’ partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and participation in the #DSWORKS® program, Investigation, Disputes & Risk Vice President Cameron Gibbs and intern Harrison van der Lee spoke on a panel at the first annual National ‏Down Syndrome Adult Summit in Washington, DC. on April 9th

NDSS focuses on creating opportunities for businesses to discuss inclusive employment benefits and initiatives. The panel discussion that Harrison and Cameron participated in focused on the benefits to employers of working with people with Down syndrome and empowering self-advocates, parents and caregivers, affiliate organizations, employees and employers to show the world that people with Down syndrome are ready, willing and ABLE to work.

Following the summit, we sat down with Harrison to learn about his internship experience and why he’s excited to return to AlixPartners this summer.

What are your responsibilities at AlixPartners? 

I am responsible for helping set up for meetings, which includes making sure that meeting supplies are in order, setting up food and beverages and helping at corporate events, such as greeting and checking in clients. I also help deliver packages and assist reception. 

Before you started at working at AlixPartners, what were some of your concerns or other expectations?

I didn’t know what to expect at AlixPartners and didn’t know what I would be doing. I had no idea what a management consulting firm does. I interviewed with the person that I ended up working with but wasn’t sure until I started what they would have me do. I wanted to be sure that I did a good job, that I challenged myself but also that I added value to AlixPartners. I wanted to be sure that they would continue this program, but also that I did a good job so that they would ask me back too. My mom was also a little worried about me commuting to New York City on my own because I had never done it. That part didn’t worry me though. 

Managing Director Alan Holtz, Harrison van der Lee, and Vice President Cameron Gibbs at last year’s New York reception at MoMA

How did you challenge yourself and position yourself to succeed?

I tried to ask a lot of questions to make sure that I understood what I was expected to do or if I didn’t understand something. I also asked for feedback from my supervisor, Maria Steward, on how I was doing. Maria and Cameron gave me lots of feedback on my performance throughout. I also tried to meet as many people as I could at AlixPartners so that I would feel comfortable approaching different people and also so that I had a better understanding of what role they played and what their responsibilities were. Cameron and the people I worked with were really good about including me in meetings with different departments and events so that I could learn about the company. Some of these included a client event at MoMA, meeting with different departments and clients like data and security, and even the FBI. Most people might have been nervous about meeting so many people or being in unfamiliar situations, but I am not. This is one of my skills – I am very comfortable meeting new people.

How did your expectations change by the end of your internship?

Maria and Cameron gave me lots of direction and feedback on my performance during the whole internship, so I really shouldn’t have been nervous about my responsibilities when I started. AlixPartners treated me like a real employee. I was really lucky that I got to sit in on meetings, participate in company lunches and events and was included in the company team meeting in Orlando and other events in NYC. In Orlando, I got to attend all the different seminars so I really got to learn about the business. Also, working with the other interns at AlixPartners was fun and helpful. We were all learning together and able to support one another and grow during our summer at AlixPartners. With support from the other interns, Maria, and Cameron, I felt really comfortable there. And commuting and getting around NYC was easy! 

Harrison meets with Maria Steward, Director of Office Management and Facilities - Americas and Asia.

How do you feel about going back to AlixPartners this summer? 

I am excited about going to work at AlixPartners again. I am happy that they want me back.

What do you hope to accomplish with your 2nd internship this summer?

I hope that I can show AlixPartners that they can count on me to do a good job and to see that I can do more to help them. 

How can the firm help you grow? 

Having Cameron and others as support really helped last year. I think that if they can give me a lot of feedback about the job I am doing and what I can do better, that will help. I also hope that they will help me challenge myself. I would like them to give me jobs that won’t necessarily be easy for me or that they think I can easily accomplish. I may ask a lot of questions, but I want to learn and I want to show them that I can do more. Also, I hope that Cameron or whomever my buddy is will work with my supervisors to make sure that they ask more of me than they think they can!

Harrison van der Lee with Qi Ming, our New York office's Fall 2017 intern also from NDSS.

If your company is interested in providing work opportunities to people with Down syndrome, visit #DSWORKS® Even Strength (US) or DSA Workfit (UK) for more information.