Meet Kimberly Bella,
Former Vice President
Kimberly Bella has had a varied career – starting in digital marketing, transitioning to consulting for financial services firms, and now focused on critical, of-the-moment issues like data privacy. But throughout this wide range of jobs, one thing has been consistent – she tries to make a personal connection with everyone she works with.
“Networking is hard for most people,” said Kimberly, who worked at AlixPartners in New York City from 2011 to 2015 and is now the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Visa in San Francisco. “But very rarely will someone say no to a cup of coffee or to a quick walk out of the office. Taking people out of the conference room really helps.”
Kimberly also has a habit of writing thank you notes and expressing her gratitude every time she has a positive collaborative experience with someone. “If you really reflect on the work you’ve done or some accomplishment you have, there are certain people who will stand out as having contributed to it. And you should tell them in whatever way makes the most sense for you. A lot of times people don’t necessarily get thanks for the efforts they give.”
Kimberly also believes in building authentic relationships by giving people constructive feedback. “Giving honest feedback goes a long way,” she said. “Rather than just saying something is wrong, also investing the time to explain why. I even do this when I interview people and notice something that might negatively impact them in other interviews; so, they’re not left with this sense of, ‘Well, I’m just not good enough.’ If you’re able to take a minute and think about how to articulate what it is they can do better, they’re going to be able to take that and do something with it. And respect you for sharing.”
This idea of striving to continuously improve and helping colleagues out served Kimberly well when she was at AlixPartners on the marketing team. She built strong relationships with her consultant colleagues, and because of her expertise in the digital space and her ability to be adaptable, the financial services team approached her to work as a consultant on a six-month-long client project.
“Working as a consultant was a big change for me. My big ‘Aha’ moment was that people are often intimidated by leadership, especially in consulting, because you work with incredibly smart people,” Kimberly said. “You end up feeling like what you have to say doesn’t matter. But I learned that there are things we all know that other people don’t and we all understand the market in different ways. And people are receptive to the ideas you have because they don’t have the same ones.”
That first project was incredibly successful, which lead Kimberly to move fully onto the consulting side of the job. “I actually got married during that first project,” she said. “And after my wedding on a Friday, I flew to California on Monday to present just because this project was so exciting, and you don’t get to be in the room with a firm’s CEO every day. There are some things you just don’t want to pass up.”
Kimberly’s husband, who worked in financial services at the time, dropped her off at the airport and then met her in California for their mini-moon. It was also on this trip that the couple realized they were more suited to life in northern California than in NYC and made the cross-country move permanent about a year later. “We fell in love with wine country and the proximity to outdoor adventures.”
Kimberly built her consulting career on the west coast for a further three years and then became a mother, which made it necessary to cut down on extensive travel and resulting in a move to an in-house analytics and strategy role. “[Being a parent] makes you think about how you spend your time more effectively. When you’re on the inside, you have a little more control over your own daily and weekly schedule and travel decisions.”
When she was traveling regularly, Kimberly strove to have some normalcy by following the same routine every time she was in the same airport – eating from the same establishments, doing the same things until it was time to board the flight. She also developed a flawless new mom routine and, keeping true to her belief in the power of personal connection, said she is happy to share her tips and tricks with anyone who could benefit from her experience.
Now, she spends her commute listening to audiobooks – on topics as varied as rapid prototyping and biographies of comedians – but the big focus is on finding quality time with her 19-month-old daughter and husband.
Kimberly’s husband now works as an artist – making artwork from tennis racquets – and was featured at the French Open this year. “Right now, we’re balancing our two careers – a demanding job in the financial services industry and doing this really creative thing that combines sports and art,” Kimberly said. “Hopefully our daughter ends up getting the best of both of our passions.”