After graduating from Duke University having studied Military History (with a focus on propaganda) and Visual Media Studies, I set off into the professional world of finance. Soon after, I realized that what interested me most wasn’t the market itself, but rather how and why people were motivated to buy and sell; the human elements that make markets behave irrationally. I determined I had to make that my focus… but that would require a change. I had to leave finance and decided that the world of marketing was the right fit (after all, marketing is basically the pro-product propaganda of the 21st Century, so this seemed my best chance to blend my scholarly and professional interests).
But what aspect of marketing was best suited? I knew I wasn’t going to be copywriter or graphic designer. I knew I was interested in understanding consumers’ motivations. And, ideally, I wanted to somehow meld the skills I had developed in quantitative modeling with the softer side of behavioral psychology.
Enter Brand Strategy Consulting. This was a field I had never heard of and was pleasantly shocked to discover. Management consultancies had abounded at the career fairs in college. Yet nobody had so much as mentioned this entire other discipline within consulting. And to this day, people still don’t seem to know of the field when I say what it is I do. Why is that? No matter; it was clear that this was the path for me.
I started my journey at Kantar Futures, learning how to identify and project trends and to assess consumer needstates through ethnographies and qualitative research. It was a fairly natural transition from trying to project market movements, but far more interesting to me. After getting a taste for this industry, I sought to better leverage my quantitative analytical background and to become more client facing, so transitioned internally to Kantar Vermeer. There, I spent several years honing my skills in segmentation, decision journeys, identifying trends-driven business solutions, value proposition development, and effective brand architecture. This is also where I met Nate Caress.
After a brief sojourn to the client side – professionally immersing myself in my categoric love for whisk(e)y and the spirits category as the US Head of Consumer Insights and Strategy for The Glenlivet (and other premium whiskies) at Pernod Ricard – I realized I missed the diversity and dynamism of the consulting lifestyle. My old friend Nate had recently begun his new job at a little shop called The Value Engineers and – hearing of my desires to again become a consultant – told me to give it a look. It sounded incredible and he sold it well: an entrepreneurial, people-oriented consultancy with the business savvy to impact clients’ bottom lines with sharp thinking and fresh ideas. I met with the team in New York, and my outside view was quickly validated. It’s rare that in an interview process you can laugh, challenge, be challenged, be excited, leave hungry for more. From the onset, it was clear this process wasn’t so much an investigation, but rather a swapping of meaningful stories and experiences to determine fit and guide me to a decision – just the culture and style I’d want from a consultant, and so just the type of consultants I’d want to work with.
It hasn’t been a linear journey. But looking back, it makes perfect sense how I’ve ended up here. And I’m excited for the road ahead.
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