Knowing your strengths
Leah Daniel, a Director in CIL’s Consumer practice, talks about her journey from joining CIL straight after university to where she is now and her experience of being a woman in consulting.
What was your path to consulting like?
I studied geography, which doesn’t always lend itself to an obvious career path, so I struggled with deciding what to do afterwards.
Before university, I was at a state school and consulting was not really on my radar – it was only once I got to Cambridge, and consulting was advertised quite hard to me that I considered it an option. I had a passion for the consumer retail space and so the idea of working on consumer strategy for a consulting firm drew me in. Despite not knowing much about it, I applied to CIL – nearly 10 years on, I am still here working in the consumer team and really enjoying it!
Why have you chosen CIL as the place to build your career?
I started at CIL while it was small, but growing rapidly, which made it an exciting place to be. My career progressed as the company grew, and I constantly felt like there was more I could do. Despite not originally planning it, I made the decision year after year to stay.
Working for a growing firm like CIL gives you the exposure and ability to take on responsibility and progress your career. Everyone is treated like an individual and receives so much support – this has been instrumental for my personal career growth, and I would not be in the position I am in today without it. No matter the role you are in, you are respected and made part of the team, with real meaning and emphasis put on your work.
The support that CIL offers is a massive reason for staying at the company so long. Supportiveness is one of our core values, and in my opinion, the most important. Throughout my career, I have been supported with additional training, coaching and with my wellbeing too which has helped me develop myself, my skills and my career to get to where I am today.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter consulting?
For anyone thinking of a career in consulting, curiosity and a willingness to learn are the most important traits you can have. Being able to put your ego aside to ask questions, knowing where you struggle and having the ability to ask for help are also crucial. Everyone has different skills and abilities to those around them – working on those unique skills gives you such an advantage and will help you learn more and progress further.
It is so easy to look around at your peers and panic that you aren’t good enough. Coming from a geography degree, without having even done maths A-Level, I was not as strong with the mathematical side of the job at first and I had to put in the work to get my skills up to scratch. I became comfortable with my abilities when the Partners took me aside and showed me where my skill and value lay. CIL doesn’t look for a homogenous group of people – we rely on everyone having different skillsets and different views and opinions. This is why D&I is so important – diversity of team leads to diversity of thought, and you bring a wide range of people to the table in order to get broader capability into the team.
What has your experience been of being a woman in consulting?
When I first started at CIL, the private equity space was quite male dominated, although it is great to see how this is changing now! I was often the youngest person and only woman in the room, which felt intimidating at times. It meant I sometimes reserved my opinions and didn’t speak out as much as I should have done.
Instead of trying hard to fit in, I now focus on authenticity and being myself. My character and way of thinking is my strength, and even if my ideas are different to the majority, it is beneficial and can help me bring value to my team and to my clients. My advice for anyone who feels like they don’t fit in is to use your differences to your advantage and to let your opinions be heard – they are just as valid as any other.
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