To Grow in Your Career, Put People First

Julio Santil grew up outside of Boston and through a strong work ethic, intelligence, and relationship building skills he’s built a path to success. His motto and secret sauce?  Put people first. Whether it was becoming the first in his family to graduate from college (Boston College) obtain his MBA (UC-Berkeley-Haas) or work at one of the top management consulting firms (Deloitte Consulting) Julio has used this approach to build relationships and achieve success, for himself, his teams, and his community. We chatted with Julio to learn more about his career journey, and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

 

CareerSchooled: When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?

To be completely honest, the earliest childhood dream I can remember is wanting to become an NBA player.  I was probably in the 7-8th grade. By Sophomore year of high school, when I hadn’t grown past 5’10”, I saw the writing on the wall.  Luckily enough for me, I was a top student so going to a good college was very much in the cards. After my hoop dreams fizzled, I started thinking I wanted to do “business.” Totally naïve to what that meant, I started looking for people around me that I thought were successful.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have role models in my community that worked in corporate jobs or were entrepreneurs. I had to wait until my time at Boston College to be surrounded by people from different walks of life that I could learn from.

 

CareerSchooled: Prior to your recent job change, you spent 8 years at Deloitte as a management consultant. How did you end up there after graduating from Boston College?

Once at Boston College, I made the choice to join the business school. I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer, so I was left with business or liberal arts.  I chose to major in finance because I thought that learning how money worked could lead me to a job at a great bank. My peers had aspirations of joining Goldman, JP Morgan etc., so it seemed like a reasonable path to pursue. Once I dug a bit deeper into what working at one of those companies was actually like, I scratched Investment Banker off my list of career goals.  How about accounting? One of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my life, Amy Lacombe, also happened to be my Managerial Accounting teacher. I did well in her class and sought her mentorship when it came to career advice. Being the thoughtful, caring person that she was, she took the time to help me evaluate careers that spoke to my strengths. Rather than push me to become an accountant, she introduced me to careers in Consulting.  

 

I had absolutely no idea what consulting even meant. She told that she felt I had the analytical and interpersonal skills to help companies solve problems they had trouble solving for themselves. She believed in me and that gave me the confidence to apply to all of the top consulting firms that recruited on campus. That is how I landed at Deloitte upon graduation.

CareerSchooled: Spending 7 years in consulting and at a company at Deloitte is no small feat. What were some things you did in order to help you succeed and develop while you were there?

 

Early on, as a wide-eyed college grad, success was really measured by work ethic and how quickly you were able grasp new concepts. That was my main focus – listen, learn, try not to ask the same question twice.  After about two years as an analyst, I started to build a tool kit of both hard and soft skills that I could lean on and also began to build a reputation around. Towards the end of my 2nd year, I started to think about what was next, and that is when I began to seek out mentors.  One particular mentor, Dio Diaz, was someone I always looked up to. He was two years older, also Dominican, from the Boston area and worked in Deloitte’s tech practice. One of the things he taught me early on was that in order to be successful, particularly in consulting, you had to own your career.  What did that mean? It meant networking and exploring with intentionality. It meant seeking out opportunities rather than relying on the optimal project so magically fall on your lap.  So I did just that – set up coffee chats with partners working on projects that seemed interesting, expressing my skillset and passion with enthusiasm.

 

What that quickly taught me was that it was THOSE people, the bold, that secured the roles on the best projects. I carried that mindset with me throughout my time at Deloitte and is what I think led to many of my proudest moments and experiences.    

 

CareerSchooled: During your stints at Deloitte you also attended UC-Berkeley (Haas) for your MBA. Did you always want to get an MBA? What led you to pursue that?

Graduate school was not something I strived for.  To be honest, I never really dreamt or thought that far ahead. Every major milestone in life, whether it was getting into BC or securing my first job at Deloitte, felt like I had made it. That doesn’t mean I felt complacent, but just reaching those milestones meant I had to work my ass off to be successful within those environments.  That didn’t leave much room for dreaming. That started to change once I reached that 2 year milestone at Deloitte.

 

I began to feel like a true professional that could bring something to the table. As my confidence grew I began to think about what I wanted to do next, and that is where Dio’s mentorship really influenced me.  At that time, Dio was participating in a pre-MBA program called Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) which had the mission of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in top business schools. Through his story I become intrigued at the idea of going back to school.  I didn’t have anyone close to me that had received an advanced degree, not at home nor in my community, so I began seeking out those individuals to learn from them.

Dio introduced me to his mentors and I connected with Manager and Senior Managers at Deloitte that had gotten their MBA. Through their stories I began craft my own. Business School became my next milestone and I poured my nights and weekends into the application process.  I was accepted into MLT, grinded away at GMAT classes, visited a dozen schools, and wrote more essays than I care to remember. It was a trying time, but honestly, I am glad it was, because it proved to me that I was all in.

CareerSchooled: Throughout your career and life, you’ve made a point of volunteering in your local community. What are some of the things you’ve done, and what’s motivated you to do this?

I am not here today if it weren’t for the Boys and Girls Club of Salem.  From the 4th grade through Middle School, the club was my home.  The club is where I learned to shoot a jump shot, sign up for email, open a bank account, resolve a conflict with a friend, and so much more. I owe a debt of gratitude to the club for building a foundation from which I could grow, centered around hard work, respect, and helping others along the way.  Knowing that my successes were a result of an army of people who supported me, I’ve always felt an immense debt that I had to pay back. I am still very much in the red on that debt, but I know it is one I’ll never fully repay.

In 2006, with the support of my former Executive Director from the Boys and Girls Club, I joined the board of a non-profit called Youth Rising in my hometown of Salem, MA. Our work focused on instilling leadership skills through sports, arts and civic engagement for the youth in our local community, as well as in the Dominican Republic. These were kids just like me and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  Although my work with Youth Rising has come to a close since moving to California, one of my passions is still mentoring of young people of color. Today I do that through informal mentorship of those that seek me out, whether it be through an alumni network or internal network at Facebook (my current employer), I make it a priority to find time for those conversations, because it was those exact conversations that guided me through my journey to Boston College, Deloitte, Haas, and to Facebook.

CareerSchooled: What advice do you have for people who came from a similar upbringing as you, who like yourself, were may not initially considered a career in consulting, an MBA, etc?

The answer to this question is a constant evolution for me. I’ve thought about it over and over again.  These are the top 5 themes that bubble to the top of my list every time, in no particular order.

 

Crush it and be humble

Notice this doesn’t read “crush it BUT be humble.”  This isn’t calling for humility in spite of being a top performer, it’s asking that you pursue excellence in all you do while demonstrating to others that don’t think too highly of yourself.  If you’re like me, you’ve heard the old “work twice as hard as everyone else” line enough times, and I’ve found that to have a lot of merit (unfortunately). So yes, crush it. Work hard and be great. Get that “A”, apply for that scholarship, and go that extra mile. Doing so will put you in the conversation and in the rooms that will take you to the next level. What I’ve found, however, is that likeability and humility are what will get you into the next room – the one you REALLY want to be in. Letting your work speak for itself is a noble mantra and may work for some.  For me, what I’ve found to be an important part of the equation was ‘me’ – who I am, where I’ve been, what I care about. People have decided to help me because they believed in me as a person, not just because they think I can do the job.

 

Find mentors, then find more

You’ve read this word several times so far, so it should come with no surprise that its in my top five. Throughout life you’ll find you need mentors with different areas of expertise, mentors that see something different in you, and mentors that can connect you in ways your previous mentors could not. This certainly doesn’t mean that you use mentors until they no longer serve you; on the contrary. Eventually you’ll find that you have a lot to offer your mentors as well.  Mentorship is not one way street, so be sure to find ways to give back however you can.

 

Don’t forget to reach behind you

As you move through life and career, others will be looking to you for guidance, inspiration and validation that their own stories/dreams are possible. Find ways to help your community, whether that be formally or informally.  I can think back to singular conversations and moments that inspired a thought in me that led me down many paths. Be that person for as many people as you can. You’ll never feel like you are doing enough – I certainly don’t. Make it a point to find ways to make yourself, and your story, available to others.

 

Don’t let imposter syndrome consume you

Boston College, Deloitte Consulting, Berkeley Haas School of Business, Facebook.  One thing all of these places have in common is that I didn’t feel I that belonged at first. The problem wasn’t with these institutions, it was with me and my lack of confidence and feeling that I’d be “found out.”  Maybe I hadn’t done enough to truly deserve the opportunity. Maybe I didn’t learn from my parents what others learned from theirs when they were children. I’ve conditioned myself to tell this voice in my head, “so what. you’re here now.” With each success and each goal achieved, that voice begins to quiet just a little, only to be reignited with the next promotion or opportunity. We belong. Remember that.

Travel

Take every opportunity you possibly can to travel.  Leave your city, state, and if possible your country.  Traveling the world has given me layers of perspectives on life that I’d never been able to gain at home. I look back at my undergraduate experience and wish I had studied abroad. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel more than most and I can attribute a lot of my outlook on life to those experiences. Our world is smaller than ever and you will certainly find yourself sharing a class project or work station with someone from a different background.  Traveling has taught me empathy and that at the end of the day, we aren’t as different deep down as the surface my suggest.

6 Challenges of working as a Management Consultant

I’ve been fielding a lot of informational interviews lately with undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in consulting. I enjoy these conversations and helping students along their career search journey.

Inevitably, students (rightfully) will ask a question about the challenges working in the consulting industry. I’ve compiled a list of challenges that consultants often encounter in their career. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to share your additional ones.

77751d83cbdc826090b16fe22147855b4f46e71f580bf565d8174d1196bc61cb

Bad Project – Not all projects are amazing. Furthermore, while some projects can sound sexy (Strategy, M&A, etc.) there are lots of challenges and difficulties that can derail even the coolest sounding projects. Companies don’t pay firms a lot of money to solve easy problems, they pay them to solve complex and challenging ones. Projects can be bad for lots of reasons. Tight timelines, unreasonable demands, not enough resources, and the list goes on. If you work in this industry long enough, you’ll be guaranteed to have one.

Difficult Client –Clients are investing lots of money into consultants to solve difficult problems. As such, they demand results and progress, regardless of its reasonable or rationale. At some point, you’ll have a client who despite the circumstances and constraints is incredibly unreasonable or irrational with their demands. Despite this, you’ll have to figure out how to best meet and exceed their expectations, even if it seems unreasonable.

Tough Team – Hopefully, you end up at a firm where you fit in with the culture and around people whom you like and respect. While many firms put care and thought into assembling project teams, you’re not going to like or work well with every single person you meet.

Curveballs – Things change quickly in consulting. M&A Team Lead role you signed up for suddenly changes to you being the entire team. The role where you thought you were managing five resources only has 3 resources due to the project budget. Curveballs and changes are routine in this job

Demanding Travel – For most consultants, travel is a part of the job. While policies differ firm to firm (local, regional, national) there is always the chance that you get stuck with a travel schedule that stinks. Maybe it’s because you have to go to North Dakota for 6 months. Maybe you’re doing cross-country flights with redeye’s back on Saturday mornings. Or, maybe you have to fly out Sunday nights. At the end of the day, consultants go where the business (see $$) is, and if the $$ is in North Dakota, you’ll be headed there shortly.

Not being able to make personal plans. Ever. – If you’re traveling Monday-Thursday it can be hard to make plans during the week. Furthermore, I’m sure you want to go home for Thanksgiving to see your family, but since you don’t know where your next project is going to be its hard to know where to book your flight home. The uncertainty and unpredictability of consulting can make it difficult to make personal plans (see live a normal life) It can make the most normal of things (ex: scheduling a doctor’s appointment) a truly difficult task.

Here’s the thing: Every job has its ups and downs. Similar to picking a significant other, picking a job is like means taking the best and worst of your selection. Sure, some of these scenarios are crappy, but if you can navigate through these situations (and make the best of them) there’s a high likelihood you’ll enjoy the profession.

Furthermore, the nature of consulting is temporary – you’re on a project for x amount of weeks and months and then you move onto the next one. The good news is that if you encounter any of these challenges there is always an end in sight. The next project serves as an opportunity for a fresh start. If you do this long enough, I’m confident there will be more good memories than bad ones. In my next post, I’ll examine some ways to manage these situations.

Taking Risks and Trusting Yourself to Drive Career Growth

When you’re working in a demanding and fast-paced career like management consulting, it can be very easy to put your head down and devote your focus to the task at hand. While this often leads to career progression and job security, it can be easy to fall back on a “safety net” instead of taking risks and pursuing growth opportunities. This week, we spoke to Max Linkoff, a former management consultant at Deloitte, who recently left the industry to build his own business called The Weekend Sabbatical. We spoke to Max about his decision to leave consulting, what he’s up to now with his own venture, and what advice he has for consultants (and other professionals) who might be considering a career transition.

Careerschooled: You recently left a job in management consulting to pursue a new venture. How did you know it was time to leave, and what led you to make the jump?

Max: I was fortunate to have a successful career during my time at Deloitte. I had early promotions, started a new business capability, and received plenty of recognition and exposure at an early age. Though as I grew at the firm and chased the dangling carrot on the corporate ladder, I started to find the work less and less fulfilling. Like most analysts, I had made my long term working context around making it to a Partner or Director level.

As I grew in the firm, I became comfortable with the consulting salary, career trajectory, and what my life had and would become. Though more importantly, I became comfortable and I realized if I didn’t rip the band-aid off of my consulting career, then I would never be able to. It is this exact mentality that allowed me to develop the courage to want to take the next steps in my career. Either continue down the status quo, wake up in my 40’s as a Partner or Director and ask myself “okay, I’ve made it to the top, now what do I do with my life and career?” or rip the bandaid off entirely and pursue areas that I was passionate about. These revolved around traveling, executive and leadership coaching, and empowering other professionals in their careers.

 

I started The Weekend Sabbatical as a side project during my final year at Deloitte, testing it out with friends to make sure I had a viable product that worked and was effective in helping professionals as a service. After a couple of test trials, and seeing participants have career breakthroughs during our 5 days together, I knew I had something that would allow me to leave my consulting job and push myself outside of my comfort zone like never before.

CareerSchooled: When you were deciding if you wanted to leave consulting, what were some of the questions you asked yourself/considered before you decided to make the move?

Max: How would I feel if I never gave myself the opportunity to truly step outside of my comfort zone in my career? How can I ensure that I have a source of income in place as a build my new business? What does my burn rate look like for my current living and life situation? Is it possible to leave on good terms with my company so that I could one day go back if I wanted to?

 

Careerschooled: What is your new venture, and what does it do?

Max: My new venture is called The Weekend Sabbatical. It’s a 5-day career development travel adventure allowing professionals to recharge, complete an impactful social impact project, and take a step back to evaluate how you can grow in your career.

We work with professionals that are doing well in their careers and have started to ask themselves the “what comes next for me in this job?” or “how do I take this job at this company to the next level?” questions or professionals that are burnt out, looking to make a career transition, or simply need some time away from their day to day.

 

Careerschooled: What did you learn from your time in consulting that has helped you as you’ve started your own business?

Max: This question always makes me laugh. As a consultant, I was always required to provide a high level and detailed strategy to my clients for how they could fix their respective business issues. From there, the client typically tended to complete the implementation on their own. Now As an entrepreneur, I’m responsible for setting my own strategy and have full autonomy to carry out that strategy as quickly as possible while handling all of the other things that pop out of left field. Aside from the strategic thinking, time management, productivity, relationship management are all things that I learned during my time as a consultant and have helped me as I’ve started my own business.

Careerschooled: While we know you just started, how has progress been so far, and what have been some of the successes and challenges with launching your own business?

Max: Successes – 5 trips completed to date, a monthly cadence of trips planned until October (July – Costa Rica, August – Nicaragua, September – Mexico City, October – Puerto Rico) establishing partnerships with multiple non-profits throughout Latin America, establishing partnerships with other health/wellness influencers that can add a complementary flavor to the experience, setting up my own CRM, creating pilots with other companies to create customized trips that focus on social impact and leadership development.

Challenges – Initiating a CRM system, learning about the legal applications of my business, standing up a payroll (I learned about accounting in business school but never needed to apply it to anything from a consulting standpoint).

CareerSchooled: One of the key components to The Weekend Sabbatical is that all your trips take place in far away destinations. What value does the environment/location play for your experiences?

Max: I strive to provide an environment that allows professionals to feel disconnected from the normal 9-5 setting. Each location that we travel to has an abundance of nature and beauty to really provide an atmosphere that feels far away from their work environment, promotes disconnecting from a work mentality, and allows them to get into the right mindset for the experience.

 

Careerschooled: From your experience, what are some of the biggest hurdles that professionals struggle with as they think about finding the right job or career?

Max: First, many professionals are afraid to even attempt to make any change at all, even when they’re unhappy and feel stuck with what they’re doing.

Second, when it comes to finding the right job or career, many professionals also struggle to figure out what some of their passion areas are from a career standpoint. The word passion gets thrown around alot but I like to associate it with “what you find engaging” for your day to day.

Third, the job application process is grueling and in my opinion is a job within your own job entirely. How to manage the job application process while still performing well in your current career can be a daunting task if you lack structure or knowledge for how to handle it.

 

Careerschooled: Consulting is an industry known for turnover. From your experience, what are some of the challenges that consultants face, and do you have any guidance or advice for consultants out there who are struggling with this decision?

Max: One of the most eye opening thing to me as a consultant was how much politics play a role in your career, especially as you grow in your respective firm. Unfortunately, who you know and make part of your core network and team can have a major impact on your career. Other challenges revolve around “working smarter, not harder”.

I struggled with this early in my career and saw other analysts deal with it too. Consulting was all about efficiency since there were always many moving pieces of the puzzle for the larger project. Being busy can be a good thing, but not when you’re working on the wrong things and spending too much time getting the right things completed.

For any consultants struggling with the decision to take the next step in your career, just remember that other companies love consultants. Having a consulting job on your resume means that you’re a chameleon – someone who was able to consistently take on a new role in a new organization and succeed. There’s also always some fear leaving your comfort zone in a consulting environment, taking that next steps professionally, and even managing the thoughts of if you can succeed in your new work setting.

Try and maintain a growth mindset and remember, that you didn’t always know how to be a consultant in the first place. At some point, you developed a process of what it takes to be successful in this environment and took that process and amplified it to drive success. What would be different for taking on a new role with a new company?

 

Careerschooled: Many of our readers are thinking about making career moves or wondering if their current job/career is right for them. What advice do you have for professionals who are evaluating their career options?

Max: When deciding if your job/career is right for you, think about your current and future growth, learning opportunities, and support system – especially if you’re still within the first few years. If your work is engaging, you’re continuously learning, have mentors around you that are invested in your growth, and find yourself challenged, then it may make sense to continue where you are (all of those areas a recipe for constant growth within your company).

If you’re starting to feel comfortable, losing your ability to challenge yourself and grow, or find any of the other areas above compromised, then it may be time to look for something else.

Our careers are our lives and it’s where we spend more than a majority of our time. If you’re not finding your work fulfilling, then start to evaluate the skills that you have and where else they can be applied. Moreover, we’re not our parents generation where a stigma exists to spend your entire career with one company. There are hundreds of jobs available (especially with the current state of the economy). Don’t be afraid to take a risk and trust yourself to drive your growth as a professional.

 

Careerschooled: If our readers want to learn more about The Weekend Sabbatical, where can they get more information?

Max: Check out the website at www.theweekendsabbatical.com or email me directly at max@theweekendsabbatical.com