In the Q&A below, Jason shares the skills he’s used to become a better communicator, how he’s fine-tuned managing a wide set of stakeholders and his advice for fellow alumni who are considering returning to A&M.
You studied aerospace engineering in undergrad and mechanical engineering in graduate school. How did you come to pursue an MBA? Were there any notable ah-ha moments that led you to work in consulting?
As I started my career, I considered that pursuing an MBA would be of interest to me if my career progressed as I had hoped. At my first job, Air Liquide, leadership began impressing upon me that getting an MBA would be of value to support my ultimate career goals. That support ultimately convinced me that pursuing my MBA aligned well with how my career had developed to date, and what I could ultimately achieve.
I wouldn’t say there are any specific ah-ha moments when it comes to working in consulting, but I’ve always had an interest in the industry. I always felt that the amount, and type, of experiences I could gain in a short period of time in consulting would set me up for long-term professional success. Being in the consulting industry, I definitely feel I am a more capable and competent professional. From working at A&M and in my previous positions, I have gathered a skill set that allows me to be a viable consultant for the duration of my career.
Can you tell us about your experiences in the CPI practice and the skill sets you have been able to strengthen / acquire while at A&M?
I’ve been fortunate to be assigned to a diverse set of projects working within in CPI, which is exactly what I was hoping for when I joined A&M initially. I’ve worked on engagements including a performance improvement assessment, IT strategy development, operational carve-out, operational merger integration, enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation and now I’m on a large organizational and technology transformation engagement. This diverse set of experiences has led me to be a jack of all trades instead of an expert in a specific area, versatile and credible broadly across industries and functions.
Thinking about the diverse set of engagements I’ve been a part of, I have been fortunate to strengthen quite a few skills. First, I’ve gotten better at managing a wide set of stakeholders, both within A&M and on the client side. This includes managing up and down the ladder, as well as with my peers, ensuring all of the stakeholders’ key points of value are accounted for. Second, with A&M’s focus on driving value, I’m better able to digest a large amount of data / information and identify the key areas to focus on for success and value-add. Also, I am better able to identify and mitigate risks that could potentially inhibit success. Lastly, I am a better communicator across various mediums. I have improved the ability to communicate in a concise manner and have become more of an active listener, being able to pick-up underlying messages and sentiment.
You recently returned to A&M in November 2018. What were some of your reasons for returning? What would you tell someone who has left and is contemplating coming back?
Two main factors contributed to returning to A&M. First, was a desire to move back into consulting from industry-focused work. I missed the pace and sense of urgency associated with working in consulting and driving towards tangible results in a short period of time. I also missed the variety of experiences I could gain both across functions and industries. I am attracted to a work that allows me to continually learn and grow while solving a wide variety of complex problems. That excites me and motivates me to get up in the morning.
Second, I’m a big believer in finding the right cultural fit when looking for the right organization to work for. This being the case, A&M’s culture and values align very well with my own, and I missed the work and the people. Coming back to A&M, with the amount of activity going on, will give me the right opportunities for career development and success.
What I would say to someone contemplating coming back is, A&M is very transparent so it’s clear what the people are like and what the opportunities are. If the elements align with where you are career-wise, and what you hope to accomplish, there should be no trepidation in returning to A&M. Everyone within A&M has been extremely welcoming in my return, it’s like I never left.
What do you enjoy most about working at A&M? Do you feel that our core values – quality, personal reward, objectivity, integrity and fun – are showcased? How so?
What I enjoy most about working at A&M is two-fold. First, are the people I get a chance to work with are truly amazing. People at A&M are extremely smart, talented, competent professionally and simply great people. This grouping of these traits makes it worthwhile to go to work, where I am stretched and challenged professionally, all the while making personal connections as well.
Second, is the type of work I get to be involved in. The mantra I hear a lot is A&M helps clients solve their most complex problems, and in my opinion that is true. I’ve been a part of strategy projects, large organizational transformation projects, merger integrations and carve-outs. The type of work has been important for the clients, taking them through a complex period within their organizations, and ultimately setting them up for long-term success. These transformative projects really make a person feel like they are making an impact for the clients, orienting them for the higher levels of performance and success.
Having been both a part of A&M and having experienced different organizations outside, it is obvious how all A&M people truly live and breathe the five core values of quality, integrity, objectivity, personal reward and fun. There are countless examples of people showcasing these, someone only needs to spend a day in an A&M office to witness multiple instances of the core values.
How does A&M differ from other consulting firms?
There are many things that differentiate A&M from other consulting firms, but I’ll call out a few that really stand out to me. The culture and core values really are an ingrained part of the organization and everyone in the firm embraces these and really lives and breathes the culture and core values. Additionally, the talent mix within A&M is unique as it’s an assortment of lifer consultants, those with a background of industry and consulting experience and former long-tenured industry leaders. This unique blend of personnel brings additional insight and capabilities in developing the right solutions to client’s challenges. Lastly, the unique staffing model with a stronger level of experience on average lets the company staff smaller teams while still driving significant value for our clients. This is good for our clients as we can be intimately engaged with key stakeholders. At the same time, this is advantageous for our employees, as the amount of exposure to key client personnel is greater in the smaller team structure. The structure also provides opportunities for team members to take on more responsibility and grow.
What are some of your hobbies and passions outside of work?
I like to stay active through a variety of avenues. My main focuses now are CrossFit and golf, but I’ll dabble in flag football, tennis and basketball from time to time. While on vacation I enjoy taking hikes, and during the winter it’s about hitting the mountain on my snowboard.
Staying active helps me balance out my favorite hobby which is partaking in good food with friends and family. Having grown up in an Asian family and having been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit around the world, I enjoy all different types of cuisine as that is the heart and soul of a culture. With a love for exploration I’m always interested in trying out new places to eat and drink, whether at home or away, while also continuing to return to my personal favorites.
I also enjoy traveling both domestically and abroad. I was fortunate enough to live in Shanghai from Fall 2015 to Summer 2018 and took advantage of its proximity to other nations, visiting 10 other countries. I hope to be able to continue that trend across other continents as well.