The Institute for Leadership Advancement not only provides its students with crucial leadership lessons for all facets of life but also the skills to reach beyond their comfort zone. For Christina Harris, a 2007 Leonard Leadership Scholar, ILA encouraged her to pursue invaluable life and work experiences abroad.
After telling a fellow scholar during her senior year that she dreamed of working in Dubai, only a mere nine months later Christina started her career as a general management consultant for Oliver Wyman in Dubai, where she stayed for almost four years. Her role entailed long hours but also provided the opportunity to travel all over the world collecting invaluable learning experiences. Her position led her to Abu Dhabi to conduct a performance audit for a Middle Eastern airline, to South Africa to develop a long-term strategy for a freight company, and even to Nigeria, where she created and implemented a complete turn-around strategy for a major telecommunications operator.
Christina notes that the most important lesson she took from her international work was learning to balance. “All of the travel was a huge perk of the job, but it did make having a stable personal or social life back in Dubai a bit challenging. It is important to have family, friends and roommates who understand and can work with a crazy travel schedule,” she advises.
Christina acknowledges that the team-based service projects through ILA provided experiences that contributed to her success in consulting. “Much like on our team-based service projects, I have found myself in some sort of team role on every project I have done in consulting. Whether you are assigned a specific role or naturally as a group gravitate toward different roles, everyone has a part to play. Focus on empowering and enabling those you interact with to succeed, and they will also support you in your success,” she explains.
For current ILA students exploring options after graduation, Christina stresses the importance of practicing case interviewing skills for consulting interviews and international positions. “American life is good, and there is a lot of opportunity right here in front of us, but I would highly encourage all of you who are passionate about travel, different cultures, international work experience and stretching your boundaries to go for it. As a fairly risk averse person, getting a job with an American company, then taking gradual steps toward the international experience I wanted made the transition really easy to manage.”
Currently, Christina is working in Marsh’s human capital performance team, part of Marsh and McLennan Companies, in New York City. She reminds ILA students, “ILA provided a lot of the frameworks and guided my thinking around what I really wanted to do and what I am passionate about. The network you develop from your ILA class is top-notch and not something you can find elsewhere!“