Women's History Month Spotlight - Ashley Vonderahe

Spotlight: Ashley Vonderahe interviewed by Elise Giannasi

Q: What brought you to Jabian?

I started like most people in consulting right after graduating from college, and after two years moved into campus recruiting. After my daughter was born, I knew I couldn’t keep up the travel that campus recruiting would entail at my previous job, and this was also around the same time that Jabian was getting to a point where we needed to put some structure around our recruiting process.

Q: What level were you when you started and what was your career progression?

I was a contractor, working 16 hours a week and helping to put some structure around our interview process. I stayed part-time for many years helping with special projects here and there. I increased my hours as it made sense with my family. It wasn’t a linear path, but the roles I was playing were always a blend of helping to keep the funnel of recruiting moving forward and looking at how we’d continue to develop the process and the function as Jabian grew. There was always a special project aspect to the work I was doing.

In October of 2015, the Partners approached me about being the lead of recruiting, and at that point, it was a good time for me to commit to full-time work. I appreciate them coming along with me on my journey and sticking with me as I figured out the balance of being a mother and working. It made all the difference because when I was ready, I was able to be full-time and I felt like I could balance more.

Q: Any life events that affected your career journey?

Starting a family. First child, second child, that was the main thing. I had already moved into recruiting in my previous role, so I knew that I couldn’t go back there because of the travel each semester, but I also wanted to make a mark and put my fingerprints on something.

Q: Are there meaningful people, moments, or advice that have influenced your experience at Jabian?

So many. When my stepfather’s health was declining, I received incredible support from the Partners to balance taking care of him and my mom, as well as the time needed when he did pass. It extended beyond just the partners, to my team, the leadership team, etc. There was never a question that the most important thing for me was to be there for my family. I have notes on my bulletin board that people have written me – nice thank you notes. You can never underestimate the power of a note showing up unexpectedly to say thanks. Even if it’s just a text. Words of encouragement, even if it’s not a huge life event, those really sustain you when you are at points where you are dealing with challenging aspects of your role.

Women's History Month Spotlight - Laura Rodney

Spotlight: Laura Rodney interviewed by Ryan Yan

Q: What brought you to Jabian?

We came to Atlanta because my husband found a job here. I was just going to figure something out after my husband started working, but I got lucky and joined my mentor’s company almost upon arrival. A few months later Jabian came knocking on my door through LinkedIn. I told my mentor that I was considering working at Jabian and she saw her connection with Tracy Reznik, so she encouraged me to work at Jabian!

Q: What level were you when you started and what has your career progression looked like? 

When I started, I was a manager. My progression? It was the right pace for me. I was trying to navigate how to live in this area – I had a young family. I knew I didn’t have to travel, which was a plus, but I needed to figure out how to balance with my family as well. Before when we were in New York, we had an established network of family. We took care of each other. In Atlanta, it was just the two of us.

My interest in pursuing DEI at Jabian traces back to when a friend from B-school came to us with an opportunity to stand up for their Diversity Council. Jabian bid on the work but ultimately lost it. I wasn’t on the team, but I was intrigued by the idea that Jabian could dabble in DEI.

Later, my former colleague, Max Booker, challenged my thinking about what could exist at Jabian. He encouraged us to write an article and start an ERG. He co-founded JAAG (Jabian’s African American Group) with Erin Smith, who was brand new at the time.

The silver bullet that brought it all together was June 2020. We were all at home trapped by the pandemic, and we witnessed George Floyd’s murder. We saw something snap in America. Whereas before people felt uncomfortable, people collectively knew it was time to talk about it. The first company that came to us, family-owned and conservative, came to us with communication concerns and it grew into our first DEI maturity assessment. You (Ryan) actually played a role in this. Are you comfortable sharing your role with this?

Ryan: Are you talking about when I was sharing how scary and uncomfortable things were for me in the beginning stages of the pandemic? Sure, yes, it was the first time I had ever really thought about my race in such a frightening way. I had always considered myself as American, but finally realized that many people don’t see me as an American first, but perhaps a virus-bringing foreigner. I remember we had a conversation on whether to hide or to share how I felt and how we were in many ways, collectively feeling. I think I opted to feel it out and try and figure out what the right course of action really is. I truly didn’t have the answers back then, nor do I know now, but I do know I can no longer stay quiet.

Laura: We avoid conflict sometimes because we feel like it doesn’t affect us. Like conversations about identity are someone else’s problem and not people’s lived experiences. This affects not just how people feel in group settings, but this can compromise someone’s life and safety. Any reticence to open up the conversation should be quashed. We must push past this discomfort because silence has allowed a lot of nasty things to fester. We don’t ignore other problems and expect solutions. Why would this be any different?

Q: Are there any life events that affected your career journey?

When I turned 40, I took stock of where I thought I was in life and compared myself with my peers. I had all these prestige questions stemming from self-doubt and maybe a little bit of guilt. Growing up working class in Queens, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do certain things. People in the community and family invested so much in me that I still felt compelled to make everyone proud. I asked my kids what I did. They said, “Mom does PowerPoint.” I felt like I should be doing more but even I wasn’t sure what “more” meant. I had to come to grips with what my work meant to me vs. what it looked like from the outside.

Working with so many smart, talented people was inspiring and pushed me to figure out what I was passionate about instead of comparing myself. I finally felt like I could start growing alongside people. I was given freedom and tons of encouragement from leaders, especially Michael Lan, Dan Noyd, Tracy Reznik, and Chad McCloud. I was given room to experiment, learn, fail, and grow in new directions. They’ve given me the right foundation so that I feel like I can be great!

Dan Gordon has helped to grow my network and provide new opportunities to do non-profit and public consulting work. He introduced me to all these people and invited me to participate in activities despite me internally asking questions like “why am I here”.

Q: Are there moments when someone helped you navigate the male-majority field of consulting that come to mind?

Kristy Jordan. Kristy and I are very different. I’m vocal and opinionated; she has a more measured approach. She has served as a counterbalance to me to make sure I’m considering all the angles. She has helped me to be more thoughtful about my approach. Fred Jewell has also helped. He was able to provide the incumbent insider point of view that helped me understand the different perspectives of some of my more challenging clients.

Q: Are there meaningful people, moments, or advice that have influenced your experience at Jabian?

Winston Powe was a big proponent of authenticity. Just do it and say it and own it. Don’t hold back on what you really mean. Amber Baird was a good trouble starter and motivator that pushed me to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Michael Lan provides that safe space to fail and constantly has my back.

Q: Is there any relevant generational history to highlight?

While I am the first in my family to graduate from college, my mom went back to take some courses at the same time, and I was so proud of and inspired by her. I was the first to finish grad school as well. It was such a communal effort. It’s not just me – it’s always an ‘us’ or a ‘we’. So many others were tied up with me and there’s always this feeling of “don’t embarrass the culture!”

Women's History Month Spotlight - Allison Stunja

Spotlight: Allison Stunja interviewed by David Flynn

Q: What brought you to Jabian?

I got connected to Jabian in two ways: On one hand, my husband found the Jabian website for me. At the same time, I got connected to Will Funderburg in a really roundabout way – through a friend of a friend’s cousin. So, two arrows pointed me to the same place.

Q: What level were you when you started and what has your career progression looked like?

I started as a manager. Over the past six years, I’ve had two promotions and am now a director in the Charlotte office. The promotion to director was really a result of the intersection of successful business development, relationships, and client delivery. When I started working for a manufacturing client, things really started clicking – I lead a large BPA for ERP engagement that ultimately led to a multi-year-long program engagement, and I got to be part of growing Charlotte’s first anchor account.

 Q: Were there any life events that affected your career journey?

When my husband and I were living in DC, we decided we wanted to move back to Charlotte to find a home and start a family. This is when I started looking for Charlotte-based companies. Ultimately, this is what pointed me to Jabian.

Q: Are there moments when someone helped you navigate the male-majority field of consulting that come to mind?

Being a mother is the main thing that stands out as a differentiator for me as a woman, given my engineering background (where there were virtually no women). And I have felt very fortunate to work in an office that prioritizes family because so many of my colleagues are also juggling families. The tone is set by the partners and is reinforced and lived out by our office lead, Courtney Ramey. I really feel very lucky with how community and family-driven Charlotte is – as a city and an office.

Q: Were there meaningful people, moments, or advice that have influenced your experience at Jabian?

One moment that stands out is when we set and beat an ambitious goal for the year for one of our clients. We celebrated as a team, but what I remember most is sitting down with my mentor/ED Will Funderburg where he reflected on what we’d accomplished that year. He got me to stop and realize that it wasn’t a coincidence or pure luck. It was because of the strategy we set, the relationships we built, and the account structure we put in place. It was great as both a stop and reflect moment as well as encouragement to remind me that I could do this. This is a great example to me of what a big deal mentoring and coaching is at Jabian.

Q: Do you have any relevant generational history to highlight? Do you have any role models who influenced you?

My mother, Patty, was also an industrial engineer. She had three kids and worked a full-time job in quality, so I grew up thinking you could do it all. Her example was (and is) a huge encouragement. Also, I have her personality – from engineering to her prioritizing others and relationships. You can take the girl out of Jersey…

Q: What do you think work-life balance looks like today? How has working at Jabian and/or in consulting made it easier or harder to achieve this balance?

Again, I feel very fortunate because our office is so supportive. I get to pick up my kids every day from school and take them to practices, eat dinner with them, or just play outside. I have a husband who helps share those duties and is a great teammate. Also, it helps to have the flexibility to structure my days around my family needs – in other words, I can get work done at night if I need to so I can deal with family needs during the day – as long as I get the work done and meet our clients’ needs, it doesn’t matter when I do it.

Q: What is your favorite non-work activity?

Two, really. Heading to an outdoor brewery/vineyard on a lovely afternoon is pretty hard to beat. Also, exercise has become my ultimate “me” activity. I just finished a half-marathon, which was a great experience.

Q: What is one thing you would tell your starting-out self if you could? Is that advice still relevant for women starting in the field today?

Be kind and caring about building relationships with everyone you meet because you never know who’s going to come back around in your life. Leave things in a good place with people and approach your interactions with people and your relationships with the mindset of being open to any possibility.

Women's History Month Spotlight - Kim MacKenzie

Spotlight: Kim MacKenzie interviewed by Matt Syrett

Q: What brought you to Jabian?

I started my consulting career with my previous employer and later spent an equal amount of time working in the pharmaceutical industry in sales operations. I joined Jabian because I wanted to return to management consulting with a local model, and without travel requirements.

Q: What level were you when you started and what has your career progression looked like?

I started at Jabian at the manager level and have progressed to the senior manager level, including a couple of years when I worked part-time in an internal operations role. Like many people, my career progression has been a journey. Much like a long road trip, I’ve had forks in the road and some detours. Along the way, I’ve shifted into different gears depending on my priorities along the way. It’s been a great experience.

Q: Any life events that affected your career journey?

My priorities have shifted a few times throughout my career: including when each of my daughters were born and when our family relocated to Atlanta, which was far away from extended family. I expect my career path to continue to evolve as our children are heading off to college in the next few years and we begin focusing more on supporting our aging parents.

Q: Are there moments when someone helped you navigate the male-majority field of consulting that come to mind?

Yes, I’ve had some amazing mentors along the way – I’m grateful to both the women and men who have helped me to navigate the path and increase my confidence in focusing on the career and personal priorities that are most important.

Q: Are there meaningful people, moments, or advice that have influenced your experience at Jabian?

I’m a strong believer in Jabian’s guiding principles and the one that I frequently use as my guide is to “Run the marathon, not the sprint.”

Q: Any relevant generational history to highlight?

I have strong women role models in my family, who have impacted my values and goals: My great-grandmother immigrated to the United States from Italy when she was young. She ran a family farm and general store while raising her six children during the depression. She was left a widow shortly after her youngest child was born and she faced these challenges with grace and grit. My grandmother, the oldest in that large family, was one of the many women who entered the workforce after World War II. Her financial contributions to the family enabled her two daughters to attend college – the first college grads in her family. My mother also had a long and successful career in education. Growing up with these strong women in my family inspired me to follow their examples.

Q: How have the female mentors you’ve had in the past influenced how you mentor others?

I see myself as a mentor for my two daughters and others I have close relationships with. I talk with my daughters about their dreams and see how it can stress them out. I see this with my colleagues as well. I’ve learned that it’s important to take a step back to make sure we have that balance, especially as women because of the additional expectations placed on us. I’ve also learned how important it is to be an example through my actions, not just my words. Especially as a parent, I really understand how much my daughters learn just by watching me.