Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, two of our GRAPH team members, Shirley Zhan and Clodagh McNamee, discuss their experiences developing their careers.

Shirley is a Senior Manager in our Washington, DC office and Clodagh is a Consultant in our London office.

What do you enjoy most about working at GRAPH?

Shirley: There are so many things that I enjoy about GRAPH, but if I had to name the top three, it'd be the fun work, the collaborative operating model, and the faster path to career advancement. Our work is extremely intellectually stimulating, and I love the case-cracking aspect of our projects. I've been consistently provided with opportunities to grow and evolve, not just as an employee, but as a well-rounded professional. I truly feel empowered to explore my potential to the fullest at GRAPH.

Clodagh: For me the best part of working at GRAPH is the variety and diversity in the work we do. No project is ever the same and each day brings with it completely new learnings and opportunities. One month I could be deep diving into the world of renewable energy and the next online video games. This keeps me challenged and interested. And getting to do this alongside some of the brightest and most personable colleagues really makes the job worthwhile.

How have you seen the firm evolve over the last several years?

Shirley: I've seen GRAPH evolve from a scrappy startup with a bold vision to a well-established entity that has carved out its place in the market, navigating challenges and capitalizing on opportunities along the way. Central to this evolution has been our unwavering commitment to nurturing client relationships. Moreover, the firm's growth story is intrinsically tied to our talent. We've cultivated a diverse and dynamic team that drives innovation and fuels our continued success.

Clodagh: Since I joined GRAPH in 2022, I have witnessed the firm intentionally focus on investing to improve gender diversity and supporting women entering the consulting and private equity industries. Today we have almost perfect gender parity in the London office and we are the proud sponsors of the Cambridge University Women’s Football team. It feels great to be part of a firm that is committed to equality and I look forward to what’s next as we continue to grow as a group.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Shirley: Take up more space and advocate for myself unapologetically. Throughout my journey, I've come to realize the immense power that comes from confidently asserting my worth, ideas, and aspirations. Too often in the past, I would avoid asking for things because it felt like I was burdening others, and I've held back from speaking up or asking for what I deserve. I would tell my younger self that feeling discomfort is okay, but it's crucial to know my own value and not settle for less.

Clodagh: Don’t be overly concerned with a career plan. Be open to opportunities and stay clear on what you really value. With this, things tend to work themselves out. I didn’t know what a strategy consultant was 10 years ago and here I am today. Technology and industries are evolving so quickly that your dream job may not even exist yet, so stay hungry and try absorbing as much as you can along the way, and you will end up exactly where you need to be.

What's the best career advice you've received from a mentor?

Shirley: Always be willing to embrace change. I tend to orient towards more risk averse approaches in life and work, but it's important to always stay open-minded and flexible in navigating change. They encouraged me to continuously seek out new opportunities for growth, even if it meant stepping outside of my comfort zone or taking on unfamiliar challenges. This advice has served me well, as it has enabled me to approach my career with more resilience and agility.

Clodagh: Don’t underestimate the power of being kind. When you are nice to people, they want to help you, answer your questions and will speak highly of you. It’s almost like a business karma, what you give out, you will get back. You still need to stand up for what you believe in, but it can almost always be done in a respectful way. People won’t remember the wrong email you sent or the misspelling in your document (even though at the time it might feel like the end of the world), they will remember how you treated them and how you behaved. You will be surprised by how much your personal brand will stay with people and how it can create potential future opportunities because industries are small and if people enjoy working with you, they will remember that when searching for their next consultant, advisor, board member, etc.

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