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Q&A with Caroline Grant: Market Leader, Manchester

Slalom General Manager Caroline Grant

Our Manchester leader opens up about her love for Manchester, being a working parent, and where to learn more about her leadership style.

What attracted you to Slalom?

I feel like I’m coming home. I’ve been watching with interest since Slalom’s inception in the UK. The culture—living purpose-driven values—has become increasingly important to me. It’s easy to say you’re a people-first organisation but it’s rare to see it evidenced in real life as it is here.

Leading the Manchester team is of particular appeal—I’m really excited to keep building something amazing—continuing to connect Slalom with the local business and wider community, as we’re still a relative newcomer to the market. I’ve been working in and around Manchester for the past four years and, I know I’m biased, but I think both the passion and talent of the teams coupled by the dynamism of local business creates a unique and exciting environment for growth.

A combination of this role and the timing being right means it’s time for the ‘homecoming’.

Having a Manchester-centric career is extremely important to me. I believe there is so much opportunity for growth across the whole of the Northwest.

Why is Manchester of particular interest?

I’m originally from the North, near Leeds but my career took me to London and around the world for a number of years. In 2019 I relocated with my family to the Northwest coast so when the opportunity arose to work in and around Manchester, I jumped at it. I love everything about Manchester – even the weather!

Having a Manchester-centric career is extremely important to me. I believe there is so much opportunity for growth across the whole of the Northwest. Being in a consultancy means I get to work with and meet many organisations – so I’m in a lucky position to be able to see things from multiple perspectives. Connecting the dots of what will help Manchester to keep growing in a sustainable way is extremely motivating.

Do you have any role models you look up to?

I always find this a tricky question. There have been many amazing people who I’ve looked up to and who have helped to shape my career. I also admire many others demonstrating great leadership in the public eye.

However, I’ve been in positions before—most notably when I came back from my first maternity leave and changed to a part time work pattern—where I couldn’t find someone I could fully model myself on. I found that you’ll rarely find someone that you want to replicate exactly—you have to ‘crowdsource’ the different attributes, traits, approaches from different people that makes them great—because nobody’s perfect and everyone is unique with their own circumstances.

The whole experience was a bit of a revelation and gave me the confidence to be unapologetically me and work and live in the way that works for me and my family. I am now passionate about being a good role model myself, being transparent so that everyone sees all the elements that make up me as a leader.

Is it possible to ‘have it all’ as a working parent?

Having it all—a perfect work and personal life—is both exhausting and probably impossible. It’s about achieving a balance that you’re happy with and being kind to yourself and admitting there will always be some parts of your life you’d rather be doing more in but can’t—and that’s ok.

Taking enough time to focus on life outside of work and achieving that balance just makes you an altogether more motivated and productive member of the team.

I have two young children so relaxing is largely out the question but when we have a spare day, we try to get to the Lake District. I’m honestly happy and content with a short walk and an ice cream! Recently, I have  been trying to revisit some of my childhood hobbies  with varying success. I’ve also been trying to see more live music and took my then five-year-old  to his first ever music festival in the Lakes last summer, which was amazing (despite camping a bit too close to the rave tent).

What do you love most about consulting?

There’s great satisfaction in solving a challenging problem or being able to partner with an organisation to achieve its goals. I love the fact that  technology is making our job so much more exciting when it comes to new levels of ingenuity and innovation.

I also love the people part of consulting, working closely with clients but also building and supporting teams where each individual feels like they’re able to be at their best. I think it was Richard Branson who said “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”—this is 100% Slalom!

What have you been hearing from clients lately? Any overarching themes?

It is an exciting but challenging time for business. There are so many different elements for organisations to balance in an unpredictable environment, whether that be from an economic or societal perspective.

Organisations have never had to be more agile as well as resilient. Gone are the days where companies had the luxury to embark on lengthy technology transformations. Today’s innovation, constrained budgets, and competition means they need to be thinking ahead to the emerging technologies like generative AI that are still rapidly evolving. They are being forced to think more expansively about operational components such as supply chains, sustainability, and making priority calls on what investments will make the biggest impact to their businesses.

Now more than ever, a focus on people tends to demand the primary attention of organisations, whether that be from a customer or employee perspective. A definite theme is how to navigate the retention and attraction of talent within the workforce at a time when the employee offer is critical yet so difficult to define. There is such a rich diversity of mindsets, cultures, and values that need to be catered to. How exciting that we get to be at the forefront of helping organisations navigate all these themes!

How would you describe your leadership style?

I always think it’s best to ask someone else to describe a person’s leadership style, not the leader. But I’ll try… I’d say my style is authentic and open. I hope to be able to encourage and empower teams by supporting them. Leadership is about making sure that your team has everything they need to deliver to clients and the community around them. I know it’s not your usual person to quote but Clint Eastwood said it best, “It’s not about you. It’s about them.”—which I wholly agree with.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of your favourites?

My approach to podcasts is similar to my role models. I like to crowdsource a bit and dip and dive into things. I like to listen to Stephen Bartlett’s ‘Diary of a CEO’ and there’s also a series on the BBC called ‘CEO Secrets’ which is great because the clips are really short and diverse in both their subject matter and hosts. Listening to music and escaping in my own thoughts still wins out over podcasts.

Taking enough time to focus on life outside of work and achieving that balance just makes you an altogether more motivated and productive member of the team.

What’s your favourite Slalom core value and why?

‘Build and shape a better future.’ Before I began my consulting career, I spent time travelling and working abroad. From Brazil to South Africa, I had a mix of experiences—one really stayed with me and has influenced my own sense of ‘doing what is right’.

I taught economics in a Township in South Africa, and I was struck by their responsiveness to education. In the west, we commonly take access to free education for granted. But we forget the huge opportunity it presents for each of us. Seeing it’s importance first hand in made me reflect on what could be better at home too.

Today, this has led me to be an active advocate for education among young people , advancing women in tech, and generally pushing for equal opportunities.

I’m excited to keep building Slalom Manchester’s involvement and support for this.

Let’s solve together.