Nehali Davé on her analyst path to success

An up-and-coming Seattle consultant and early graduate of our analyst program discusses the advantages of being a “yes person,” a typical day at a client site, and her dream of opening a new market for Slalom.

 

How did you find your way to Slalom?

I had studied math and economics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and become really interested in finance and the markets. After college, I decided to go into investment. But after a few years, I found that I wanted to be in an industry where I can have a lot of flexibility, where I can learn. I was looking at businesses as part of my investment experience, and I wanted more hands-on experience, to really understand the ins and outs of how they worked.

So, I started on a journey to learn more about the Seattle market, and it was really important to me to find a culture that aligned to my values. I wanted a culture where I really thought that I could have a profound impact, add a lot of value—and a place that could have a strong impact on me and my growth.

I wanted a culture where I really thought that I could have a profound impact, add a lot of value—and a place that could have a strong impact on me and my growth.

A friend told me about someone who was working at Slalom, who really loved his job. When I talked to him, he was so passionate about the work he was doing, about the culture. He just described this place where people are really driven and there was a lot of growth to be had within the company, but it was a very collaborative environment simultaneously. I ended up applying after that, and I started in August of 2016.

You came in through the analyst program?

Yes, I wanted that ability to rotate through different practice areas and get a feel for all the different capabilities that we have. I've always been a Jane of All Trades, someone who has sought to be very well-rounded and multifaceted in a lot of ways. I thought this was the best way to flex that skill.

What was notable about your onboarding and bootcamp experience when you first came in?

I was struck by how much support there was within the local bootcamp, but more than that, I was really, really impressed with my cohort. I was actually the least experienced of anyone of my cohort. I found that I just had so much to learn from them and was really pushed by them as people, as a result of their previous professional experience. So that was great.

The first week was really about learning as much as possible about the local market. We met with all the different leaders and that laid the foundation to continue to build on those relationships over the course of my career. Those initial meetings have been the cornerstone of the way that I've been able to navigate through Slalom now as a consultant.

For example, in the business development meeting with two of our leaders, I peppered them with a ton of questions about sales and how the sales process works and the relationship between business development and the actual consultant on the ground. I ended up being staffed on a project later as a result of that meeting. It just goes to show that asking the right questions can lead you into really good places. I found all those initial encounters really meaningful.

And then, during the Analyst Bootcamp itself, I loved being able to work with analysts from across the US. I thought it was awesome to have people from all walks of life.

It was helpful too because for my first project at Slalom I actually travelled a good bit. I was gone at least once a month for the first year, and I was often in cities like Chicago or New York or London, where I had worked with analysts before. We had been through bootcamp together, so I had this automatic community to tap into. It was great to have that kind of network. 

Did you feel really prepared to dive in after bootcamp?

Theoretically I was prepared, but when you actually go from being in bootcamp to presenting to a client CTO—it’s just a totally different ball game. Nothing can really prepare you. I was put on a large scale, multimillion-dollar, cross-functional project that had cross-market and local elements and was all over the world and eleven months long.

It was definitely not your traditional analyst experience, but I wanted to stay on it because I knew I was having an impact. I really cared about the client and the space that they're in. I was able to get a well-rounded experience by being on such a multifaceted, complex project.

What’s a typical day like for an analyst?

I would say there are at least two different kinds of days.

One is at your client's site. Let’s say you're put on a system implementation team and you're working on a large project. Your day would start off with checking up on your email and saying “Hi” to the people on-site—maybe your client, maybe your Slalom team. Sometimes teams are based in a single room. Sometimes you'll have your own desk.

From there, I usually go into stand-up and meet with whatever systems teams I have: so you have your product sponsor, your functional analyst, your developers, everybody getting together and talking about what they accomplished yesterday and what they're going to do today.

Then I usually have a slew of meetings, like meeting with the finance department to learn more about their processes and to help the developers architect a new approach to a request management system. Then you might get lunch with your engagement lead to catch them up on the work stream that you’re running. In the afternoon, you might spend some time writing different user stories based off of the meeting you had with the finance team.

Then you might run a few questions by the functional lead like, "Hey, am I thinking about this the right way? Have you done this before? Have you seen this before? What's the best practice?" Maybe at the end of the day, you would go to a Slalom social event like a baseball game or a happy hour. Or meet up with your cohort to work on your cohort project.

The second type of day, if you’re on the bench, would be much more self-directed. You might get coffee with people from different practices. Maybe you’re studying for a Salesforce certification or learning some new technology that you're interested in. Then you might end your day by going to a requirements session that a managing director is leading, and you would shadow that client, to be able to see like, “Hey, this is how this will work.” After that maybe you would walk back with the team and learn and ask questions.

So, sometimes you shadow, and sometimes you’re billable. I was billable my whole year as an analyst, pretty much. But it just depends.

It was a really good career move for me because it allowed me to test and prove my skills and continue to be constant learner and continually improve, but within a safe environment.

Share a little bit about your growth path since coming out of the analyst program.

Regardless of your role or title, I think growth is about finding new avenues to grow, advocating for yourself to be able to have those opportunities, and making sure that they align with the best needs of the client. So, it's about fitting those different puzzle pieces together. Is it good for me, is it good for the client, and is it good for the company? And really seeking those opportunities out.

You may be staffed as a business analyst initially. You may lead workshops and get the initial requirements, but then you might pivot over and become a project manager. That might turn into its own work stream and you might PM that entire work stream and work through that and be almost a solution owner. So, it's all about just carving out work for yourself. Slalom's really like choose your adventure. It’s really self-driven.

I would also say that a lot of my growth has also come with continuing to build relationships across the company. When I've been on cross-market projects in different markets, making sure I'm continuing to maintain those relationships. And keeping tabs on what's happening across the company, whether it's with people I've worked with or other people who went through the analyst program.

I’ve also grown from being involved in a lot of internal projects. I’ve helped with lots of initiatives for the analyst program. I'm going to be the new PM for the whole mentoring program. I’ve helped with running events like Bring Your Kid to Work Day or rewriting the case study for Analyst Bootcamp. There are so many different internal things you can get involved in, and that's pretty pivotal in terms of your growth.

You mentioned that it was really important for you to find a culture that aligned to your values. How has Slalom been a good fit in that way?

The Slalom value that resonates most with me is, “Do what is right, always.” Being empowered to be able to do what's right by your clients, and also by your team, is something that I really believe in. I think that's how you empower people. Slalom is a consulting business where your people are your capital, and you need to be able to take care of them. Having leadership that's empowered to do that is important to me.

Slalom also really celebrates authenticity. Especially with the new career framework, as we're moving forward, I think that we’re recognizing that if you want to move up and you want to have more leadership responsibilities, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should have to be a manager if you're not a people person.

There are all these different things that Slalom does to say, 'Hey, let's make sure that you can grow in the best way for you,' and I really value that.

There are also just a lot of really interesting people here who have interesting backgrounds. We're always working to be more inclusive and to make leaders more accessible and to increase our diversity. Those are still things we need to work on, but I really appreciate the effort.

What would you say if you were recommending the Slalom analyst program to another early career job seeker, or someone who’s transitioning from another career?

It’s a phenomenal way for you to enter the business and technology industries and really build a network in the meantime. It was a really good career move for me because it allowed me to test and prove my skills and continue to be a constant learner and continually improve, but within a safe environment. If that's kind of the next thing that makes sense for you, the analyst program is a really good place to be.

What advice would you give to a new analyst coming through the program about how to handle themselves and really thrive here?

I think being a “yes person” is really good. You may not know what you're really interested in, so it's good to have an open mind and try a bunch of different things. It's also really good to empower yourself to go out and find your next amazing project.

I lucked out because I ended up on a first project where I got to do really cool things and travel the world. That’s not the norm, but I think that there are great opportunities if you’re getting out there and pushing yourself and developing your brand and making sure that others know about what you're doing. It’s just really important to do the hard work, but then also share it with others. I guess that’s general career advice that everyone should probably take!

What are your goals for the next few years?

In the next few years, my goal is to continue to build on my leadership skills. I think I'm in the right business because our business is all about people and that's exactly what my “why” is. It's to empower others, whether that's through creating better processes, building really efficient teams, or fostering really important cultures.

I want to continue to build on that, whether it's by managing a team or helping share the solutions that someone provides with additional companies, more in the mid-market space. That's kind of been my bread and butter, and I want to continue to do that and to grow those accounts and share our unique model.

What about long-term? What aspirations do you have for your career?

I've always felt that consulting is a really good way to see a lot of different facets in business, and my dream has always been to open, or run, a new market for Slalom. To really get that 360-view.

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