Q&A with Isla Bragg: General Manager, Salt Lake City
We talked to Isla Bragg about her vision for the Salt Lake City market, what she loves most about leading, and the importance of having a dynamic view of yourself.
What makes Salt Lake City a great fit for Slalom?
When I think about where Salt Lake City is in its journey and what Slalom can do to help accelerate growth, I can't think of a better match. Salt Lake is rapidly growing in terms of business and population. People call the tech sector the “Silicon Slopes” because it’s an evolving rival to Silicon Valley and other hubs like Austin and Denver. With the tech talent and range of industries that are looking to modernize and transform themselves here, it’s a great fit for our suite of services. Add to that the impact of the pandemic creating this huge spike of in-migration of top talent from California and other high-cost, high-density cities, and this is an exciting time for us to invest in creating a business in a place that people are looking to thrive.
There’s also a cultural element to Salt Lake that I think is a great fit for Slalom’s values and purpose-driven culture. Utah has a tightly woven business community that cares deeply about the larger society and the environment. As a city trying to keep up with its own growth, the community challenges here are significant—everything from extensive air pollution to crime, homelessness, education inequality, and the need to bring more diversity into business. We have a huge opportunity to partner with organizations to take action and make a positive impact on this city and state.
What’s your vision for our Salt Lake City market over the next few years?
My vision for Salt Lake, and Utah as a whole, is that it truly integrates the power of its business potential with its unique and special community. To achieve this, Utah will need a partner that changes the game of consulting—what consulting means and the impact it can create. Our Slalom Salt Lake City team wants to not only deliver solutions for our clients, we want to help them grow their internal capabilities and set them up for success in the future. We care so much about our clients and doing great work, and that jives really well with this tightly knit community.
From a people perspective—I get really jazzed about this—I want to create a great place to work and live as a consulting employer. Consultants here have felt like they've had to choose between growing their careers or living in Salt Lake, and I don’t want them to have to choose. I want our local model to provide a great career path for really smart consulting professionals who love this city, the outdoors, and everything it has to offer.
You’ve been at Slalom for nine years and you’ve worked your way up from consultant to general manager. What advice would you give to early career consultants who aspire to have a career like yours?
Have a dynamic, rather than static, view of yourself. When I joined Slalom, I was a good consultant, and I was convinced that my value was being an individual contributor. I thought I never wanted to be a people leader, because I was sort of afraid of it and thought I was too task-oriented to be good at it. But my colleagues at Slalom challenged me on that, and I started opening up to the idea. Now, being a people leader is my favorite part of my job, and creating value through building amazing teams is my passion. Not having that fixed view of yourself is so important.
Also, find mentors—and not just ones that look or sound like you. I’m a big believer that you can learn a lot from people who have a different skillset or gender or background than you. If you’re always looking for people who are a reflection of you, you’re going to hold yourself back. I enjoy finding mentors who are different than me but have a trait, passion, or strength I aspire to.
What’s a challenging but important thing to do as a leader?
Make sure you take the time to understand your people and what’s important to them. I think it can be easier, sometimes, to make assumptions or focus on the task at hand, especially when you’re under a time crunch and feel rushed. But it’s so much more important and rewarding to take the time to understand people, what’s important to them, where they want to go in their careers, and how you can help them on their path while still accomplishing the task at hand.
Why has Slalom been the right fit for you?
Slalom has given me the balance of having that sense of belonging and comfort while being constantly challenged. I’m at my best when I’m being stretched but also supported, so that it doesn’t feel completely overwhelming or scary. This is also a fun place to work, which I think is an underestimated attribute. I don’t take myself too seriously. I like laughing, having fun, and exploring hobbies with people I work with. It makes even the most challenging moments more manageable, you know?
How do you organize your time?
I’m working on this one. I hate letting people down and saying no, so I tend to find my schedule being overrun with a crazy combination of back-to-back unrelated meetings. I’m trying to learn to create blocks of time for similar concepts or tasks versus constant context-switching. I’ve also started making sure that I have time slots set aside for last-minute asks and urgent issues.
It’s easy to get caught in an endless cycle of meetings, so I always try to push people to articulate what we’re trying to get out of a meeting—the outcome, not just the agenda. And then empowering people to make decisions themselves. Not everything needs to be run through multiple levels. Establishing some guardrails and empowering people to make decisions themselves with that guardrail in place can be a good way of cutting down on meetings while creating a broadened sense of ownership in our direction.
I’m also trying—I have an accountability buddy on this one, but trying—to create non-negotiable periods of family time. I love reading to my kiddo every night and putting him to bed. So making sure I can carve out that timeslot as a non-negotiable has been really important.
What’s a great piece of advice that you’ve received?
“Curiosity and confidence!” This was written on a sticky note for me by a leader in our Denver office, and I’ve said it to myself a million times since. Have the confidence to believe that you deserve to be in the room, whether you’re with C-suites or anyone. I tend to suffer a lot from imposter syndrome. It’s so important to have confidence, while not letting that confidence become arrogance. Keep that openness, that curiosity. Make it less about you, and more about the person you’re meeting with. Having that curiosity is so freeing, because it not only absolves you of the self-obsession of worrying about yourself, it makes the conversation less intimidating and more meaningful.
If you didn’t work in consulting, what would you be doing?
I have no idea [laughs]. That’s why I picked consulting, because I never had to pick a lane. I love variety and constantly learning new skills with incredibly smart and passionate people.
How do you recharge outside of work?
My family and I are obsessed with getting outside. I love jumping on my mountain bike, skiing, doing triathlons, and anything that gets me outside and really pushes me. That sense of accomplishment when you make it down a trail you didn’t think you were technically capable of, or pushing yourself farther than you thought your fitness level would allow—I love that. I can’t sit still for five minutes.