My career choices have always been driven by a desire to be entrepreneurial. I chose Stanford over Harvard for precisely this reason. Harvard, I felt, had a corporate kind of culture, whereas Stanford gravitated more toward the entrepreneurial.
In large organizations, it’s not always easy to explore this side of things. However, it becomes more so when you start out as a smaller group. For example, when I joined Booz, we were just 15 people. We grew the business to the point where there were 200 people working there when I left. Starting from a smaller base leaves more room to be creative; there are fewer rules to follow, so there’s greater opportunity for entrepreneurship. The same was true when I worked at BCG, AT Kearney and MasterCard Advisors; all of these were essentially startup situations when I joined.
Establishing a business and seeing it grow — I’ve always found this immensely rewarding. It’s a real challenge for women in leadership roles. But it’s what I like to do. I enjoy the freedom to create, to do a little bit of everything and be more of a generalist. Hiring the people and the personalities to create the best team possible to grow the business really appeals to me. It’s what you have to do in strategy consulting. It’s what attracted me initially to Accenture Strategy in Brazil.
This was another opportunity to bring my entrepreneurial skills to bear on creating and establishing a new group. My particular area focused on financial services. We only had five people to begin with. The challenge was to grow this team. Okay, we were doing so within the context of a huge organization, but the essential challenge remained the same. We had to sell; we needed to win more projects for us to work on. We had to win our own share of the market to grow the business. But we had to do all of this within a small-team environment with a small-team mentality. This is what preserves our entrepreneurial spirit.
For me, the situation demands a greater degree of collaboration; it keeps things interesting. It’s only been a year. But I think our approach is paying off. So, while it’s not always easy to preserve entrepreneurship within a big company, if you create the right conditions, anything is possible.