Phoebe Yin is a Bay Area native, bilingual Taiwanese-American, and a UC Berkeley business/computer science graduate. She is also a San Francisco-based associate who has been with the firm for nearly one year, where she is currently at the tail end of her 10th case. Phoebe takes us on a busy (yet fun!) day in the life of an L.E.K. associate on an OBS (Out-by-Six) day.
8:59 a.m.: I turn on my laptop with the tap of a button while my brain takes a few more taps — or knocks — to fully boot up. With a “morning!” ping to my team on Teams and a habitual scan through the Outlook inbox, a day in my life as an associate at L.E.K. officially begins.
Currently, I’m on what happens to be my favorite case so far. Focused on a major application used by software developers, this case has reaffirmed my passion for the tech sector, and I’ve also gotten to take project ownership in some new, unfamiliar territory. Most of all, though, I click well with my teammates (four associates and two consultants). The best part of this job has to be the volume of high-quality people I have met. Through both casework and social events such as the monthly associates’ happy hour, I’ve found that people here are witty, humble, and good-natured — and not to mention, exceedingly smart.
9:30 a.m.: I hop on the phone to lead an hourlong primary research interview with an expert in the field. A large part of the job is to drive conversations with experts, synthesize market insights, harmonize findings when they conflict, and triangulate our running hypotheses. Since we’re nearing the end of this case, I focus the call on validating the dynamics we have uncovered to date about Cloud migration.
10:30 a.m.: I join a case team meeting (CTM) with our managing directors (MDs) based in SF, LA and London to talk through our latest process updates and the content for the client call later today. Throughout the day, during downtime, I run operations on the interview campaign and deliver insights from my secondary research campaigns; for instance, this might consist of diving into competitors’ 10-Ks for product mix financials to inform our client’s launch strategy.
11:40 a.m.: I start my trek to the office because rumor has it that a free lunch is on the calendar today! On the way there, the Embarcadero station’s poster ads catch me doing a double take because some of the brands listed are from this project. Happy to report that I now know some of the most obscure brands that one would never have even known to pay attention to (think: publishers behind microtargeted community magazines), all because of consulting casework.
Noon: Banh mi lunchtime with co-workers in the kitchen; the conversation covers speculation on who in the office has the fastest walk — a consultant and one of the MDs defend themselves for the potential title.
1:00 p.m.: The hour brings some nerves, as it’s our time to shine: the client presentation. Since associates are active on every primary interview, we keep our ears to the ground — and thus, on client calls, our usual role is to speak about the voice of the market and offer qualitative context to our recommendations.
Today, though, I am also presenting one of the sections I created. Taking center stage with our client and answering their rapid-fire questions in front of the MDs makes my cheeks flush red, but it is also in these speaking moments that I realize the level of domain understanding I’ve strengthened in a few short weeks. Having an incredible team behind me also gives me confidence and takes away (some of) the pressure. An hour and a half later, my team reemerges from the call with high-fives all around and a list of client questions to follow up on before our final readout next week.
2:40 p.m.: I head for a short walk-and-talk at the Salesforce Tower Park with an intern associate here for the summer. I was matched with her as part of the intern “Buddy” program. We chat about her experience and the likelihood of showing up at tomorrow night’s office event at the Giants game. Providing her with mentorship gives me slight pause — this year has passed quickly, and her fresh questions illuminate the learnings that I have picked up each day, endlessly absorbing.
3:00 p.m.: Sometime in between, I listen in on the SF office meeting, where our office lead Harsha updates us on the status of future events, such as the annual holiday party. The SF Games Committee (which, apparently, we now have) introduces the potential of purchasing a dartboard because “throwing things is proven to improve focus and concentration” (source unidentified).
3:30 p.m.: For the rest of the day, I am back at my desk exploring the land of Tableau and Excel to extract summary takeaways from some new client data on their product and customer bases. I cut the data by a few different segments, seeking opinions from teammates, building the data analysis into our proposed strategy and layering in commentary from this morning’s interview.
6:00 p.m.: I reach a good stopping point, which is our endpoint for the day because it is an Out-by-Six day. The OBS (Out-by-Six) program is designed to improve the predictability of case team’s hours by proactively identifying one day per case week where case team members can plan ahead to leave the office by 6pm. However, my team’s only LA-based associate is in SF with the rest of us this week, so we head to Hawker Fare in the Mission District for some drinks and exchange stories.
Days in my life as an associate at L.E.K. can vary a lot. Today was one of the lighter days and yet I still got to learn something new. If poet William Carlos Williams once proposed that “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow,” then here at L.E.K., so much depends upon the case you’re staffed on, your teammates, and the client’s specific needs. Looking back on this year, time has whipped by quickly as I’ve made progress in business-minded critical thinking, end-to-end project management skills, and communication with experts and executives in both formal and informal settings. And all of that still doesn’t even take into account the number of new jokes and absurd experiences I’ve shared with some great people