Alison Schilling, Managing Director and Partner at L.E.K. Consulting, is a Chicago native and proud Hispanic American. Here she shares with us what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her and how her culture played a part in getting her where she is today.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time to bring Hispanic culture to the forefront and celebrate all different types of Hispanic culture. Most often, society thinks about Hispanic culture on Cinco de Mayo, and most people do not realize this isn’t actually a day our culture really celebrates. We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because mid-September marks the dates of independence for many Latin American countries and Mexico and I think it’s important to educate people on that. For me personally, it is a time to celebrate and talk about my culture and background, especially since most of the time people don’t know that I am Hispanic, as my name [Schilling] does not necessarily project my heritage to the world. I am 50% Mexican, and my mother is first-generation American after my grandparents emigrated here as young adults.
What types of traditions does your family have during this month, and in general?
My extended family is quite close — my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all gather at my grandma’s house almost every Sunday, and our culture is an important part of our lives in both small and big ways. When I was little, we would always go to the Mexican Independence Day parade in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. My grandfather was very involved in the Little Village and broader Hispanic community in Chicago and sometimes we even got to be in the parade! Other years we would watch from the roof of my family’s office building. Outside of Hispanic Heritage month, we have a lot of traditions that we hold quite near to our hearts, such as making tamales for Christmas with my grandmother and having pinatas at all our birthday parties. For big celebrations like weddings and milestone birthdays, we usually have a mariachi band, a tradition which was important to my grandfather, who loved to celebrate big.
Can you share with us your career path at L.E.K. and how your identity played a role in it?
I came to L.E.K. straight from undergrad at the University of Notre Dame and progressed to my current role of Managing Director. There are a few things my family has instilled in me that I feel guide me in my career. My grandparents were entrepreneurs. They came to the U.S. with very little, worked their way up to opening and owning a successful business, which is still part of our family today. Coming to the U.S., not speaking the language, without a place to live or even boots for the Chicago winter to eventually becoming successful business owners is really something. It has always been important to me to emulate my grandparents’ work ethic and make them proud. It is also important for me to work for an organization that cares about their people and the community. My family is very involved in the Hispanic community and spends a lot of time giving back, whether it’s being on boards or participating in community organizations for underserved Hispanic communities. I certainly take a lot of pride in L.E.K.’s focus on giving back to communities we serve and celebrating diversity during Hispanic Heritage Month and more broadly.