We sat down with Ilya Trakhtenberg, one of the architects of Parents@LEK, to learn more about the challenges of being a working parent and how one employee resource group at L.E.K. Consulting helped parents through the pandemic and beyond. 

How did you get started at L.E.K, and what is your role at the firm now?

“I started at L.E.K. as an associate fresh out of undergrad at Northwestern. I left for business school, but came back and am now a Managing Drector in the Chicago office, focusing on the healthcare sector, specifically medtech and healthcare supply chain.” 

Where did you get the idea to start something like the Parents Network?

“My wife and I decided to start our family unusually early in my career. I was only an A2 (second-year associate). At the time, there weren’t a lot of people in my position, none of my peers were having children, so I didn’t know who to turn to, to ask questions about resources and tips, etc. I wanted to be able to connect with people about what worked, what didn’t work and how to navigate this career path while being a parent. Before I left for business school, I was working with HR to get a group started to help other parents at the firm. I thought it would be great for people who were facing similar challenges to be able to exchange ideas, tips and best practices.”

What is the mission of the Parents Network?

“Our goal is to provide support for L.E.K.ers who are parents or interested in becoming parents. It is a demanding job and career, and many people will recognize how difficult it is to balance your professional responsibilities and having a family. We want to help people figure out how to balance things so you can be successful both as a parent and as a consulting professional. Being part of the group helps facilitate a sense of community where people can bounce ideas off each other. It is also a place where folks can learn about the resources the firm offers. We’ve put together a ton of programs and benefits to help parents, and raising awareness is important so people take advantage of them. L.E.K.’s always been compelling for parents, including me, because of the low-travel model, but the programs we’ve rolled out have also tried to make it more sustainable in terms of hours and flexibility.”

Why do you think it is important to have a parents group at work?

“Fundamentally, it’s important to let working parents know that they’re not alone in dealing with the challenges of balancing a family and a career and that it’s definitely doable to be successful in consulting while having a happy and fulfilling family life. It’s important to know that you have colleagues and a firm that are there to support you. For too long, many in the consulting industry have assumed that these goals are just incompatible. Taking the challenges head-on and creating a forum for people to find the resources, advice and support they need helps change this dynamic. And at its simplest, a group like this provides a space to share ideas and meet people in similar situations. During the pandemic, it was certainly a helpful resource. I remember in the fall of 2020, when many of us had kids home from school and day care, it was a really challenging time for a lot of parents. We had a Zoom call at that time just to hang out and commiserate. There were a lot of conversations around how people were keeping their kids productively busy and keeping themselves sane. My 4-year-old was having a really difficult time being at home. We got ideas from the group — for example, there was a great kids yoga instructor online that others really liked, so we tried that out and found it a great new add to the routine. It was also just nice to hear that others were dealing with some of the same issues.”

What were some L.E.K. benefits that helped you balance your career and being a new parent?

“L.E.K. offers parental leave for caregivers, so that was helpful in terms of transitioning from the birth of my children to going back to work. L.E.K. offers a lot of different benefits that I have used personally, or witnessed L.E.K.ers use from my vantage point as a partner and mentor to other parents. L.E.K. also does a great job of supporting parents as they return to work. For instance, the firm, which already offers a low-travel consulting model, allows new parents to request to work on local cases for up to 12 months post-birth/adoption. In addition, there are a variety of part-time, reduced schedule, job sharing, and temporary role reassignment programs and professional coaching available to each new parent. There are a lot of different benefits offered to parents, and L.E.K. does a great job of being flexible during different phases of one’s life.”

How do you think a group like Parents@LEK aligns with the firm’s broader values?

“Very closely! L.E.K. is very interested in investing in people and helping L.E.K.ers develop. Parents@LEK is a mechanism to support people through different phases of life. The consulting industry loses a lot of very talented people, particularly women, who don’t have the support to balance their work life and home life. Developing infrastructure to help folks stay in jobs that they love and are good at is very important. It’s highly supportive of L.E.K.’s commitment to have the best talent in the industry. I’m thrilled about the progress we’ve made since I joined the firm.” 

What are some of L.E.K.’s benefits that have helped you and others as parents?

“For starters, parental leave is generous and strongly encouraged. I found the culture and support around ensuring you take your leave to be important too, not just the benefits themselves. I’ve also seen many take advantage of a variety of really impactful return-to-work programs such as local-only staffing (on top of our low-travel model), part-time, reduced schedule, job sharing, temporary role reassignment, and professional coaching. The menu of options is great, and you can customize to your personal family situation. Overall, it’s been great to see our firm’s commitment to continuing to innovate and expand programs that help staff navigate parenthood and different life stages more generally.”