Alexa Allen, a Principal in our San Francisco office and recent L.E.K. rejoiner, tells us about her career journey, her fascination with the tech industry and why she feels she is a natural consultant.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Michigan and my parents were entrepreneurs, so I’ve always been interested in how businesses operate. I studied economics in college and joined an investment bank after graduation; however, I ultimately decided to get an MBA to better understand corporate needs beyond finance. Post grad school I joined L.E.K.’s Boston office and later transferred to Chicago, where I spent a few years specializing in industrials. I loved the firm and working with clients — however, I still wasn’t able to get a full sense of the operational day to day of a company. At the same time, I was fascinated by how digital transformation was impacting all industries, so I took a job with Microsoft in Cloud and AI Strategy to better understand this dynamic. During the pandemic I eventually moved to San Francisco, where I worked with a small tech startup and ultimately landed at Facebook, now Meta, in product marketing for their algorithm. Last month I became a certified L.E.K. boomerang by rejoining the firm as a Principal in the TMT practice.
So, what brought you back — and what did you miss the most after you left?
Even when I was working in more operational roles, I naturally gravitated toward consulting-like activities. I would get so excited to evaluate a new product area and would volunteer to lead projects that required working with a wide array of leaders to build a consensus. I realized I missed being able to do this every day. I missed the variety. I missed working with different teams, in different settings, on different problems.
But if you asked me to narrow my reason for coming back to a single thing, it would have to be the people. L.E.K. has not only amazing professionals, but also a unique mentoring model that goes way beyond a “check the box” approach to supporting them. It’s that careful, intentional mentoring that allows us to entrust the youngest professionals with significant responsibility at the very beginning of their careers. It’s what makes our relatively steep learning curve possible. It’s something I benefited from enormously when I joined L.E.K. out of grad school. And now that I’m back, I’ll have the opportunity to continue this tradition and help shape how it evolves in the future.
What professional and personal value do you feel a career at L.E.K. brings?
When I initially joined, the three biggest things I benefited from were the early management experience, the pressure to quickly synthesize the most important aspects of a problem and the requirement to clearly (read: simply) communicate what you’ve learned. I’ve relied on those skills again and again. But now that I’m back with a sharpened focus on “what matters” from my own industry experience, I’m most looking forward to developing deeper relationships with client management teams.
You mentioned earlier that you moved from industrials to tech. What is it about the tech industry that draws you to it and that you find inspiring?
What’s so interesting about tech is that it powers most of the big advancements and transformations we are seeing across industries today. It touches everything. So, I think understanding key tech themes and how various themes can be applied to retail or industrials or medicine is endlessly fascinating.
What advice would you give former L.E.K.ers thinking of coming back?
First of all, industry experience is incredibly valuable and helps you think about problems in a different way. It also helps you better understand client needs and priorities. Both things are valuable and ultimately will improve your quality of work at L.E.K. However, coming back can be a big decision. For me, what tipped the scale was realizing L.E.K. offered the type of work that made me the happiest. The advice I’d give is to think about what type of work gives you energy. What type of work inspires you, and are you going to be happy doing it on a Sunday evening? Is that work that can be done at L.E.K.? Regardless of what you decide, stay in touch with the firm and continue to maintain the relationships with L.E.K.ers. That’s the amazing thing about this place: It all comes back to the people.