Chicago Senior Associate Consultant Tali Naibryf had a unique and rewarding three months in Namibia while taking part in L.E.K.’s Sabbatical Program. Learn more about what she did during her time away from L.E.K. and the skills and values she brought back to her personal and professional life from her unforgettable time in Namibia. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to L.E.K.
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at an early age immigrated to the United States. After attending boarding school in North Carolina, I went on to pursue a dual degree at the University of Chicago, graduating in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and public policy and a master’s degree in international relations. Between my third and fourth years there, I was fortunate to partake in a summer internship with L.E.K. 

I like to say I “ate my way” through L.E.K. during my internship, as I was working in the consumer sector on food and beverage cases the entire summer. Between team trips to the store, buying client and competitor samples, and working with a great team, it was a lot of fun. When L.E.K. offered me a full-time position upon graduation, it was a no-brainer, and I returned full time in July 2019.

What is L.E.K.’s Sabbatical Program and why did you go to Namibia during your leave of absence?
L.E.K.’s sabbatical program allows tenured consultants to apply for a leave of absence. Some may take a sabbatical for a honeymoon, travel, to study for the GMAT or other personal reasons. L.E.K. encourages and supports their employees in taking needed breaks and exploring new experiences. I had always wanted to spend time abroad in Africa, so once L.E.K. officially granted me a sabbatical, I was set on traveling there. I connected with a startup operating in southern Africa that supports retailers in the informal sector and decided to travel to Namibia to help it better define and roll out its expansion strategy. I spent three months working across Namibia in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Oshakati and Ondangwa as well as Rundu, where I led the group’s most recent launch. 

What was your experience like there?
My experience in Namibia was extremely rewarding, as I was supporting informal retailers, mostly run by women, in keeping their shops open and stocked. To keep their shelves stocked, shop owners would have to close their shops, pay for a taxi to go purchase stock at retail price and then commute home to sell their products. The startup is providing a solution to this inefficient and extremely costly operation, helping shop owners grow their sales and creating jobs along the way. Each and every interaction was meaningful, educational and overwhelmingly inspiring. 

L.E.K.’s framework of rigorous research and analysis coupled with strategic thinking and always pushing toward the implications for our clients prepared me to make an impact. It allowed me to sit with the European Union delegation to Namibia and lead a discussion on some of the largest challenges in the region and our role in addressing them. 

What did you take away from your experience there that you’ve brought to L.E.K.?
Professionally, I gained invaluable interpersonal skills stemming from a higher awareness of cultural differences in communication. I also got my feet wet in on-the-ground operations. For example, launching operations in a new city meant securing a warehouse, finding a truck, getting the marketing materials, training, hiring a team, etc. At L.E.K. we are typically brought on from a strategy perspective, but our recommendations and findings often inform the business' next steps, so having visibility on operations now has given me the ability to think more critically about the actionable recommendations we give clients. It was fascinating to get such a holistic view of our work. 

Personally, I took away a love for horseback riding and watching the sunset daily. The U.S. can be so “go, go, go” that we forget to pause and enjoy the sunset. That is a custom I am glad I took home with me