Alexa Abbott


Name: Alexa Abbott

Title: State and Local Government Advisory Associate

Company: Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC)

Education: University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, Class of 2017

How has college prepared you for your first job post-graduation?

I was a business major and since I am doing consulting there are certainly some direct technical correlations. Things like understanding balance sheets, income statements, financing, problem solving, case work, and Excel, etc. all give me skills to pull from in my role.

But I also came out of a highly competitive environment at Ross (University of Michigan). At the business school, every assignment and course is graded on a relative curve. You could end up with a B- in the class with a 95% if everyone else had a 98% and that sort of thing happened. It forces you to be competitive, but more importantly it forces you to be innovative, always think about what others are potentially going to do, and find creative ways to do better and have an edge. Now I’m wired to think that way in everything, which is critical in my role. Consultants are hired to solve problems in ways that no one has done before, and in ways that the client couldn't have done themselves. It’s about being innovative and now that’s how I approach everything.

How has your internship experience prepared you for your current role?

Last summer I interned with PwC in their consulting group, so there are definitely some directly transferrable skills from a consulting internship to a consulting full-time position. Outside of the technical skills, working at the company beforehand enabled me to gain relationships with people at the company and relationships are critical.

Additionally, I was staffed on a project that was just starting for a very large client. My manager utilized me for assistance with a lot of the start up work for the project, so now I understand how the project is funded, how the money flows, the importance of time management of the consultants, and how to communicate with the client. Additionally, I worked with a Senior Associate to create a project workflow that mapped out every week of the engagement. I was responsible for the details in a way that gave me a thorough look into the process of a consulting project. Although I didn’t stay for the duration of the project, I have a strong idea of how to structure a project for efficiency going into my full-time role.

How did you decide which industry you would work in? And your current role?

I came to the conclusion that consulting was for me because of a few things. One, I am most interested in and excited about something if I'm solving a problem. I think in terms of problems and solutions, that's just how I'm wired. So consulting felt really natural to me. Two, I like routines, but not for too long. Consulting projects start and end. They can have various lengths of time, but at the end of the time period, your project will end, and I like that. I appreciate change. I couldn't see myself going to the same office doing the same things every day for years-- I really like variety.

From consulting I narrowed it down to the State and Local Government focus because I know my calling is doing work in underserved areas in cities. And essentially, that’s a lot of what I’ll have the chance to do— solve problems and create solutions to issues around public education, public transportation, and economic development. Public sector work is what excites me. Quite frankly, it’s where there’s a lot of problems waiting to be solved. And the impact of those solutions can really be life changing for everyday people, which I love.  

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced thus far in your career?

As someone just starting out, my biggest challenge was accepting that I don't know a ton because I haven't been in the field, but still trying to find ways to add value to the team. I remember feeling really frustrated at one point because I was given a task for someone that was two roles higher than me, which my manager acknowledged. The task was not difficult, but I knew if I’d even had just a month of experience, I could’ve knocked the task out of the park. So my approach is to use my novice-ness to my advantage. I try to learn, listen, and be a sponge as much as possible, and ask the right questions before, during, and after I do my work. Having a new eye to something gives you a unique perspective of looking at something, and there’s value in that, it’s just about using it properly and using those who know more than you to shed light on your blind side that comes from being a new employee.

What do you wish you could tell your sophomore year self?

My grandmother always tells me to “enjoy the phase you’re in.” And I didn’t really grasp the essence of what that meant until after I graduated from college. I look back and am so appreciative of my 4 years, but I know there were times where I didn’t appreciate experiences and opportunities as much as I could have. Be forward thinking, but don’t forget to enjoy the phase you’re in. School is hard and exam seasons can be daunting, but find beauty in it. Don’t rush to senior year, don’t even rush to your summer internship. Just enjoy wherever you are each individual day. There’s beauty and something to be learned from every experience, interaction, setback, success, etc. There's even beauty in the ordinary-- just find it. Things are only meaningless if that's what you choose to make them.

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