Today's feature, Natalie Figuereo, has dedicated her time to driving future state paths forward for businesses both as a consultant and as an internal strategy professional. While the mention of "future state" activity may sound like a reference to a futuristic mode of technological advancement, this kind of work can be summed up by a single word with many purposes and manifestations: strategy.
I resonated with Natalie's story even more than most because of our shared experience as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) strategy practitioners for Accenture; our tenures didn't overlap and hers occurred at much more senior point in her career, but the fast-paced, forward-thinking nature of the work (not to mention the travel perks and woes) is certainly relevant to consulting in M&A and has contributed to her transition through a strategy role at LinkedIn and ultimately to her current endeavor as a New Growth Strategy expert at Cox Communications.
Read on for details on Natalie's enthusiasm for innovation in the technology industry, advice on seeking and leveraging mentors, and dedication to learning new things.
Into the Details
Three come to mind: Avid Political Columnist Reader, Japanese (and Korean and Vietnamese) Food Lover, Spontaneous Traveler.
Growth and strategy often seem like lofty concepts; how would you define the work that you do/have done in these spaces?
I worked in management consulting for several years, and I mostly focused on mergers and acquisitions in tech, as well as some operational design and cost reduction. I've also worked on internally-focused strategy and operations, at a tech company that was in growth mode - so, how to design an organization or function to achieve scale and growth, improve profitability, maintain a great customer experience, etc.
In my current role, I focus on new growth strategies: identifying and scoping new businesses for the company, given customer needs, our priorities and capabilities. And recommending how that should happen - through acquisition, investment, or internal build.
What are two leadership development opportunities that you've been afforded that have contributed to your professional growth?
What's been true for me probably doesn't fall into the "typical" leadership development bucket. When I worked in management consulting, I had the opportunity to be our strategy group's Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) co-lead for the North America west region. I loved that role, even though it added a lot of work outside of my client work/day job. I learned a lot through my project work, but in the I&D lead role, I thought about company-wide people challenges and solutions in a way I had not before. It definitely gave me a much broader perspective about the heart of the company - people - and how important I&D is to achieving almost all of the company's priorities. It's easy to think the day-to-day work is the most important stuff - and I'm not saying it's not important. But the real, hands-on I&D experience gave me a much broader perspective.
I'd also say choosing great mentors - and proactively staying connected - has been one of the most important contributors to my leadership development as well. I think that all of my mentors are brilliant in their own way - and are really strong in at least one thing that I am trying to improve about myself. Their perspective, coaching and guidance, has been a game-changer for me. Plus, my mentors have unlocked their networks and new opportunities for me, which have also contributed to my growth over the years. One unlocked the opportunity for me to work on a really interesting and "secret" project for the North America CEO of my company at the time. Another mentor asked me to help him with some work he was doing, that I was new to, that ultimately differentiated me for the job I'm in now.
"I think that all of my mentors are brilliant in their own way - and are really strong in at least one thing that I am trying to improve about myself."
Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5-10 years? How does that impact the way you approach your work today?
I love working in tech. We touch pretty much every industry/vertical, and the world can change so much in this space every couple of years.
A big part of my job right now is answering that question and figuring out what that means for us. That's a big question obviously, but I think in my industry, we'll continue to see tech going after big areas/sectors that haven't been as disrupted, relatively - healthcare, financial services, education, etc. Which is great - those are not the low hanging fruit. They are complex, huge industries, and there's definitely room for change and for the better.
I think we'll continue to see improvements in "connectedness" and our ability to do more outside of what we may be used to today. I think we'll continue to see transformation in our homes, our cars, etc. in terms of what's possible in those spaces.
And, I think we should expect to see more regulation - the same way we see it in food, health, finance. I think we'll see a lot more when it comes to data protection and privacy, alternative currencies, monopolies. I'm not sure what that means, but it will definitely have an impact on the core of some companies' business models.
How are you best able to lift as you climb?
I'll start with the context - my dad, who is one of the most impressive and hard-working people that I know, once gave me advice that I think about often and try to do regularly: never stop learning. He is an extreme case, but I have never, for example, seen my dad watch real TV. In his limited spare time, he is always reading, exercising, working on a project, meditating, or watching the occasional WWII documentary. His spare time is extremely productive, and I think that's part of what has made him so successful and focused.
I try to do the same - I'm trying to get better at always learning, and integrating it into most things that I do. Lots of reading, relevant podcasts on my commute to and from work, etc. It's what helps me continue to grow and learn.
If you had to list one go-to garb item in your work wardrobe, what would it be?
Comfortable and sleek shoes. I just can't wear uncomfortable shoes anymore - I can't tell you how many airports I've had to run through to make a flight in my 6 years in consulting.
Want to learn more about Natalie's work experiences? Check out her LinkedIn page!