One of the other questions I discuss with peers is “How did you get started consulting?” It’s a short story with a long history. The short version is that I have invested deeply in public education for the last decade of my career, and I delight (and struggle) in using my skills and abilities to help improve systems for kids. When I left Denver Public Schools and moved home to Iowa, I wasn’t able to find a position that fit me. I had some opportunities, but I’m not a private school person, I didn’t want to lead an organization dependent upon federal funding, and I wanted to live here. The perfect opportunity didn’t exist, so I pursued the next best opportunity, which was working for myself.
As a first generation college-goer and a kid curious about nearly everything, I had a hard time focusing on what I wanted to do after college. I knew I wanted to help solve difficult problems, and I found consulting through the company that became Accenture. It was a great fit to help great companies solve problems and make what I thought was outlandish money, starting with my dazzling $35K starting salary. I found that their problems didn’t match with my values – I was tasked to help a major retailer decide whether it was more efficient to put clothes on hangers in the back of stores or distribution centers, and it broke me. I didn’t care, and I couldn’t talk myself into caring. I left consulting, went to business school, and found public education through an opportunity with the Broad Residency. After eight years in two districts, I had learned a lot and developed great skills and relationships. But finally, it was time to come home to Iowa.
So, back to my good-enough opportunity. When I left the Fort Wayne Community Schools, the head of security threw a quote from John Shedd at me, which is “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” I had been building a ship for years – my dad and brothers are each entrepreneurs, I’d studied small businesses in business school, and I’d been trained to define, approach, and solve problems. I’d learned traditional and progressive views on running schools and districts, and I care deeply about making things better for kids who didn’t have the good fortune of a support system like the one I had and have.
I went for it. I wrote my mission statement, I figured out what things I wanted to do, what things I could do, and what I should refer or turn down. I started cultivating a network of consultants to refer work with, and I started calling other new entrepreneurs to share our approaches. I got some help with marketing, and I did the big reveal, which was telling the LinkedIn world that I was now the President and Founder of Blue Seats Consulting. I got nudges out of the nest in the form of contracts with supportive partners, took a few knocks along the way, but every day I’m glad I started this adventure. I get to work on problems that matter, help and collaborate with people I believe in, and I get to live where I love to live.