In this month's Five Questions With... she gives us her take on the future of work, how the attention to detail she practiced at the White House helped during her years as a consultant, how it comes in handy as a mom, and much more.
Ashley Anderson Nowak built on her time in the White House Scheduling Office to launch a 12-year career as a management consultant with McKinsey and Accenture in New York. In this month’s “Five Questions With…” she gives us her take on the future of work, how the attention to detail she practiced at the White House helped during her years as a consultant, how it comes in handy as a mom, and much more. Ashley, who has relocated to Dallas with her husband, Brian, and their two sons, serves on the board of the 43 Club, the Bush Center’s young professionals networking group.
Q: After serving in the scheduling office at The White House, you spent more than 12 years in consulting – first with McKinsey and then a 10-year run at Accenture in New York before relocating to Dallas. How did your time at The White House prepare you for the challenges and opportunities you faced in consulting?
Working in the Administration at the White House provided me with an amazing opportunity to be exposed to so many influential people and interesting situations at a young age. When I moved to consulting and was asked to sit across the table from C-Suite level executives, I already had a level of comfort from my White House experience. Expectations around work hours and performance were also high at the White House and that really set me up for success in the consulting world.
Q: Part of your role with Accenture was recruiting new talent to the firm. How would you approach that assignment today with changed expectations around working remotely?
Balance is often the key to so many aspects of life – both professional and personal – and that same strategy should be applied to remote work. Even prior to the pandemic, a lot of the consulting industry was well positioned for remote work because of the daily nature of consulting. Given that remote working is already engrained in the consulting culture, it’s an easy sell for recruits that consultants know how to do remote work well. Having said that, there is no replacement for some (not all) in person connection with clients and co-workers. That balance is needed to truly drive personal career growth as well as client success.
Q: How do you assess the future of work post-COVID?
Both organizations and employees are going to need to continue to adapt quickly to change. The future of work is changing, technology is rapidly changing, and the world is changing. Working in transformational change management for more than a decade, I have seen firsthand how hard it can be for individuals and especially larger organizations to enable change at the speed and scale needed to stay ahead in the marketplace. For organizations, becoming internally nimble and having the structure to quickly adapt to whatever change might come is the key to the future of work. For individuals, staying intellectually curious and being willing to learn and apply new skills rapidly will be the future of the workforce.
Q: You earned a Bachelor’s Degree in political science from SMU, but you also majored in vocal performance in Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and performed with campus groups. Can you walk us through your journey from being a performer to The White House and the world of big-time consulting?
When I was young, I wanted to be an opera singer and poured many, many hours into practicing and performing, which earned me a place in Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. It also taught me the value of work and practice, and to never show up unprepared. While singing is my passion, it ultimately was not the right path for my career. Luckily, I was able to also study political science at SMU and volunteer at the Dallas County Republican Party in college, which led me to a job in the Administration. My White House experience set me up for success in the corporate world, which got my foot in the door at McKinsey and then for the majority of my career at Accenture. Singing will always be a part of me. One of my favorite memories was performing at a White House Christmas party, which was a big highlight of my singing career.
Q: Can you leave us with a favorite story or lesson learned from your time in the Administration?
One of the most amazing experiences I had was the privilege to participate in during my White House years was doing scheduling work for the G8 Summit outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was truly an incredible experience I could never replicate. My biggest lesson learned during my time in the Bush Administration is from the great Rhonda Houston. She taught me to always triple check my work (the President’s schedules are VERY detailed as you can imagine!) and that served me very well in my career and in life now as I am doing homework with my kids!