Four months into my internship and my time working at the Like Minded Females (LMF) Network has come to an end. It has truly been an experience to remember.
This blog will describe the highs and lows — and everything in between — of my time here whilst casting a reflective tone to recall the fundamental lessons I learned working here.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
How and why did I end up at LMF? The answer is slightly complex.
To be completely honest and transparent, as wide as my interests in social and current affairs are, women’s rights had never occupied a significant proportion of my time.
Being a first-year Business Management student at Queen’s University Belfast, I had spent a great deal of time studying the core aspects of business operation.
Yes, I did enjoy my first year — we will not talk about coronavirus here. However, I sought a deeper, more practical insight into my course to complement its strong, theoretical focus.
Consequently, I spent a considerable amount of time looking online for internship opportunities. After extensive toing and froing from a recruitment agency, I was connected with an opening with Sonya at the LMF Network.
Was this what I expected? No.
Did I particularly want to work in such an organisation? To tell you the truth, I didn’t really know.
I have always been interested in the relationship between business, government and society and how these forces interact.
LMF Network is a grassroots organisation existing to leverage the community to bargain for better rights from the business.
To be an integral part of that social change would be an exciting opportunity for me. Keeping an open mind, I agreed to an interview, and the rest is history.
In the era of Covid, many people have struggled to get to grips with working from home. Personally, I have not found this transition difficult. This is because, as a university student, I have had the unbelievable joy of online learning for an entire year — no, of course, I’m not being sarcastic.
Logging at 9 am to stare at a narrated PowerPoint presentation for 2 hours at a time; what is there possibly to dislike.
An interesting thing I immediately noticed when I joined LMF was how diverse the team was. LMF has employees from all across the globe. I really believe that is what makes LMF great — the synthesisation of many cultural backgrounds to form a global community and product.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most about working at LMF was meeting new people through discovery calls. It was great to talk with them about their business goals and how they could benefit from our DE&I support.
We talked to an extensive variety of organisations ranging from 900 employee strong language translators to startup cryptocurrency companies. It was genuinely great being able to engage with such a wide breadth of organisations.
Next, I will discuss the process of drafting proposals.
In my opinion, despite sounding niche and unimportant, drafting proposals is one of the most crucial components of consulting. The proposal is a brief outline of our services, tailored to the individual requirement of each client. One can lead discovery and outreach calls until their heart’s content. Still, it is the individually tailored proposal that is the driving force behind the sale.
Depending on how unique the client’s needs are, preparing a proposal can take a matter of hours or sometimes even days. In my experience, the proposal is usually convincing enough for the client to proceed with us. But there are many notable exceptions that I will explore in more detail further on.
Another key aspect of working in a startup is outreach. It is a vicious cycle. But the truth is we rely on it to generate business. Sending hundreds of emails only to receive a handful of automated replies that rarely lead to anything substantial is truly sad and unrewarding.
My feelings on the laborious and grossly unfair nature of this process are succinctly captured by Meryl Streep in the 2008 film Mamma Mia:
“What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did but most we didn’t
And why, I just don’t know”
My biggest joy in this line of work is simplicity. When everything goes to plan. However brief those moments may be, the satisfaction and joy they bring are insurmountable.
I recall vividly one particular client. To me, they represent all that is great about a process. They reached out to me, knew what they wanted and when the proposal was sent, they were extremely happy to go with one.
No having to modify the proposal to accommodate unreasonable and unrealistic aims.
No stress. No fuss. Just simple business. Oh, how I wish things could always be that way.
And on that reflective note, that brings us to the next section of this blog, striking a more pessimistic tone.
Unfortunately, working in this line of business is not without its occasional moments of sadness. Some are greater than others.
One of the most difficult lessons I have learned is that no matter how much effort you put in, it is rarely appreciated. This lesson was particularly driven home to me by one particular organisation. It would be wrong of me to name and shame them, so we will refer to them as client “X” for the purposes of this blog.
I remember like it was yesterday, our initial call with client “X”. The air was full of optimism, the enthusiasm projected on their behalf was incalculable, and our certainty of their business was absolute.
Oh, how foolish we were.
Over the course of approximately two months, we watched slowly as it became clearer and more evident that trading with them was going to present a challenge.
After preparing for client “X”, a cumulative total of approximately 4 or 5 proposals, I received an email explaining that they would not be looking to proceed any further with us. That was all.
That particular moment reinforced the fact to me that you are not entitled to a reason for every rejection. A sad and painful truth that I believe every consultant must learn.
In conclusion, what have I learnt from my 16-week deep dive into the world of diversity and inclusivity consultancy?
The answer is many things, but I will emphasise what I believe are the three golden rules of consultancy.
1. People are mean.
Your emails will get ignored, your proposals dismissed and time wasted. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it.
2. Effort doesn’t equal result.
For some people, the effort put into drafting a proposal for them will never be enough. Spend your time wisely.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work.
When everyone in the team shares the same energy and commitment to get the work done. It is a truly inspiring process.
After four months working in consultancy, I suppose the real question is, is it something I want to continue working in?
The answer to that question remains to be answered. The truth is: I don’t know.
But my time here has certainly fuelled my desire to get more deeply involved in the professional services sector, get a bigger picture, and understand how the system operates more clearly.
I would love to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to Sonya for agreeing to employ me across the summer months and for the support and training she provided to me throughout this period.
Additionally, I would like to thank Alex and Eleonora for their support within the first few weeks and for ensuring that I was thoroughly welcomed to the team.
And finally, Samsul and Rebekah. Although I only had the pleasure of working alongside you briefly, I wish you both well and that you will find your time working at LMF as enjoyable and rewarding as I did.
A very special thank you to anyone reading who made it this far!
This blog contribution was made by Mark Magowan.
Mark Magowan is a second year business management student at queen’s University Belfast.
He has strong interests in current affairs and consultancy spending summer 2021 working directly with lmf to deliver a range of diversity and inclusivity solutions to corporate problems.
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What is LMF Network?
The LMF Network is a global social enterprise (not for profit) focused on empowering, enabling & educating women and marginalised groups into tech, entrepreneurship & digital. We specialise in designing and delivering accessible programmes and supporting a global community. We’ve gone from a brunch club to a social good brand based on what the community wanted. We are a real community run by real people.