Alumni at Work: Katie Baird

In the fall of 2015, a series of new alumni profiles and feature stories were written for Washington and Lee University, providing dynamic content to connect with prospective students, alumni and donors.

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“Essentially what I do is the exact opposite of sitting around a board room and delivering a PowerPoint,” said Katie Baird ’10. “It’s immersive, high-tech, high-touch and requires strong client relationships and trust and a willingness to push for a breakthrough.”

As a senior consultant with Deloitte LLP, Baird works within the Deloitte Greenhouse™ to design and facilitate interactive sessions to address tough business challenges for clients across industries, including technology and media; financial services; health and life sciences; the federal government; and retail.

After earning her master’s degree in public policy from American University, Baird began her career with Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C., supporting federal clients primarily in homeland security. She’s now based in Boston, where her day-to-day environment is dynamic and ever changing. Working with other Deloitte client teams, Baird’s group is called in when a client is facing a roadblock or an adaptive challenge.

A politics major and African American studies minor at Washington and Lee, Baird always thought she wanted to work for the CIA or FBI when she graduated but soon realized it wasn’t the right fit.

It was during her junior year that Baird made a connection with a W&L alumna who would change her career trajectory. Baird and her W&L boyfriend (now husband) went on a vacation with his sister and her friends. One of those friends was Leigh Otey ’06, a recent W&L graduate working for Deloitte Consulting.

“It was such a serendipitous meeting,” Baird said. “She was also a politics major, we shared the same advisor on campus and even discovered we were sorority sisters. She inspired me to think seriously about consulting and helped me see that I could be successful at one of the big professional services firms.”

In exploring her career options in consulting, Baird said that much of her preparation was self-directed and without formal structure.

“I was doing a lot of cold calling, e-mailing and just showing up to network,” she said. “I see what is now available to current students and how supportive W&L is in helping to strengthen their skills and connections in consulting. It is great that current students can now take advantage of these programs that I didn’t have when I was a student.”

One of those programs was Consulting Day, held this past September. Co-sponsored by W&L Student Consulting and Career Development, the event brought back four alumni, including Baird, to participate in a panel presentation, case interviews and small group discussions. More than 80 students in all majors and years participated.

“I’m a big believer in paying it forward, and I know the value of being able to connect with someone in the field when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your life,” she said.

Baird said she gets asked all the time what it takes to be successful in her field, and she encourages students to develop their own point of view on why they are interested in consulting and how their skills and experiences can be leveraged in the industry.

She said students seem to have so much anxiety about getting direct consulting experience in order to land a full-time position, but she believes it’s more about finding the people with strong listening, analytical and relationship building skills, and the rest of it can be taught.

“See every interaction and introduction as an opportunity to learn, because very rarely is your career a straight line,” Baird said. “Instead, likely your experiences will link together, grow and lead you to where you’re supposed to be.”

Photo credit: Washington and Lee University