Strategy•Apr 04, 2016
Credera’s Emily Schulhoff Shares Why Serving Others and Asking “Why” Are Keys to Success
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of our Senior Managers in the Management Consulting practice, Emily Schulhoff. I have had the pleasure of working with Emily directly on several projects and the joy of seeing her move rapidly through her career from Consultant to Senior Consultant to Manager to now Senior Manager in the past five and a half years. She is truly a high-performer and a wonderful human being! I asked her about what brought her to Credera, what some of her experiences were, and where she’s headed next. She agreed to let me share some of our conversation in this blog post.
I was looking to change jobs and was interested in an opportunity in consulting. I had started evaluating the Big 4 consulting firms when a friend from church recommended that before I interview with anyone, I should come chat with Credera. Another one of my good friends worked at Credera, and both of them knew how important people were to me. I have a lot of fun with both of these friends and I saw them as incredible role models, and I saw myself really attracted to the opportunity to work directly with them and people with similar backgrounds. I was also attracted to the idea of a smaller firm. Rather than be ‘employee ‘918683’, I could go to a firm where I would know all of the people there. (I was employee #65).
What are the aspects of the culture and job that attracted you to Credera?
There were three leaders that I spent time with in the recruiting process that I was fortunate enough to also work with on projects early in my career. What I loved – what stood out about all three – was their attitudes and perspectives. While they are all different from a personality perspective, each embodied a team spirit; you could tell that they were smart and quick, loved learning, and that they enjoyed teaching. They were all jovial and seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and I was happy to work in that type of environment. A great example of this was when we led a multi-month training program for one of our large clients. For three months, we had client operators from all over the nation coming to Dallas for a week of training. This leader called me every morning just to make sure there was nothing I needed – personally or professionally. He was two levels my senior in the firm, and he did not even own this work stream, yet he called because he cared, and because he wanted me to be successful.
Has Credera lived up to your expectations?
Yes, and our Management Consulting team has definitely lived up to expectations and in many ways exceeded it. I am not a niche player in a particular industry or skill set. I have definitely added deep skills and industry knowledge in my time here, but I have had tremendous variety – in the types of clients, industries, project team members, leaders, and roles. Also, it has been really rewarding to reflect at each performance evaluation on how much I had learned and how much I had grown every 4-6 months. I was blown away in the first three years at the responsibility I had been given in such a short time frame. Leading a company’s largest training initiative that had ever been done in the history of their company, having an opportunity to be a key presenter at a client’s annual meeting, which included all employees, the CEO and several board members – these are just a couple of the things I was able to accomplish quite early in my career.
You mention growth and additional responsibility, and you advanced very quickly through the ranks from Consultant to Senior Consultant to Manager to Senior Manager … what do you attribute that to?
I attribute it to the fact that the roles I have had were really different. For example, when I started, I developed training curriculum, then developed deep knowledge in organizational change in subsequent roles, then led a development-heavy project for an online retailer. I then led an innovative product launch and am now leading a customer experience strategy program for a leader in the transportation industry. The leaders at Credera weren’t afraid to let me ‘jump into the deep end’ in roles even though I frequently wasn’t totally ready, but they knew I could learn it and it was how I could best grow and succeed. Knowing that I had people there for me that believed in me let me know I could believe in myself, which was really important. I also had many mentors and leaders that constantly recommended books – I must have read a book a week for the first 18 months at Credera, so I got my hands on everything I could to come up to speed.
I would encourage them to ask ‘Why?’ often, because that is something that people at Credera are really willing to share. Because I could understand why someone had a different perspective, or how my task or role fit into the larger effort, it let me understand how to be successful. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the types of roles and experiences that you are really passionate about, and be willing to pursue these passions on your own during those time frames when you can’t get those project roles immediately. For example, I love change management and customer experience strategy, and even though I am not always in those roles, I take time to continually learn about them and help with thought leadership in these areas outside of my project work.
What excites you about Credera?
I’ve reached that point in my career and life where I’ve switched from ‘what do I want to know and be known for?’ and into ‘how can I develop and lead people?’, so it excites me to see such incredible talent at the junior levels and watching their growth and trajectory. In Management Consulting, I love that we are doing projects that have no software development components – projects like customer experience strategy, loyalty, corporate strategy, etc.
I enjoy helping people reach their goals. Getting a chance to see how my work genuinely helps improve our people, our clients, and our clients’ customers is really motivating. On one project that I worked on, we not only created an analytics solution that enabled a market leader to change how they drive more revenue and profit, but we also helped one of the leaders there get promoted to Vice President. I was overjoyed for him and loved that our project was one of the things that helped get him there. I also worked with a medical device company that resulted in people being able to get devices into the hands of customers more quickly and literally make their lives better.
At my current client, there are many different consulting firms and third-party providers. It’s gratifying to have people come up to us and tell us that we are different – that we really care about them as individuals and that we want to get to know them instead of ‘just coming in and telling them what to do’.
What are some of your personal core values, and how do you apply them to your work and personal life?
Some of the first ones that come to mind are Loyalty, Joy, and Contentment. There’s a saying that I often remind myself of that says “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I feel that contentment is more about trust, and do I trust God enough that I remember that He’s got me, and will I be content enough that I can allow myself to be present. I want to be present for the people in my life. I recently went to Park City, Utah for a wedding and got a chance to snow mobile for the first time. It was a chance to be with my friends – laughing and playing – and I was able to experience a beautiful crisp day with an incredible blue sky – how can you not find joy and contentment when you’re present in that?
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I love travel, and I got to explore four states last year that I had never visited before. I also love being on the water – whether it’s an ocean, or a lake, getting to spend time on a boat with friends is a treat. I love endorphins – skiing in the mountains when possible, and going to Pure Barre whenever I possibly can. I also love serving, which is pretty common among Crederians. I am part of a ministry that serves special needs children and I have a group of girls that I co-lead in a church community group. Plus, sleep. I really love to sleep…I’m thankful to enjoy what I do during the week and on the weekends!