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Leah Parks Upshaw

Hometown: Newport News, VA

Mathematics Major: Mathematics (undergraduate), Operations Research (graduate)

Degree Granting Institution(s): Spelman College, Georgia Institute of Technology

Job Title: Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, VA

Job Responsibilities: As a member of the economics and business analysis team at Booz Allen, I provide superior client service to various government agencies in program acquisition and management. Decision-makers have utilized my analyses to evaluate and choose among various acquisition strategies and implement changes to program management processes. In my job, there is no typical assignment.

Past consulting assignments have included developing a cost estimate for transponders and transmitters used to reduce "friendly fire" incidents for the U.S. Marine Corps; conducting a cost-benefit analysis for the Social Security Administration to replace analog recorders with digital equipment in their benefits hearings; and conducting a business case analysis for NASA Headquarters of integrating asset management procedures. Since the life of a consultant varies daily, organization is the key. Having a planner is essential because I usually am working on many projects at once. My planner tracks client and team meetings and project schedules and progress, as well as potential impediments.

Besides being organized, other critical skills required for a consultant are the ability to actively listen, being proficient at data collection, developing an arsenal of techniques and methodologies to analyze situations, and networking with colleagues, clients, and peers within your field. Most important, being a successful communicator is vital because everyone involved must have a complete understanding of roles, responsibilities, and processes.

I enjoy the variety of work and opportunity for advancement in my job as a management consultant. The job outlook in the government sector is favorable, particularly for those who are interested in obtaining a security clearance.

Best Advice: Understand that you have the best chance to succeed when working in an area that interests you. I always had many interests growing up, and determining solutions to various "problems" is what led me to mathematics. Translating this skill to real-world business challenges is what piqued my interest in management consulting. Since becoming a consultant, I have kept my functional focus on software measurement and estimation. My group has expanded enough to enable me to expand this market area and to develop a team to conduct these engagements. The main adjustment I had to make from school to work was learning to reason deductively, instead of inductively as mathematicians do best. There simply isn't the time available to fully dissect an organization and analyze each piece. Prioritization is extremely important.

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