The latest in our series of 60 Second Interviews is with Rakhi Williams, Strategy Director at ITE Group. In this interview, Rakhi provides insight into how the world has evolved over the years, the gender pay gap and gives advice to those who are about to move to a strategy role for the first time.
Born: Philadephia, USA
Home: Queens Park, London
School: The Baldwin School
University: Boston College
First job: Analyst, Corporate Finance
Car: Audi Q7
Favourite book: So many, but one that comes to mind is One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Marquez
Film: So many, but one that popped into my head is The English Patient
Music: All genres but favourites include hip hop and funk
Gadget: Iphone X
Last holiday: Scotland, Highlands + Festival Fringe
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I lead Strategy and M&A for ITE Group, and as part of the executive team, have also been driving ITE’s overall transformation. Luckily, this means I don’t have a typical working day which is great because I love working in a dynamic environment. Most of my days incorporate management meetings where I’m evaluating business performance, product performance, or managing people and their deliverables. Everything my team and I work on requires us to meet urgent deadlines, usually these are transaction related, and this means our days are fluid and constantly changing depending on what’s happening on each deal. I also lead various strategic initiatives and a typical day involves me meeting with various members of the senior management team to progress these initiatives.
What do you in your downtime?
I’m not great at downtime, I prefer being busy. I love spending time with my family and travelling the world with them. We also love doing adventurous sports together, skiing, mountain biking and kite surfing are my favourites. I also run and play tennis, and after all that if there’s still time left, I enjoy yoga, reading books, and going to the cinema. Lastly, I enjoy spending time with friends, hosting dinner parties, and trying out new restaurants.
How do you know The Barton Partnership?
Nick Barton and I met in 2002 when he called me about a search whilst working at Astbury Marsden. I really like working with Nick and we have developed a great relationship over the years. I frequently use The Barton Partnership to help me recruit strategy talent in the companies I have worked for. I also work with Nick Adlam on the interim side as I often bring in consultants for project work. Both Nicks are really great to work with, and it’s all about relationships for me when it comes to working with search firms.
How have you seen the world of strategy evolve over your career?
The work is not so different, although the problems are harder to solve because business disruption happens more suddenly, and companies never react fast enough. Digital and mobile channels and the impact of technology are also creating new strategic issues and problems, and we can’t predict where it’s all going, which keeps us busy.
Do you feel there is a gender pay gap within your sphere of expertise?
Yes I think there’s an underlying theme of this in most organisations. In my experience, women don’t fight as hard as men to improve their compensation packages. Overtime this has an impact and the disparity grows.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role as a strategist?
Developing strategies isn’t easy, but it’s even harder to execute strategy. You need to be deliberate, consistent, and focused and find ways that will enable the organisation to leverage its strategy into a commercial reality. If you don’t achieve this, then your strategy remains theoretical and delivers no real tangible results, and consequently you’re not really adding value.
What advice would you give consultants who are about to move to a strategy role for the first time?
Strategy is not a one size fits all kind of job, be clear on the kind of strategy you want to do and the context you want to do it in, and make sure this is aligned to your longer-term career goals. This means choosing the right organisation, sector, and company situation/stage of development, and then being clear on what the strategy team’s remit is and the structure in which they deliver this remit. For example, working in strategy in a private equity portfolio company is very different from working in a FTSE 100 strategy team. The expectations, environment and cultures can be very different, the skillset required can also be different, make sure the role suits you in most of these aspects otherwise you will probably be disappointed soon after joining.
What is your favourite interview question?
“What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life, professionally or personally?”
If you could invite three people to dinner living or dead who would they be?
Such a tough question to answer …Gandhi, Pele, and Steve Jobs, they all faced adversity and became legendary in their own right
Who inspires you?
Anyone who dares to challenge convention to make a difference, help people, and make an impact improving society overall, sometimes to their own detriment. I’m also inspired by people who try to solve a problem in a creative way, and disrupt markets and industries in the process. Finally people who dream big and achieve goals they never thought were possible provide huge inspiration for me. I love supporting the underdog and seeing them win.