Women in Leadership Profiles

Lauren Herder Applies Trademark Tenacity to Lead Ankura Consulting in the Southeast

Growing up in Florida, Lauren Herder’s softball coach and band director provided her earliest leadership experiences while teaching her the value of tenacity. After graduating with an MBA from the Crummer School at Rollins College, Lauren applied that same drive when she headed to New York without a job. Eventually, she landed at top consulting firms where she honed the skills that led her to Ankura, where she currently is helping to build out their Southeast practice.

Current Role: Finding Gratification in Seeing People Succeed   

What does Ankura do?
Ankura is a fast-growing consulting firm — we have about 1,500 people in more than 30 offices globally. We just opened an office in Germany this summer.

In simple terms, what is your job?
I serve clients — specifically, their internal financial functions — by offering improvements on their processes, the types of technology they use, and how to train and improve their talent. I also help companies account for their business and interpret their financial performance results.

Do you specialize in an industry (or industries)?
I’ve worked with a variety of companies and have spent most of my career in consumer business and technology. Consumer business is an area of interest for me because it’s closest to human behavior, and I worked in retail during high school and college, so I understand the business.

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

Every client has a unique situation, so versatility is key: being adaptive and appreciating change; enjoying working on a team; having empathy and emotional intelligence to put yourself in clients’ shoes; problem-solving; and understanding how to collaborate with others.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

This is a people business, and there is a lot of gratification in seeing people succeed — whether it’s clients, team members, or people within my firm.

What is most challenging?

In consulting, as you become more senior, you are more responsible for bringing in new business. It is challenging and requires constantly reinventing yourself and how you sell your firm’s work. It’s a good challenge — you have to keep evolving, and it is very gratifying to see the fruits of your labor.

The things that are hardest also give you the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

Early Influences: Leadership Skills Started with Coaches and Teachers    

Where did you grow up?

We moved from Massachusetts to Naples, Florida when I was in second grade. There were more year-round outdoor activities in Florida, and we were season passholders at Disney!

Is there someone (parents, teachers, grandparents, friends, etc.) or something from your upbringing that influenced your career path? 

I started softball young and played through high school. My little league coach supported my desire to be a leader and saw qualities in me before I could see them. She was hard on me sometimes, but she taught me to stick with it.

Another influence was my high school marching band director. He had a “work hard, play hard” mentality — we had some grueling practices, especially in the summer, but we also had a lot of fun.

He also gave me some of my first leadership responsibilities — I was the captain of the woodwinds section in a marching band of about 200 people.

Did you ever dream about a career at a young age (other than accounting)?

I always excelled in math. As an undergrad, I liked my accounting classes and became a tutor for other accounting students. Starting my junior year, I worked part-time at a friend’s company doing various finance projects. I enjoyed it, but I also knew I didn’t want to be a full-time accountant — I wanted more variety.

What was your very first job (not after college, but first ever)? What did you learn from it?

I worked at a bagel shop at age 14 and had different roles — making food and running the cash register. It was an early introduction to serving clients and helped me understand all that goes into running a business.

Career Path: Do a Great Job and You Will Grow

You previously worked at EY (Ernst & Young) and before that, Deloitte. What did you learn in those roles that has helped you in your current position?

When you are at a large firm, you see a lot of different types of leadership. I learned what good leadership looks like, which helped me determine what kind of leader I want to be. This exposure shaped me as a leader and prepared me for my role today of leading a practice.

What prompted you to move into your present role at Ankura?

I was excited about being an instrumental part of developing a practice — I am leading the growth of the Atlanta/Southeast market.  Devising strategy, defining services, hiring, and finding clients all scratch my entrepreneurial itch.

Looking back on your career, has there been a pivotal moment or decision that took your career in a new direction?

Right now is pivotal!  Also, after grad school, my husband and I moved to New York. We had skills but no jobs, and we wanted to live in a different place. At the time, we didn’t have a lot to lose. We were two kids from Florida and ended up living there for 10 years.

In New York, I did some temp work in finance at Estée Lauder, then went to Google for a year in a sales finance contract role. Google wanted to hire me full-time, but I would have had to move to California. My manager told me she thought I would be great in consulting, and she introduced me to some friends. I started at Deloitte and never looked back.

My career path has not always been glamorous, and it takes time to build your career no matter where you start.

No matter the company or the role: do a great job and learn, and you will grow.

Business Lessons: Focus on the Here and Now

What advice do you have a for a young woman just starting out her career in business?

Try not to over-anticipate, and instead focus on work and life in the here and now and see where it goes.

I have two kids and took six months of leave with each so it took me a little longer to get to a partner level. We put a lot of pressure and expectations on ourselves, but you can’t worry about what will happen three or five years ahead.

In addition to getting a BS in Accounting from University of Central Florida, why did you decide to get an MBA at Rollins? How has it benefitted you?

I got an MBA at Rollins right after undergrad. I had worked for two years, 15 hours a week during college, so I got a flavor of the work I’d be doing, and I decided I wanted more variety and creativity. At Rollins, I focused on entrepreneurship and marketing because it rounded me out. After working at a small company, I had thoughts of starting my own business. The MBA gave me more clarity — I realized that I needed to learn more before starting a business.

Personal Passions: Family, Salt Rooms, and Church

Is there anything on your “bucket list” you’d be willing to share?
I wouldn’t say I have a bucket list, but we look forward to owning a lake house one day, traveling more internationally, and taking our kids to important historical areas around the US.

How do you spend your time when you are not working?
I really like spending time and crafting with my kids. After living in New York for 10 years, I am enjoying decorating our home in Atlanta and hanging out in the yard. I am a big meditation person — whether I sit in a salt room for 30 minutes or meditate for a few minutes between calls, it’s a great reset for me.

I am also the chair of the board of trustees at our church. We have a 120-year-old building with 40,000 square feet. It is a monster to take care of, but it is an amazing responsibility. Our church is historical, inclusive, community-minded, and welcoming to everyone — being with our kids in that environment is important to us.

Why do you support the work of Forté?

I served as a panelist during Forté’s Atlanta conference and was impressed with their work then, and I knew when I moved to Ankura that our firm would make a great sponsor. At Rollins, I worked at the Center for Entrepreneurship and helped open a chapter of Athena Powerlink for women entrepreneurs. I saw the importance of women helping other women — and men helping women is critical, too. I have a daughter and son now, and I want them to grow up and experience gender equality. Providing sponsorship is key to executive-level career progression, and empowering and elevating women helps everyone. Through diversity of thought, skills, and representation – everyone does better.

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