Women in Leadership Profiles

Milena Beshkova – UMT Consulting: Never Overlook the Human Elements of Business or Success

Milena-BeshkovaMilena Beshkova’s interest in an international business career was born at a young age as she traveled to follow her parents’ work in the wine sector, frequently visiting wineries and factories. She’s lived in Bulgaria, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, in addition to visiting many other places. This exposure to global perspectives, business operations, and the consumer goods world shines in her success story today as a New York-based Senior Vice President at UMT Consulting, a boutique operations management consulting firm serving Fortune 1000 clients.

Milena credits her international and relationship management expertise with helping her advance in her eight years at UMT—where she’s already a member of the organization’s senior management team. Milena focuses her management consulting career on global consumer goods, financial services, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications work, and has advised clients in Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas. While her work involves managing a variety of relationships and workstreams, she’s primarily focused on operations and large scale organizational transformation initiatives.

Early Interests That Led Her to Consulting

Milena’s love for numbers and analytics shaped the start of her career and provided a solid foundation that serves her well in consulting. Her first job at Gartner as a junior analyst helped her gain technology research experience, and she’s also worked for international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The latter, where she helped emerging market entrepreneurs restructure their businesses, also inspired her to earn a Master of International Affairs at Columbia University focused in International Finance and Business. She says this advanced degree enhanced her understanding of how developing countries function and the issues they face, enabling her to better navigate a range of business climates.

Her Top Consulting Lessons and Tips

Ultimately, her love for working with people attracted her to management consulting—and the right mix of relationships, travel, and analytics has inspired her to stay. Additionally, her management consulting journey has led her to some of her greatest business insights.

Five years ago, when Milena first started managing a consulting team, she learned a tough but invaluable lesson. “Never overlook the human elements of business,” she advised. Originally, she thought she could control team outcomes by managing project deadlines and reviewing deliverables, but quickly discovered how much team communication and satisfaction would impact the end result.

She also applies this concept, and her passion for working with diverse professionals, to her global client work. “If I see a challenge, I think about solutions from different angles and points of view. I put myself in the shoes of clients in various regions and consider how they will react,” she added.

Her second big business lesson taught her you can’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong. “In consulting, you have to check your ego at the door,” Milena said. “Consultants are there to give advice—and need to be confident when doing so—but they also must be open to changing their approach if they want to achieve the best outcome.”

Milena also offers two tips for younger professionals with an interest in management consulting:

  1. As early as you can, tackle an internship or school project that challenges you to solve a client’s problem. UMT, for example, launched its first internship program this year, which gives students hands-on experience working on client initiatives.
  2. Take advantage of international work opportunities. “When you get out of your comfort zone you grow, and this is especially true when you go abroad,” she added.

Giving Back and Advancing Women

Milena also hasn’t overlooked the human elements tied to her own success. When she became the latest and the youngest female leader on UMT’s management team, she recognized a unique opportunity to help her female peers. She created a business case that demonstrated how achieving greater gender equity across a business like UMT could drive better solutions for clients, and presented it to CEO Gil Makleff.

He was immediately supportive and challenged her to lead UMT’s Gender Balance and Mentoring and Coaching Initiatives. The efforts are focused on boosting female recruitment, retention, and growth through internal programs and external partnerships with women’s organizations like Forté Foundation. An employee support group meets regularly to discuss how to match women with projects that will increase their visibility, and there’s a formal mentorship program that’s paired her with six mentees personally. In under a year, women’s promotion rates have already improved dramatically.

Women make great consultants,” she said. “It’s in our nature to be good listeners, demonstrate empathy, and see others’ points of view.”

During a recent external women’s event, she also heard her favorite piece of work-life advice. “If you choose an intense career, there is no such thing as work-life balance,” Milena said. Instead, you have “one big life” and it’s up to you to prioritize both work and personal matters. In her full life, these personal priorities include her husband, travel, and biking and barre classes to stay fit.

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