The Next Generation of Consultants

It’s easy, almost too easy, for one generation to criticize the next. Poking fun at your predecessors is a tradition that goes back at least several generations. We’ve all heard the stereotypes of this next generation of workers; some of those stereotypes are probably accurate, some of them are not. Here’s our take: From a business perspective, this generation is far and away superior to anything that’s come before it. When we set out to find the rising stars of consulting, we had no idea what we were in for. Frankly, we were blown away by the quality of the 300 or so nominations we received for this, our inaugural 30 Under 30 award. With so many qualified, or perhaps even overqualified applicants, we struggled to narrow down the field down to just 30.

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago (and in some cases even more recently than that), the consultants on the following pages were getting out of school and preparing to set the world on fire. And guess what? They have. This year’s class includes a founder of his own firm, an interim CFO, a consultant with a 164 percent utilization rate and one who began with her firm at the age of 20. Indeed, this group is changing the world— your world. And even if you don’t work with them, you likely have seen the indirect effects of their work in your everyday life. That is, if you drive a car, take a prescription medication, use a computer or have been to a retail store lately.

And, in keeping true to this generation’s ideals, all of them are standouts in their local communities—whether it’s doing volunteer work, competing in Ironman competitions or running political campaigns. So read on to learn about the talent we’ve uncovered. And pay attention, we may all end working for one of them one day.

Navneet Singh Narula, Management Executive, Accenture NAVNEET SINGH NARULA Accenture Management Executive Age: 29

Navneet Singh Narula has accomplished much in his 29 years—not just professionally, but for the world. A consultant in Accenture’s financial services practice who specializes in systems integration and technology for mergers and acquisitions, Narula has advised many of Wall Street’s heavy hitters. He also serves as the chief diversity lead at Accenture’s Michigan practice and co-leads the Asian Americans Committed to Excellence diversity group in Atlanta.

But Narula’s commitment to excellence knows no borders. As the director of humanitarian relief and community empowerment at UNITED SIKHS, he has participated in, and in some cases led the formation of, schools and relief shelters throughout the world. He also aided in disaster relief in India, New Orleans and Kashmir.  The 30 Under 30 distinction is one of many for Narula, who was honored by Sen. Clinton as one of 2006′s Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business. He’s also received distinctions from the Minorities in Business Foundation and the American Business Awards, among others.

His long-term plan focuses on balance. “I hope to become an effective individual, a catalyst for a better living, a simple, fun, family man and a top leader at a world-class organization or a tycoon businessman. Most importantly, I pray for self-contentment, a healthy lifestyle, and a happy, secure life surrounded by my loved ones.”

Meaghan Bouchoux, Manager, BearingPoint

MEAGHAN BOUCHOUX BearingPoint Manager Age: 29
Not everyone can say a big part of their job is to help save U.S. taxpayers money. But Meaghan Bouchoux, a manager at BearingPoint, can. Bouchoux has worked in IT consulting for seven years and spent most of that time dedicated to public service, doing work for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S.

John Madera, Senior Consultant, BearingPoint JOHN MADERA BearingPoint Senior Consultant Age: 26
Every  consultant works hard, but not every consultant can prove it the way John Madera can. Madera, a senior consultant in BearingPoint’s energy practice, set a firm record with a whopping 164 percent utilization rate last year. While it’s not a record he’s necessarily looking to repeat in 2008, he says it’s just a part of who he is. “Well, the company would never expect any employee to work the hours I do, but it’s just my personality,” Madera says. “This is my style, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m having way too much fun for the work to take a toll on me.”The work that Madera does, teaching his clients how to use a new supply chain technology and processes, certainly contributes to the long hours he works. But where he works probably impacts it even more. Madera’s client work has taken him to some unusual locations—Kuwait, Kosovo and even Iraq. “When you’re doing client work in an area like Iraq, things are very fast paced because of the situation over there,” he says. “We’re looking to get in and get out as quickly as possible. So when I’m there, I’m pretty much working seven days a week to get the job done.” Madera says both the client and the U.S. military do a “terrific job of keeping us out of harm’s way, but I can’t say that it’s the safest place I’ve ever been.”Even though he gets a lot of recognition within the firm for his trips to Iraq, Madera says for him the satisfaction comes from delivering outstanding work to clients everywhere—not just in Iraq. “I guess I get some extra credit points because I’ve been to Iraq, but that particular client has offices all over the world, and I hope I’ve been able to exceed expectations everywhere I’ve worked,” he says. “At  the end of the day, I hope I’m being recognized for all the client work I do, and not just because I happen to do some of it in Iraq.”
Brian Wahlgren, Manager, Human Performance, Accenture BRIAN WAHLGREN Accenture Manager, Human Performance Age: 28

Brian Wahlgren doesn’t just have goals for himself—he has goals for the world. After being accepted to Accenture’s nonprofit program, Accenture Development Partnerships, he discovered a passion for making a difference in Africa. Through the Accenture program, he stayed in South Africa for three months at the beginning of 2007 and spent his days teaching farmers the same project management tools he had used to teach those in the retail and consumer product goods sectors in the United States. “It was quite a drastic change, but the thing is I had to learn quickly because I was there such a short time,” he says, adding the skill the farmers need most in Africa is simply confidence in themselves to succeed.

The experience, he says, is something that inspires him every day while working with his Fortune 100 clients. “It just changed my perception about coming back to the typical retail project,” he says. He dreams of a day where more programs like ADP exists—and he wants to be one of the catalysts of that by instilling in his clients the importance of corporate social responsibility.

In the meantime, colleagues can find the Accenture manager training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa—that is when he isn’t catching up with his favorite Boston-based sports teams or e-mailing family and friends while on the road. “I think my family and friends would tell you that I’m over the top when it comes to keeping in touch,” he says. And that’s apparently a lot of e-mail, since, according to nominator and Accenture senior executive Sean E. Spillane, “Brian is a good person, who is well liked by all who know him.”

Jessica Bailey, Associate, A.T. Kearney JESSICA BAILEY A.T. Kearney Associate  Age: 29
Sometimes, achieving so much so early in a career can lead to a few uncomfortable moments. That was the case with Jessica Bailey, an associate with A.T. Kearney. “I actually had an instance where a client thought I was too young. My manager said to the client, ‘We think she’s great; give her two weeks and if you still think she’s too young, we’ll pull her off the engagement.’” While Bailey was spared the knowledge of this during the project, she found out about it at the end when the client approached her to apologize. “It was a little strange, but at the end of the engagement, I was actually offered a job with that client,” she says. “It really meant a lot to that the firm believed in me. That’s what’s special about A.T. Kearney. I feel very confident when I walk into client setting because I view myself as having 80 years of intellectual capital behind me. It’s not just me walking into that room—it’s A.T. Kearney.”

Bailey spends most of her time in the organizational and transformation practice, but also finds time to lead the firm’s women’s recruiting efforts at the Northwestern/Kellogg School, where she earned her MBA. “I love being back on campus. It’s so great to talk to students and to get them excited about the firm and the field of consulting,” she says.What’s next for Bailey? “Well, I’d like to make partner at A.T. Kearney.” In the meantime, she’ll have plenty of training to keep her busy—Bailey is registered for three triathlons this year. “It’s always great to set—and achieve—those personal goals.”

Adrian Jones, Consultant, Bain & Company ADRIAN JONES Bain & Company Consultant Age: 27

While most high school seniors were putting the finishing touches on their college entrance applications, Adrian Jones was preparing a plan to unseat a popular mayor in his hometown. At the age of 17, Jones was serving as a campaign director for his neighbor, Jon Costas, in a mayoral run in Valparaiso, Ind. “I love the ability to make a difference in the community, and that’s one reason I love local politics,” Jones says. “And I’m passionate about Valparaiso. This is where I grew up, and I look at it as giving back to my community.”

Now, a decade later, Jones is a consultant with Bain & Company and still serves as campaign director for Costas, who became mayor in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007. Jones, who has been with Bain since 2001, says he “spends nights and weekends” pursuing his political passions since none of that work is through Bain. But “consulting has helped me build the skills that are necessary to make a difference in local community,” Jones says. For the record, he says running a political campaign is not all that different from his work as a consultant: “Define the problem, develop a plan, then implement the plan to solve the problem.”

He’s currently a member of the private equity practice, but he’s done “a little bit of everything at Bain,” and that includes another one of his passions—travel. Jones has traveled to 67 countries and is currently working in Stockholm, Sweden, “trying to build a bigger global perspective on how business operates,” Jones says. “I think that perspective will be very beneficial.”

Salman Syed, Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton SALMAN SYED Booz Allen Hamilton Associate Age: 29

In his seven years with Booz Allen Hamilton, Salman Syed, an associate with the firm, has achieved quite a lot. Two recent examples were when he spearheaded the effort to redefine a client’s $9 billion IT business model and supported the integration of a newly formed U.S. government agency. It’s successes like these that have led to Syed being recognized for his efforts.

In 2007, he was awarded the firm’s prestigious Professional Excellence Award given to client teams in recognition of outstanding and innovative service on an assignment. Less than 1 percent of Booz Allen employees have received the award. “Booz Allen is such a great place to work,” he says. “This firm rewards hard work and recognizes the significant impact team members make with clients.”Syed is quick to point out that it’s not about the recognition. He’s equally quick to recognize the role his managers and mentors have played in his development. “They’ve all contributed in different ways—either helping me learn new skills or seek out opportunities at the firm, or by just providing some worthwhile advice,” Syed says. “They’ve all helped to keep my career in perspective and allowed me to continue growing at the firm.”

They’ve also inspired him to pursue a similar role in the future as he continues to grow his career at Booz Allen. “I’d like to mentor new hires and help them succeed they way my mentors have helped me to succeed,” Syed says.

Matt Goebel, Technology Specialist, Crowe Chizek

MATT GOEBEL Crowe Chizek Technology Specialist Age: 24
Matt Goebel’s only been at Crowe Chizek since graduating from Purdue University in 2005, but he’s already a leader among his peers. After realizing the firm’s new hire programs were falling short, he took on the project and now hopes to have his program implemented firm wide. “We had kind of a gap in our onboarding,” he says. “There was no program; there was no formal training or anything set up for them.”Goebel’s a trailblazer when it comes to client work as well. He’s still with the manufacturing client he had when he started with the firm, but now has expanded his base to pharmaceuticals as well. His technical expertise landed him a management role six months into his employment, and Goebel is a go-to consultant for Smart applications. He also designed security programming for records management at a state justice department. But Goebel says he enjoys having such a diverse client roster. “I find it interesting more than anything because you get to learn so many industries as well as the people in those industries,” says Goebel.

“With strong interpersonal skills and technical understanding, Matt seeks to fully understand clients’ needs before developing solutions,” says colleague and nominator Mindy Herman. Perhaps that stems from Goebel’s consulting philosophy that “the client has all the answers, and it’s really just helping them [find them].”

Shaun Rein, Founder, Managing Director, China Market Research Group SHAUN REIN China Market Research Group Founder, Managing Director Age: 29

Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of China Market Research Group, says that “there’s so much business in China right now that it’s complete chaos. Some one has to be able to sort it all out.” And that’s precisely what Rein set out to do when he launched the firm in 2006 to serve mainly U.S. and European companies looking to expand in China. “Many companies make the mistake of not fundamentally understanding Chinese market conditions and consumer patterns before investing here,” Rein says. “We conduct customized, objective research to help companies make better decisions.”

Although the name suggests more research than consulting, Rein says that China Market Research Group is “a strategy consulting firm with 100 percent of revenue coming from billable hours.” The firm does not sell off-the-shelf reports, but only conducts custom research for clients. “Our main competitors here are McKinsey and Bain,” he says.

Rein was born in New Hampshire and earned his MBA from Harvard where his studies focused on China’s economy before relocating there in the mid-1990s. Before launching the firm, Rein served as the chief of research for venture capital firm Inter-Asia Venture Management. He also was the managing director, country head China for e-learning software company WebCT. Rein, who writes a regular column for BusinessWeek, says the firm has been in an upward climb, twice having to relocate to bigger offices and has plans to add new offices in Vietnam and Dubai. China Market Research Group currently has 13 billable consultants and expects revenue to grow “300 to 400 percent in 2008” compared to last year, Rein said.

Bryan Cashman, Consultant, Deloitte Consulting BRYAN CASHMAN Deloitte Consulting Consultant Age: 25

When nominator and Deloitte manager Britton Josey says, “Bryan Cashman is all fun and games,” she really means it. Consultant Cashman works on game Web sites and with media companies who develop the next big interactive adventure. “I always wanted games to be a part of my work life, and I’m happy Deloitte Consulting allows the flexibility to pursue different career goals in the same year, including in my case,” Cashman says, “supporting system redesigns while also providing depth on media projects by providing an entertainment software angle to our strategies.”

Cashman has been with Deloitte for three-and-a-half years, and might have never gotten there if Binghamton University in New York had offered a journalism major. Instead, he pursued the management program there, and followed the path to consulting.

Thankfully, that path has allowed Cashman to bring his gaming and business skills together. He recently authored a whitepaper about potential revenue streams in mobile gaming. One of the reasons Cashman can see the potential for those revenue streams is because he doesn’t see the average video game player as a 16-year-old boy in a basement. “Do you know how many times I’ve been asked about [Nintendo] Wii this holiday by coworkers?” he asks. “It’s exciting to see today how games are accepted by people of all ages. How many people reading this magazine play games on their Blackberries?”

Cashman doesn’t plan on abandoning his first love any time soon, but as technology evolves, he leaves the door open for other possibilities. “So much has changed so quickly, whether it’s shifting media consumption patterns, new forms of interaction, or new methods of distribution. Looking into the future, I’m excited that I can play some role in helping clients impact how it all unfolds.”

Chris Young, Solutions Partner, BusinessEdge Solutions CHRIS YOUNG BusinessEdge Solutions Solutions Partner Age: 26

Chris Young didn’t know he wanted to be a consultant while he was working for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. But then the company had a supply-chain project that required a consultancy on site. “That’s where I fell in love with consulting. And I haven’t looked back,” says Young, who then went to work for Capgemini and has been with BusinessEdge Solutions (which was recently acquired by EMC) for two years.

At BusinessEdge, Young is a senior project manager and business analyst—and so far, he’s made the most of his time there. He participated in two global initiatives and has been “an integral part of a $20 million client engagement for a tier one client,” says nominator Ann Mahon, director of marketing at BusinessEdge. Additionally, says Mahon, “Clients have provided feedback on how his excellent technical skills and strong abilities led the team to effective and productive solutions.”

Young’s work has been primarily with pharmaceutical companies. He saved one, Mahon says, an estimated $12 million. Young, though, says his true joy comes from working with a client to solve a business technology problem. He says regardless of his employer, he wants to be a trusted adviser within the industry. “What’s interesting,” Young says, “is you really have to go with the tide of where the industry takes you.”

Theodora Martis Buffolino, Manager, Deloitte Consulting THEODORA MARTIS BUFFOLINO Deloitte Consulting Manager Age: 29

Change may be hard, but Deloitte Consulting’s Theodora Martis Buffolino wants to make it easier. “Oftentimes people are adverse to change,” says Buffolino, a manager in the Human Capital Organization and Change practice in New York. “I try to really put myself in the shoes of the drug rep or the line person or the cashier of the supermarket and say, ‘What would I want to know if I were that person?’” That empathy has helped Buffolino climb the corporate ladder at the firm, where the ex-Arthur Andersen employee handles financial and pharmaceutical clients, among others.

Buffolino has a passion not only for implementing change, but for studying it as well. While at Cornell, she was awarded the Verizon/GTE Foundation Research Grant. Her research through that program provided fodder for her honors thesis, which tackled—what else?—the relationships between executive leaders and organizational cultures. She says she’d like to go back and build on that research. “I see myself eventually writing a book,” she says.

When Buffolino, who recently married a Deloitte colleague, isn’t working or researching, she says she and her husband enjoy golf and watching local sports teams—especially the Yankees. Buffolino says she sees herself ideally on Deloitte’s partner track, saying of the firm, “I think it’s an exciting place to be right now.”

Alexandria Younossi, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting ALEXANDRIA YOUNOSSI Deloitte Consulting Senior Consultant Age: 29

Alexandria Younossi, a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting, truly practices what she preaches. “My passion is really people,” says Younossi, who is with the firm’s Human Capital practice. As she advises life sciences companies how to build up their talent, she’s also looking to do the same at Deloitte. Last year, she launched a mentoring program that focused on women and other minorities at the consultancy. “I want Deloitte to be an inclusive place,” she says.

Her goal of a diverse community is one that started at home—Younossi is from a bicultural family. “I live diversity; I don’t think about it as anything more than a part of me.” However, she understands the issues around being a minority at the firm and has worked hard to ensure the playing field is as level as possible. Through group mentoring sessions, she says, others are able to address their concerns and challenges with people who are facing the same ones. “What keeps people at Deloitte,” she says, “is knowing that people support you, and that’s what makes the difference.”

Younossi’s goal at Deloitte is to make partner—and she’s well on her way. “I feel very lucky because I have formed the right relationships, and I have several mentors right now. I don’t think I would be where I am today [without those influences].”

Michael Miraflores, Manager, Ernst & Young MICHAEL MIRAFLORES Ernst & Young Manager Age: 28

Michael Miraflores, a manager of transaction integration at Ernst & Young’s Transaction Advisory Services division, sees his age as “a blessing disguised as a challenge,” he says. “Advising on transactions oftentimes places me across the table from C-suite executives with decades of experience. Recognizing this fact is what drives me to maintain a strong work ethic, go that extra mile, and earn the credibility that makes my clients and colleagues look past my age.”

And Miraflores certainly has gone that extra mile. Of particular note is an engagement he had with an auto manufacturer where the 28-year-old led the $7.4 billion operations and risk management carve-out teams of the manufacturer’s financial services arm. “Since it was a high-profile deal, it definitely was exciting to be in the middle of all the action. However, the most fulfilling part of the engagement was realizing that all the planning and hard work paid off.”

Miraflores, who lives in New York City and spends his off hours either taking in the culture of the city or brushing up on his tennis skills, says he sees himself staying with the firm, and advancing in the merger integration field. And clearly Miraflores has integrated himself into the firm where nominator and Ernst colleague Mohamed Rafiq Batcha says he has a “gift for establishing personal working relationships with clients.”

Ryan Kobb, Senior Consultant, IBM Global Business Services RYAN KOBB IBM Global Business Services Senior Consultant Age: 26
The most rewarding part of Ryan Kobb’s job, he says, is the knowledge that his work can make the United States a better place. While that seems like a lofty goal, Kobb, who is a senior consultant with IBM Global Business Services, is doing his part by working with more than 20 major federal agencies, effectively supporting their efforts to transform the human resources function in the federal government. He has participated in the development of several key technical documents including government-wide enterprise architecture and target requirements for human resources functions. “The public sector presents a lot of unique challenges, but I think you can make a real impact and you can affect the country in a very positive way,” Kobb says. “The work I do is trying to transform the HR functions of the government, so users will receive better customer service and save taxpayers money. And that, of course, means those financial resources can be allocated to other projects.” One specific example is the Office of Personnel Management where Kobb’s work is expected save the federal government more than $1 billion.

Internally, he has been recognized by IBM as one of the top performers in his peer group of more than 100 public sector consultants, and he received an IBM service excellence award in 2006. “IBM rewards hard work. The firm has always been great about recognizing people who have excelled,” Kobb says. “But I’ve had a lot of help along the way. I’ve been fortunate to have had some great mentoring at the firm, whether it’s been my managers, project leaders or even peers who have shown me what it means to be a good leader and a good consultant.”

And Kobb will have the chance to become an even better consultant. He says his plans, for the foreseeable future at least, are to continue his work in the public sector at IBM.

Rishabh Puniani, Manager, Healthia Consulting RISHABH PUNIANI Healthia Consulting Manager Age: 27

No one has ever questioned Rishabh Puniani’s drive to succeed. As the youngest manager ever at Healthia Consulting, a Minneapolis-based firm focused on the healthcare industry, he has earned a sort of superstar status in the field, and many clients ask for him by name. He spends most of his time helping clients analyze their work flows, specifically in the area of electronic medical records software, a system for which he holds nine certifications. “Basically, we’re throwing away the paper chart,” Puniani says. “If a doctor or nurse is checking vitals on a patient, we’re helping to streamline the process by having those vitals in an electronic system.”

Puniani began his college career as a pre-med student but reconsidered. “I’ve always wanted to help people and I guess this is sort of my indirect way of doing that,” he says. “I’m the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to make that difference. Case in point: Puniani once provided tech support while hooked up to an IV. “It’s not that big of a deal, really. But the story sort of keeps getting told,” he says. Puniani was at a hospital that just went live with a new system and was on his third straight overnight shift. “I got really sick and was hooked up to an IV, but I was still able to provide the support they needed.”

Now, he’ll try his hand as president of his own firm. Puniani left Healthia in December to start Zaraya Consulting in Chicago.

Avani Mehta, Manager, IT Advisory Practice, KPMG AVANI MEHTA KPMG Manager, IT Advisory Practice Age: 26
Ever since she joined KPMG at the ripe old age of 20, Avani Mehta has been making an impact both inside and outside the firm. Her client-facing work earned her glowing reviews so often that she was promoted to manager in just three years, becoming the youngest person—at age 23—to ever hold that title at KPMG. Now, at age 26, she is a manger in the IT advisory practice and is heavily focused on the professional development of others in the firm by providing IT training to new hires and junior staff. In 2006, she was voted KPMG’s Instructor of the Year. But she still spends about 40 percent of her time in a client-facing role, often conducting IT training sessions for C-level executives. “Consulting is a natural fit for me because I always knew that I didn’t want to be in a cubicle all day long,” Mehta says. “I need to be out and interacting with clients, teaching, learning and making a difference.”

Mehta also spearheads the efforts of KPMG’s Involve Group in Tampa, Fla., where she is based and does work with Toys for Tots and Ronald McDonald Tampa Bay Houses. “I can take what I’ve learned at KPMG and apply it to help these organizations in terms of business plans, recruiting, fund-raising or whatever the case may be,” she says. “I love the client-facing side of consulting, but I don’t ever really see myself giving up the non-profit work.”

Abe Tarapani, Engagement Manager, Katzenbach Partners ABE TARAPANI Katzenbach Partners Engagement Manager Age: 25

At just 25 years of age, Abe Tarapani has compiled quite an impressive resume after graduating from Yale and joining Katzenbach Partners in 2004. For starters, he’s the youngest engagement manager ever at the 190-person firm. In 2006, he won the firm’s first-ever Values Award for creating a “unique and formative experience” for employees. He plays a major role in the firm’s recruiting and training efforts. He’s led a massive restructuring effort for a client, essentially splitting a $2 billion family-run business into completely separate entities. And at an investment-banking client, Tarapani helped transition in a new CFO for about six months. That client experience probably helped land him his latest challenge—interim CFO for Katzenbach. Tarapani is currently serving as the Head of Strategy and Finance (CFO) for the firm while the current CFO is on maternity leave. And all of this is before his 26th birthday. “The leadership at Katzenbach knew I had a real interest in a financial role with the firm so when the opportunity presented itself, they approached me about it,” he says. “I transitioned out of a traditional consulting role and into this role in September, and I’ll probably be doing this for about a year.” The new role involves “everything from working with our partners on strategic planning to setting our operational goals and budgeting for the year to acting as a guide in our client development process. This role kind of wears a number of hats because we’re still a fairly small firm,” Tarapani says.

>So, where is all of this leading? “There’s still a place for me at Katzenbach, but honestly, I grew up in a family business that my folks still run in the Virgin Islands, and at some point I see myself getting involved and helping them to be even more successful than they’ve been already,” he says. “The business is in retail jewelry, and they’re growing and have more than 100 locations now in the Caribbean and the Western Hemisphere, but I think they’ve reached a certain scale, and that happens in many family businesses. I think some of my personal experience would be very helpful to continuing to grow that business.”

Kimberly Cray, Manager, Kurt Salmon Associates KIMBERLY CRAY Kurt Salmon Associates Manager Age: 27
Kimberly Cray joined Kurt Salmon Associates in 2002 right out of Northwestern University where she was a computer science major. After just three years at KSA, she was promoted to manager, two years ahead of the firm’s usual career progression. Now, at age 27, she is a leader in the firm’s growth and profitability practice where she has designed and implemented strategic improvements in processes, organizations and technologies focused on the retail, apparel and footwear supply chain.

For the past year, she has been working with a vice president in charge of a massive cycle-time reduction for a multi-billion-dollar retailer. Together, they are leading a team that is improving speed to market by 50 percent. “Coming out of school, I knew I didn’t want to be on the technology side, and I really wasn’t interested in programming for a career,” Cray says. “So, I started thinking about different options, and consulting really appealed to me. Originally, I was working in KSA’s technology practice, but I love the retail side of the business.” What she loves most about the merchandising practice, she says, is the consumer perspective. “At the end of the day, all the product that gets delivered to the store is going to end up in front of a consumer,” Cray says. “What message does the brand deliver?” One of the great things about KSA, she says, is the time devoted to implementing change at a client. “It’s not just about us saying what we think a client should do, but rather, here’s how we’re going to help you do it.”

So, what’s next for Cray? “I plan to stay with the firm,” she says. “From day one, I’ve had meaningful client interactions and a lot of responsibility. I think that’s part of the reason my career has moved forward. And, I’m really excited about what we’re working on right now,” she added, specifically in the area of environmental sustainability. She is heading up KSA’s effort to develop a Green Index, a metric to identify the most environmentally responsible companies. KSA plans to roll out the Green Index this year.

Rachel R. Michael, Vice President of Consulting, Marsh USA RACHEL R. MICHAEL Marsh USA Vice President of Consulting Age: 29
Few consultants hold a master’s degree in industrial ergonomics. Fewer hold gold medals in a competition requiring  a combination of skiing and target shooting. Both would describe Rachel R. Michael, vice president of consulting at Marsh. Ergonomics is basically a productivity tool used to boost efficiencies in human performance. When companies get it right, they will see increased productivity and quality of work, Michael says. “Basically, we’re called in to create job designs that improve employee performance,” she says. “Clients engage us to do traditional engineering and safety, but we bring additional value in providing sustainable results to client-valued metrics.”

An example, she says, would be a hospital wanting its nurses to have more time with patients. “I can take an approach that looks at how the nurse travels through the day, what products are touched and overall process flow.” In other industries, she says, “I pinpoint mismatches between system elements and potential human performance.”

And earning a gold medal from the Utah winter games, Michael knows a thing or two about human performance. “People find it ironic that I’m a consultant, and I ski around a mountain with a loaded rifle,” she says. “But I must have speed, accuracy and skill to excel, and that’s exactly what I do for clients.”

Sara Manning, Case Team Leader, The Monitor Group SARA MANNING The Monitor Group Case Team Leader Age: 26

Sara Manning is a people person. Specifically, how people fit into organizational structure. She spends the majority of her client-facing time tacking the challenge of how employees are utilized within the framework of a company. “A lot of business comes down to understanding people and how they fit into an organization,” she says. “I consider myself lucky that I get to address these people issues every day. That’s what I’m most passionate about.”

She’s so committed to organizational design that she’s in the process of applying to business school full-time to get her MBA in organizational behavior. “After business school I’d like to come back to consulting full-time at Monitor,” she says. “But I’d like to focus on executive development through the lens of experiential learning. One of the things that I enjoy about this job is the chance to work closely with clients and coach them on how they can be effective in their roles.”

Manning’s work has been recognized both by clients and her supervisors at Monitor. For four consecutive years, Manning has earned the highest possible ranking at her year-end review in both the areas of performance, work she’s done with clients and trajectory, her future potential. “I’ve always though of it as building a brand for yourself,” Manning says. “And I’ve always tried to make sure that the brand I’m building is a positive one.”

Lee Alvarez, Senior Consultant, Nexera LEE ALVAREZ Nexera Senior Consultant Age: 25
“I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare,” says Lee Alvarez, a senior consultant at Nexera, a New York-based consultancy specializing in healthcare supply chain management. In his three years, he has certainly demonstrated that passion. Starting as an intern, “I really grew with right along with the firm.” Alvarez now is helping to grow medical facilities and reduce their costs. “In many cases we’re able to lower cost and increase patient care,” says Alvarez, and that ability is demonstrated by a recent project where his team reduced costs by $200,000 and made patient-focused recommendations in the facility’s operating room suite.

Alvarez recently was promoted to senior consultant at the firm, and according to his nominator, Diane Mongiello, vice president, administrative services, “Lee has demonstrated flexibility, honesty and an intense drive for success and is a shining example to the junior staff of all that is possible.” When he’s not making the world a healthier place, Alvarez, who recently completed his master’s in health services management and finance from New York University, spends time on the golf course or at his Hudson County, N.J., home. Alvarez says he sees himself continuing on his current path. “I’m just passionate about healthcare, and I’m passionate about consulting,” he says. “I go home every day, and feel like I’m seeing the fruits of my labor on a daily basis.”

Jason Quarry, Partner, Oliver Wyman JASON QUARRY Oliver Wyman Partner Age: 29
Oliver Wyman prides itself on being a firm that develops its employees quickly by giving them as much responsibility as they can handle early in their careers. So it’s no surprise then that Jason Quarry, at age 29, has already made partner. In fact, Quarry became a partner when he was just 26 years old. “I think Oliver Wyman allows consultants to take on more responsibility earlier than other firms,” he says. “As a result, there have been lots of opportunities here for everyone.” And Quarry certainly has made the most of them. Based in London, he is part of the Corporate & Institutional Banking division within Oliver Wyman’s financial services practice. In that role, he works with several top-tier investment banks. “When I graduated I was interested in both banking and consulting; Oliver Wyman was a good balance of the two due to its financial services focus,” Quarry says. The culture of Oliver Wyman also appealed to Quarry: a flat hierarchy, early responsibility, a commitment to valuing the quality of output over the number of hours input.

For now, Quarry says he is most focused on helping his clients navigate “through the current market turbulence.” And what are his long-term plans? “It must be a part of my being British,” he says, “but I honestly don’t have any.” Of course, his clients and his co-workers probably don’t really believe that. Do you?

Michael Hatfield, Manager, North Highland MICHAEL HATFIELD North Highland Manager Age: 28

Michael Hatfield is invested in human capital—both professionally and personally. The North Highland manager is the human capital lead in the firm’s Houston office and is thrilled to be in a position where he might be advising his next-door neighbor. “It’s that ability to get in and work with those people side by side whom I live with and I live around—I think that’s what makes North Highland great,” Hatfield says.

Hatfield himself is also part of what makes North Highland great, says nominator and North Highland principal Mike Rosenbaum. “It is very rare that we introduce any consultant under 30 years of age, much less someone to lead a service offering in one of the nation’s fastest growing markets,” Rosenbaum says.

Hatfield, who came to North Highland from Accenture, advises financial services firms, and as the market continues to stumble, he’s working on demonstrating the analytics that support investing in employees despite the convention wisdom to conduct layoffs or cut back on personnel. “It’s a way to measure; it’s a way to actually increase your bottom line, which is something I don’t think twenty or thirty years ago people were saying. Of course, thirty years ago I wasn’t alive!”

When Hatfield isn’t championing the need for employee development, he ‘s championing the needs of children. As the current patient chair of the World Craniofacial Foundation, Hatfield speaks to groups about the rights of children with facial deformities to get surgery. “It’s a personal mission of mine. I was born with an extreme situation in terms of the structure of my own face,” he says. Hatfield explains that he had the necessary work done, and now is working to make sure others have the same chance. “There are a lot of kids out there who need that opportunity as well.”

Chris Houchin, Manager, PricewaterhouseCoopersCHRIS HOUCHIN PricewaterhouseCoopers Manager Age: 28

If Chris Houchin’s at your company, it’s likely morale’s on its way up. The PricewaterhouseCoopers manager was part of a team that saved between 500 and 1,000 jobs at the National Institutes for Health and also worked on a project to improve officers clubs for the Marine Corps—with the primary goal of making military officials happy. “A lot of the things we’re doing are rewarding,” says Houchin, who has been at the firm for more than two years. Currently, he’s working with the Department of Defense. “That’s one of the accounts that we’re really starting to get traction in,” says the University of Kentucky graduate. He attributes his educational background in engineering to some of the success he’s seen in the field and hopes to make partner at PwC in the future.

Houchin’s not only making positive changes for essential personnel, he ‘s also making changes for those studying English as a second language. The Washington, D.C., resident says he been staying in contact ESL program participants. “It was actually a really cool experience,” he says.

The week he was interviewed, Houchin says he was in full self-examination mode, as he was participating in a management training course at the firm. The personality assessment he took was “right on,” he says. “It showed I like to juggle a lot of balls.”

Charlie Dean, Principal Consultant, PA Consulting Group CHARLIE DEAN PA Consulting Group Principal Consultant Age: 29
“Charlie Dean’s approach to clients has frequently been called the epitome of PA,” says Dale Robinson, the colleague who nominated Dean. Those clients have primarily been in the medical device and pharmaceutical sector, Dean says, adding his job is simply to do what his clients want to do—whether it’s changing the design process, buying new equipment or writing new software—but don’t have the resources to do. “So they use us an as external engineering resource,” he says.

Dean was originally based in the U.K. when he started with the firm in 2002, but came to the U.S. in 2004 when PA wanted to grow its stateside operations. “[I thought] I would love to live somewhere else, and America had a big draw so I was like, ‘Yup! I’m going.’” He immediately went to work at a medical device company in Puerto Rico, where he developed a project structure system. “That was really interesting because as an engineer I’d always been involved in actually developing and designing products myself… but never really that actively involved in actually setting up the governance for how to run a project like that.”

Dean, who lives in New York, doesn’t have any plans to return to the U.K., but he’s considering helping PA expand its next frontier: the West Coast. “I very much love what I do. At the moment, I’m at the perfect place where I can do everything I want.”

Adam Jones, Senior Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers ADAM JONES PricewaterhouseCoopers Senior Associate Age: 26
Adam Jones wanted a job in sports—but one where he could use his advisory skills. Thankfully, it wasn’t that tall of an order, since PricewaterhouseCooper’s Hospitality and Leisure practice is based in Florida, where Jones attended school. “I obviously hoped there was something out there where you could take sports and take the aptitude of business and turn it into a career. I always thought that it would have had to have been working with a team or a league or an organization. Finding out there is this niche on the consulting side has been a great fit for me,” says Jones, who interned at PwC while at the University of Florida. He has been full time with the firm for nearly four years.

Now Jones helps other enjoy sports as well as he plays a role in the development of new stadiums. “My work,” Jones says, “is primarily related to our sports practice and working on both the professional and collegiate levels, and helping investment groups evaluate and understand the economics of professional sports teams in new or existing markets.” Jones is currently working on a project in Las Vegas, the city, he says, is considering adding sports to its play-friendly atmosphere. “It’s such a dynamic market. There are so many unique circumstances that are evaluated there.”

When Jones isn’t imparting the value of a local sports team, he’s giving guest lectures at the University of Tampa and speaking at industry conferences. Since the practice he’s in is so targeted to his interest, he says he thinks he’ll stay at the firm. “I really value our practice here. I think long-term my goal would be to be considered one of the widely respected thought leaders within the sports industry, whether that’s with an executive of a team or an organization. I would love to continue to grow our practice here at PwC and truly feel there is a value that we bring within the industry and [would] love to continue to strengthen our position of serving as the industry’s consultant.”

Natalie Foster, Consultant, Public Consulting Group NATALIE FOSTER Public Consulting Group Consultant Age: 28
For  Natalie Foster, it’s all about impact. In 2002, when she joined Public Consulting Group—a 500-person firm that assists public sector clients with business strategy, operations improvement and IT solutions—she says was excited by the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm and intrigued by the impact she could make in the public sector.

Now, nearly six years later, that impact can be measured across 1,000 public school districts representing 600,000 students and more than $20 million in annual revenue for her division in the Public Consulting Group, the Education Services Practice Area. Foster spends much of her time “servicing public school districts in the areas of design and implementation of Web-based, special education applications and Medicaid reimbursement,” she says. “I have grown the most professionally through my work with tough, but fair, clients. They have made me a better consultant, and for that I am grateful. And I take pleasure in the knowledge that in some small way we are helping school districts work more efficiently and spend more time with students rather than working on paperwork.”

In addition to her external client work, Foster also lends a hand internally, managing a staff of more than 30 IT professionals at the firm. And as far as that “entrepreneurial spirit” of the Public Consulting Group, Foster says the firm practices “intellectual democracy,” meaning “the leadership encourages and makes themselves available to all levels of staff to discuss new ideas or approaches to projects.”

In the short term, Foster says she plans to continue on her current path to be promoted to senior consultant at the Public Consulting Group. Eventually, she says, she would like to be a manager at the firm.

Katherine Lewis, Associate, Sapient KATHERINE LEWIS Sapient Associate Age: 23
Katherine Lewis may be the youngest of this year’s 30 Under 30, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t earned her spot on the list—and her firm apparently agrees. Lewis, a member of the Duke University Class of 2006, recently was honored as the co-recipient of Sapient’s Rookie of the Year Award, a way for the firm to recognize its new employees who are top performers.

Lewis’ work with a healthcare nonprofit put her on the map. And not only has she found success at Sapient, but role models as well. “In my time here,” she says, “the most rewarding part of it has actually been able to build the relationships that I have with the people who are here and just to see how they believe in what they’re doing.”

As she advances in the project management space, she’s busy finding spare moments to study for her MBA. But that’s where her age has been an asset. “Fortunately being 23, there aren’t a lot of other responsibilities that I have, so I’m able to balance it,” she says, adding that soccer is another off-hours passions.

Lewis appreciates the recognition from both her firm and from Consulting, but she says she’s just doing her job. “In my mind, I’m just doing exactly what my team expects of me and just trying to do what’s best for my client, which to me just seems like everybody should be doing.”

Eitan Naftali, Senior Consultant, Unisys Corporation EITAN NAFTALI Unisys Corporation Senior Consultant Age: 25
Eitan Naftali knew he wanted to be on the fast track after he joined Unisys in 2005. “I tried to stay abreast with news and look for articles about our company and tried to keep in touch as much as I could with our partners,” he says. “I would seek out opportunities to expand my exposure not only with our client but with Unisys.”

When Naftali wasn’t brown bagging his lunch with the firm’s partners, he was winning over clients. His acumen in business strategy and operations management have resulted in the firm winning three of four proposals that he worked on. His work in the public sector led to improved billing accuracy, and as a zone manager he is now responsible for maintaining more than 5,000 billing records. Naftali also is responsible for internal and external training programs and as such is able to help public sector employees better understand new Unisys software.

In his off hours, he’s training for Ironman competitions. “The hardest [part] is doing it all at once,” he says of the ever-elusive work-life balance. Regardless of the challenges, Naftali says he sees himself staying in the industry, adding he’s thankful to his role models. “I’ve had great mentors and managers, both clients and at Unisys who really helped me along, who saw that I was interested and then provided me the opportunity to go ahead and get familiar with other parts of consulting.”