The 2015 Women Leaders in Consulting: Maria Whitman


Maria Whitman

Managing Principal
ZS Associates
Future leader Award

Maria Whitman is the Managing Principal of ZS Associates’ Philadelphia office and she leads the firm’s Oncology and Specialty Therapeutics practice.

When Whitman started her MBA at Wharton, she was certain she wanted to transition out of professional services to industry. She enjoyed an internship at a large pharmaceutical company, but says there was something missing.

“Several colleagues at Wharton suggested I consider consulting. Knowing me well, they emphasized the fast pace, continuous learning, and the variety of problems—structured and unstructured—to solve,” Whitman says. “I adapted my search and interviewed with several companies, and knew somehow from the first interaction with ZS I belonged there, so I joined in 2005.”

ZS was growing in the strategic and marketing spaces she enjoyed the most, and she felt instantly the academic roots and entrepreneurial spirit. “I will admit I entered consulting thinking I would re-evaluate in a few years and look to start something myself, but I was hooked,” she says. “This is exactly where I was meant to be.”

She has advised established and emerging companies on strategic marketing and sales issues, including launch excellence, brand and portfolio strategy, customer experience, customer journey and insight, scenario planning, effectiveness and medical affairs strategy.

“I love my job. Every day brings a new challenge, and this career has given me the chance to reinvent myself and grow in more ways than I would have thought,” Whitman says. “Throughout my career, I have truly enjoyed working closely with my clients and seeing solutions we develop together make an impact.”

But the thing that makes her smile the most at the end of the day is working with her teams around the world. “Their energy, intellect, and commitment challenges and inspires me. Seeing them succeed is my biggest reward,” Whitman says. “And I know I could not be where I am without them.”

Building and shaping ZS’s work in Oncology and Specialty Therapeutics with her core team has, by far, been the most rewarding experience and accomplishment of her career, she says. “I feel our efforts in Oncology in a deeper way than the business growth,” Whitman says. “I look forward to continuing the journey with an amazingly passionate and dedicated team in an area we love.”

As far as the award, Whitman says it’s a testament to the tradition of quality, excellence, and impact the firm demonstrates and she continuously strives for personally,” she says. “Winning this award is a call to action to continue to bring the same excellence to the work I do, the clients I serve, and the amazing team I am fortunate enough to work with every day.”


What advice would you give to a female consultant just beginning her career?

Maria Whitman says: “Your career can be whatever you want it to be. You need to work hard, and be voraciously curious. And while it is your personal journey, you must have the confidence to ask questions when you need to. Invest in building a personal network and team that complements what you bring, because none of us have all the skills and answers on our own. At the end of the day, remember to be who you are—your authentic self. Because your mark will not just be the work you do, but the way you do it and the relationships you build.”

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