Balika Sonthalia Director, A.T. Kearney
Balika Sonthalia came to the U.S. in 2008 to pursue her MBA with the goal of becoming a consultant because she felt, quite frankly, she’d be good at it. After a series of unsuccessful interviews during the recession years of 2009 and 2010, she started to think about alternative career options. At that time A.T. Kearney had launched ‘Student Lab’ —an experiential learning program at her alma-mater, and she decided to enroll into the program because it was a unique opportunity to get real-time consulting experience while still in school.
“Little did I know this would be my magical window of opportunity into one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world,” Sonthalia says. “I got the opportunity to know Joe Raudabaugh, the founder of A.T. Kearney Procurement & Analytic Solutions over a cup of coffee on campus—and the rest is history. So my entry into the consulting profession was meant to be by design but eventually it happened by accident.”
Today, Sonthalia is a Director in the Procurement & Analytic Solutions Practice at A.T. Kearney where she has advised Fortune 100 clients on cost reduction and performance transformations, leveraging advanced analytics. She has worked across industries and is the go-to leader for complex and large scale distribution network improvement projects.
She also delivered one of the most complex client projects of her career just three days before delivering her son, Arjun. “Some of my clients nick-named my son after the name of the project.” She is a recognized thought leader within A.T. Kearney for her contributions in advancing the Analytics practice within the firm.
“I love the opportunity to work on issues that are on the CEO’s agenda and make an impact to some of the most iconic brands in the world while helping develop younger consultants in my team,” she says. “I am continuously fascinated by the exposure young consultants get to some of the most critical business problems and executives at different organizations. This is a high-risk, high-reward profession and you can succeed only if you have good mentors and a great team. And I am extremely lucky to have best of both.”
Sonthalia says she truly believes a moment like this is a reflection of the great work that A.T. Kearney has delivered as a firm. “I am extremely proud to be part of such a great organization and thankful for the Consulting magazine to honor me and the team at A.T. Kearney with this fantastic recognition,” she says. “People are the real asset of any firm—great people generate great outcomes.”
What advice would she give to a female consultant just beginning her career? “This is your time—just find a passion, follow it honestly and relentlessly and victory shall be all yours!”
Consulting: What does winning the Women Leaders in Consulting award mean to you?
Sonthalia: “It is an opportunity to advance A.T. Kearney’s brand through my personal Legendary Growth Story (PAS’ motto). I feel an even heightened sense of responsibility to create opportunities for every young consultant (both male and female) in my team and to encourage them to aspire for such a recognition and beyond. It is a realization of the role many others have played in helping me advance to this point and I hope I continue to deliver on their expectations.”