A Q&A with Deloitte Consulting LLP Principal Ken McLean
Whether he’s leading a team through a large-scale SAP implementation, spearheading efforts to offer tax equalization benefits for domestic partners, or riding 545 miles to raise awareness of AIDS, national leader for Deloitte’s GLOBE & Allies Business Resource Group (GLOBE), Ken McLean, Deloitte Consulting LLP (“Deloitte Consulting”), brings the same enthusiasm and passion to each role.
In celebration of Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, we sat down with Ken to learn more about his path to leadership as well as what GLOBE is doing to help support our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) professionals.
First, tell us a little bit about your career path and current roles.
I was working for a boutique consulting firm in Vancouver, Canada, when a friend of mine who worked at Deloitte—and was actually in the process of leaving—told me about an opportunity within Deloitte Consulting’s SAP practice. I knew little about Deloitte, but during the interview process, I was impressed by the caliber of people I met as well as the inclusive culture and opportunities for growth. So I joined Deloitte Consulting’s Seattle office in 1998, a senior consultant, not knowing a soul, but was quickly embraced and supported. And since I have dual citizenship in the US and Canada, I was able to continue living in Vancouver while working in Seattle.
Seven years later, I became a principal and moved to our Los Angeles office. Currently, I’m the lead principal for two large media and entertainment clients. I’m also the Technology SAP West region service line leader (RSLL), the national leader for our GLOBE & Allies Business Resource Group, and was recently appointed the Southern California managing director for Deloitte Consulting.
How has your leadership style developed over the years?
I’ve always been one who brings a lot of enthusiasm to teams and will put myself out there, leading by example. I believe it’s important to focus on the positive and keep things fun. And I won’t ask my staff to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.
I have a great passion for people and helping them succeed. In my new role as managing director, I not only focus on taking care of my staff, but also on taking care of my fellow partners, principals, and directors.
Were there any turning points that helped position you for more advanced roles?
When I was in the process of becoming a principal, I was asked to move to Los Angeles. Given my partner is Canadian, we had some work visa and immigration concerns. But I received some advice from a senior leader who said, “Put down, in writing, everything that you need to make this move successful and get some senior [leaders] behind you.”
So I put a list together with the things I needed, such as quality of life, finding a support network, client work, and most importantly, helping my partner get situated in the US.
Asking for help was completely new to me, and I had only come out to a small circle at Deloitte, but my request was soon shared with a group of senior leaders who said, “Let’s do everything we can to make Ken successful and address all the points on this list.” They put me in touch with Legal and Immigration and made sure I had everything I needed.
I’ve also had some great mentors and sponsors who helped in my career acceleration. For example, my very first project leader was Punit Renjen who is now Deloitte LLP Chairman of the Board. From day one, he’s always been supportive of me and advocated on my behalf.
What is Deloitte doing to attract and retain LGBT professionals?
Through Deloitte’s sponsorship of the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, we are building strong brand recognition for Deloitte. Our top tier sponsorship typically includes several prominent speaking roles as well as business workshops conducted by Deloitte professionals who do a great job showcasing the breadth and depth of their knowledge. The Summit not only provides us the opportunity to gain brand eminence and recruit top talent, but it also makes a positive impact on retention for our people who seek community and opportunities for learning.
Specific to recruiting, we sponsor two high-profile LGBT-specific recruiting events: the Reaching Out MBA Conference – which targets graduate business students from top-tier schools, and the Out for Undergraduate Business, which is the undergraduate equivalent. In addition, the work that GLOBE does with non-profit organizations and educational institutions have led to some of our highest numbers of recruitment for staff. For example, members from our Indianapolis GLOBE chapter co-moderated a panel with Out @ Kelley, an LGBT student group within the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, which was very effective in establishing Deloitte as an ‘employer of choice’.
There have been several other activities that have helped build our brand with recruits, one being that for the sixth consecutive year, Deloitte was named one of Human Rights Campaign's "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”
We’ve also recently been in the news for announcing our new tax equalization benefit for same- and opposite-sex domestic partners. GLOBE played a strong role in this by first raising the topic with leadership and making them aware of what our competitors were doing. We also conducted case studies on three companies who were currently offering this benefit to their employees to find out what the key drivers were in their decisions. In all three case studies, it was determined that it was less about the business case and more about being the right thing to do.
What else has GLOBE been involved in this year?
One effort I’m extremely proud of was the It Gets Better video that we recorded as part of the larger It Gets Better Project. The video includes several of our professionals sharing their personal stories and offering hope to LGBT and other bullied teens.
We also conducted an LGBT partner, principal and director (P/P/D) awareness training pilot to make them aware of what issues our LGBT professionals might be facing at work. There’s a strong chance each of our leaders will have someone on their team who is LGBT. So instead of assuming everyone is straight, it’s important to build a culture of inclusion that makes each member feel comfortable.
Another great milestone was through our participation in the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride, we raised over half a million dollars for AIDS research and awareness – making us one of the top five corporate contributors. We’re now in our fourth year of participating and have roughly 30 professionals from all across the US riding in this year’s event.
What's it like to be an openly gay principal with Deloitte Consulting?
It’s not that when you’ll meet me, I’ll first yell, “I’m gay, out, and proud.” But I’ve always been open with who I am. It plays well with my personality, to be the same person I am at home, and bring that to the workplace and to my client site. I believe in leading by example, and that means being open and willing to share.
My clients are very diverse and also have supportive, inclusive cultures similar to ours. LA is very diverse area, which makes it easier; although, I was out on one of my projects in Butte, Montana, and felt equally supported by my clients and team there. Being out, you may assume that a certain city wouldn’t be embracing, but if you’re true to yourself and open and caring, then people will be open with you and supportive.
What advice do you have for LGBT professionals to be successful in their careers?
Unless you’re true to who you are, you can’t be successful. It takes too much energy and you have to work too hard to hide who you are. Put that wasted energy into sharing more about yourself. You don’t have to make a bold announcement. There are smaller steps you can take, such as putting out a picture of your partner or kids.
Our culture is very embracing of diversity, so be confident in bringing your whole self to work. Take a little bit of risk. When you are authentic, that’s when you’re able to reach your highest potential.
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