What consulting taught me about fertility

What consulting taught me about fertility

Today, I thought I’d cover a bit of backstory on how consulting played a role in my approach to fertility. 

Many of you who have read my book know that I was a consultant for almost a decade before becoming a nutritionist. In the early years of my career, I was a generalist, meaning I worked across sectors. As I became more senior, I specialized in healthcare and worked predominantly with large pharmaceutical and medical device companies. 

I first became a consultant at 24 years old. I was eager, open-minded, ambitious and - extremely inexperienced. And yet, I sat in rooms with senior executives at large multinational companies - and I was expected to have a perspective. I was two years out of college. What could have possibly given me the “right” to have a perspective that would be valuable to someone who had 20 years of experience? Why would they care what I had to say? In one word - data. 

The consulting firm that I worked at had an incredibly structured approach to problem solving. We covered a wide variety of projects (from marketing to operations to finance) across a wide variety of industries (from healthcare to banking to transportation). Yet, all projects functioned in the essentially same way: 

1) define the problem (e.g., profits are dropping, salesforce isn’t performing, overhead is too high)

2) define the goal (e.g., increase profits by 10%, increase salesforce productivity by 15%, reduce overhead by 20%)

3) analyze the problem by gathering data (e.g., financials, employee interviews, market research)

4) determine the gap between current state (or problem state) and desired future state (or goal state)

5) develop a plan to move from current state to future state

In my first consulting role as an analyst, I was in charge of executing step 3 - gather and analyze the data. Because of this, I was the one on the team closest to the data we were collecting. I was the one performing the majority of the analyses. It didn't matter how old I was or how much experience I had - it only mattered how well I was able to analyze and eventually interpret the data. Of course, I had a whole team behind me to help me to contextualize and determine insights from that data; and determining insights is a skill that is honed over time. But data became my language to articulate what I was seeing - and sometimes a defense against dissenting opinions.

When clients were surprised by our conclusions, we would just point to the data. 

When clients disagreed with our analysis, we would just point to the data. 

When clients “felt” differently about what should be done, we would just point to the data. 

Data drove everything! 

As a business leader, you can’t know what is going on in your business unless you are regularly looking at data. You have to assess both inputs and outputs to understand the full feedback loop. Oftentimes, this wasn’t the case (e.g., because the team lacked the resources or skillsets, because it was hard to keep pace with the rate of change in the business). Even if clients were looking at the data, biases can prevent them from really seeing what’s going on. It can sometimes take an outside, objective party to reveal the true dynamics at play. 

I’ll also acknowledge that, in both business and in life, we can make decisions based on reasons other than data (e.g., the data isn’t mature enough yet, the data doesn’t show a complete picture, our experience overrides what we see in the data, our intuition guides us in a different direction). And I get that. However, if we don’t ever look at what the data might be telling us, we are often missing a big piece of the equation. 

That’s a long-winded way of sharing where my love of data came from. And why I feel so passionately about its use in fertility. We have received all sorts of messages about fertility and what might make it challenging - such as age or weight or certain health conditions. But those are all theoretical until we actually look at what’s going on in your body. Can age impact fertility? Sure. Is weight correlated with fertility? Yes. Can certain health conditions impair fertility? Indeed. But that’s not necessarily relevant for you. How your age or your weight or your health conditions are manifesting is an n of 1. Sure, there are absolutely things that are relevant to the vast majority of the population that we can estimate and extrapolate about. But rather than operating in theoreticals, I find it much more helpful to be data-driven in our approach and to see what’s actually going on in your unique body. 

Sometimes, it can be scary to look “under the hood”. Sometimes, you may be anxious about what you might find - as many of my corporate clients were at first. But once we bring the data into the light, we can work with it. If we don’t look, then we are still grasping around in the dark guessing at what might be going on. It’s always up to you to choose what resonates for you, but I’ve found that leveraging data is a significantly more efficient and effective strategy.

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