From Berlin to London to Accra and back - A career journey in Consulting with Keshia

Keshia Fredua Mensah

Tell us about yourself

I’m Keshia and I’m a Berliner with both German and Ghanaian roots. I’m a consultant and facilitator at LEAD Mindsets & Capabilities where I co-create team and leadership solutions that enable and empower my clients to better tackle today’s complex challenges. Currently, I am working on designing and running leadership development programs for two different not-for-profit clients. On a more personal note, I’m a big fan of Afrobeat and love to go out – not an ideal passion to have in the times we’re finding ourselves in. I also really like Flamenco music which was inspired by living in Andalusia for a year when I was a teenager. I lived with a Spanish host family and my “abuelo” – a locally well-known musician who was happy that at least one of his grandchildren took an interest. So I started dance lessons which I picked up again about 2 years ago after a long break. I’ve also been told I’m a great German teacher, something I have been doing on and off throughout the years. Apart from that, I enjoy the usual: reading, deep talk and making lots of plans. I tend to be full of ideas and I suppose my biggest challenge is to focus on one and to follow through.

Tell us about the work of LEAD

At LEAD Mindsets & Capabilities, we help organizations get ready for the future through good leadership by focusing on driving change, mastering digital transformations, and upskilling teams and entire organizations. Our core frameworks and programs include but not limited to – leadership development programs, culture diagnoses, and agile transformation. These themes of focus are constantly intertwined as we apply a more holistic perspective to our work. As our name suggests, we find that change requires challenging and rethinking mindsets and capabilities. We are proud of our diverse mix of clients – ranging from the non-profit and public sector, over to social businesses and established family businesses as well as corporates. As a team, we describe ourselves as (and aspire to be) playful, sharp, and open-hearted. This is reflected in how we work together and also how we approach our clients.

Tell us about your journey into consulting?

My background is in political science and modern languages, and I always thought I’d end up working for an international organization like the UN or EU Commission. At least that was what my path had looked like for a while. After completing my BA in London, I moved back to Berlin to do a Masters degree in International Relations. Although I grew up in a fairly diverse neighborhood and also in Berlin’s Ghanaian community, I had felt the need to connect more with the BIPOC community at large – this time with a more political mission. During my Masters, I pursued a lot of work on postcolonial and decolonial studies and I also interned at the UN in New York. I suddenly felt that the organizations I had once aspired to work for were no longer a good fit. One might say I had a bit of an existential crisis. I decided to follow a serendipitous opportunity to work in a small consulting firm in Accra, Ghana which was founded by an old childhood friend from Berlin who had previously been a project manager at McKinsey and was equally discouraged. I was supposed to spend 4 months in Ghana and ended up staying for 2 years. I learned so much during those years building a company from scratch and working across West Africa. I developed a passion for topics that are typically associated with human resources which, if you know me, probably won’t surprise you. Since then, I have been looking for opportunities to merge my passion for organizational culture and change with my strong desire to create a positive impact that aligns with my personal politics.

I find myself extremely lucky to have found LEAD where I feel empowered to follow my passions while learning a whole lot about running change programs from extremely talented and equally passionate colleagues.

What made you choose LEAD specifically?

A friend of mine introduced me to LEAD about 5 years ago (must have been around the time I had my little crisis) and told me to apply. Back then, I didn’t really know what LEAD was all about and didn’t see an obvious overlap with my interests. So, I didn’t apply and forgot about them for a bit until I connected with someone on LinkedIn who shortly after started working with LEAD (he is now a colleague). That put it back on my map and I was able to follow their progress a little bit. What I found most intriguing about LEAD apart from the topics we cover, was how we combine being a for-profit consulting firm with clear and measurable social impact goals. I also appreciated that LEAD is a very self-critical organization that is serious about reflecting on past and current actions and always aims to do better.

Admittedly, when I first checked out the team, I was taken aback by the lack of diversity and I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable and fit in with my story and values. However, all my interactions with the team turned out to be a good experience, including the interview process which we all know can be extremely tiring and uncomfortable most times.

What is LEAD’s take and actions on Diversity and Inclusion?

Like I mentioned earlier, in terms of representation there is still work to be done. At the moment, we are actively hiring for a new project manager and would love to see diverse profiles. That is why we decided to collaborate with Talent Diverse. I’ve been following Kave Bulambo and her endeavors in highlighting BIPOC voices in the German business landscape. It made sense to reach out to Talent Diverse for expertise in this matter. We are still a very small team and I believe it is important to start thinking about this topic early on and not to wait until we’re 50 people or more. I think one aspect we are quite strong in already is how inclusive we are in our behavior and internal politics. This is reflected in our meeting culture as in the flexibility and openness with which we approach the situations and challenges of individuals. We also take our interest in D&I in choosing the clients we work with. For example one of our clients is a not-for-profit in the disability and inclusion space and through working with them we are also learning a lot about running inclusive workshops remotely that accommodate individuals with disabilities. We are eager to build on this knowledge and to bring that kind of experience into our client partners as much as into the LEAD family.

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining LEAD in expanding their career in consulting but have not done so in the field you are working in?

I’d say let’s talk! We are always curious to connect with professionals who are interested in the work we do and who might bring skills, passions, and networks in areas that would nicely complement our existing ones. If there is a good fit on both sides, we are not at all rigid in terms of the roles or positions we want to fill. That is to say that while we are looking for more experienced candidates at the moment, we also remain open to hiring someone at a different experience level. I also want to highlight that we are not at all set on hiring only professionals with a consulting background. Our managing director and partner, Maj Seider, for example, has an HR background. She never worked as a consultant before joining LEAD but brings many years of experience in driving people and culture change within organizations. Another colleague of mine has a background in psychology and data science. She used to work as a programmer and copywriter. But there are also colleagues who had a more “traditional” path and started their careers at companies such as McKinsey or Capgemini. Personally, I love this mix and consider this to be a very healthy and conducive way of learning with and from each other.

What are some of the learning/challenges you can share with other professionals looking to embark on a consulting career and in your field?

Oh, that’s a tough one as I consider myself rather at the beginning of my consulting career. I think an important realization was that there are many paths that lead into the field and that there is a lot of excellent stuff going on outside the big consulting houses. Sometimes this is easy to overlook when you find yourself in the large consulting firm's bubble. In fact, LEAD won the Best of Consulting Award by WirtschaftsWoche in the organizational development and change management category last year. This made us very proud because the award recognized the impactful and high-quality work we deliver in this growing field, being a very small company. I believe a well-known and anticipated challenge as a consultant is the issue of long working hours. I would be lying if I told you that I work a 9 to 5 kind of job, but balance is definitely something I and many of my colleagues aspire to have! We want to be role models in how we manage our workload and in how we set boundaries. Personally, I have had very intense project phases but this is not the norm and I don’t want it to be either.

Role-modelling in this respect is definitely an attribute we look for in whoever joins the team: Someone who can be instrumental in further enhancing our team well-being.
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