How Kimberly Fulton orchestrated her own six-month secondment to focus on her passion
Kimberly Fulton was navigating her career as a management consultant and looking to incorporate her passion for women’s advancement into her work. Inspired by an article about the director of Catalyst Canada in her alma mater’s alumni magazine, she pursued and secured herself a six-month secondment with the global not-for-profit focused on women’s advancement in the workplace. Now she’s applying her consulting skills to drive impact at Catalyst while also deepening her expertise and professional network in the diversity and inclusion space.
By Hailey Eisen
As a Manager with the global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, Kimberly Fulton loves working with global organizations on their strategic and operational transformation programs and talent strategies. But after three years in the industry, she was looking to further incorporate her passion for women’s advancement into her work.
“It was one of those serendipitous moments; I arrived home from the airport after spending the week with my clients and in the mail was my Smith alumni magazine,” recalls Kimberly, a graduate of the Smith MBA program at Queen’s University. “On the cover was Tanya van Biesen, the director of Catalyst Canada.”
A global non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women in business, Catalyst was founded in 1962. The organization drives change with pioneering research, practical tools and proven solutions to accelerate and advance women into leadership.
The magazine article sparked something in Kimberly. She’d long been passionate about diversity and inclusion and had been leading A.T. Kearney’s Women’s Network — first within the Toronto office, and then in the U.S. “This had always been something I wanted to pursue in more detail,” she says.
Kimberly leveraged her professional network to get an introduction with Tanya. “I wanted to see how I could work with and support Catalyst without leaving my job,” she recalls. She approached A.T. Kearney about flexible career programs and was able to arrange a six-month secondment with Catalyst.
“The firm was extremely supportive of this move, which they recognized as a career development opportunity for me, as well as a chance to gain knowledge and experience to bring back to the firm and help us accelerate our own D&I journey,” Kimberly says. “Diversity and inclusion are critical priorities for A.T. Kearney and they saw this as a great opportunity to put those values into practice.”
Now that she’s halfway through her secondment, Kimberly says she’s inspired by the work Catalyst is doing to build diverse and inclusive workplace cultures, and impressed by the opportunities this secondment has offered to further develop her skills, expertise and professional network.
“I had incredibly high expectations coming into this experience, but it has exceeded those expectations at every turn,” Kimberly says. “When I started, I knew I would get the chance to immerse myself in Catalyst’s research and learning programs, but I never expected to find myself sitting in a boardroom and sharing our work with the CEOs of many of Canada’s largest organizations.”
She encourages other women to chase opportunities that will help shape their careers into what they want them to be. “Sometimes I think the narrative we’re told as women is we don’t have the confidence or assertiveness to seek out new challenges, which can actually have a self-fulfilling effect,” she says. “The reality is any significant career move can be intimidating, but I don’t think this is unique to women …Regardless of your gender, the most rewarding and impactful career steps will almost always come from a place where you don’t feel super confident; where you’re forced to stretch and grow and develop.”
“Sometimes I think the narrative we’re told as women is we don’t have the confidence or assertiveness to seek out new challenges, which can actually have a self-fulfilling effect.”
This isn’t the first time Kimberly has taken a leap into the unknown. In 2014, six years after completing her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Psychology, Kimberly left her job and moved back to Kingston to do her MBA. She’d been working with a civil engineering firm in B.C., followed by a job at a construction management company in Calgary. While she enjoyed her career, she felt as though she could be doing more. She was looking for a way to unlock the next step in her career path. She decided an MBA was the right move.
“It required a significant investment in myself for what was, essentially, a big unknown,” Kimberly recalls. “But the program really pushed me outside my comfort zone and it was incredibly rewarding to see what I could achieve as a result.”
Kimberly faced the teamwork and academic challenges head-on, and was also elected into the role of Consulting Club President. “Taking on that leadership role proved to be an excellent opportunity and I gained exposure to many consulting firms, which I was interested in pursuing after graduation.”
She saw consulting almost as a ‘residency program’ following her MBA, giving her the chance to take the skills and knowledge she’d acquired in class and apply them in the business world. She was hired by A.T. Kearney through on-campus recruiting and moved to Toronto upon graduation to begin as an Associate.
“I quickly found I had an interest in talent, culture and change management, which brought together my background in Psychology and the skills I acquired during my MBA,” she says. Now, as a manager in A.T. Kearney’s Leadership, Change and Organization practice, Kimberly advises some of the world’s largest organizations on how to achieve their business strategies by activating the full potential of their talent.
In navigating her career, Kimberly often recalls the advice she was given by a partner at the firm, “Instead of trying to solve for my whole career at a single point in time, she advised me to focus on identifying the most interesting opportunities right now and then continually re-evaluate. Keep an eye on where you’re going in the long-term, but don’t step off your career path just because you haven’t decided if this is exactly where you want to be in 10 or 20 years.”
This advice has proven useful for Kimberly, who would have never guessed she’d be spending six months working in the not-for-profit space. When inspiration struck, Kimberly actively pursued it to create a valuable experience for herself. “I was pretty persistent with both Catalyst and A.T. Kearney to make this opportunity a reality because I saw a lot of potential value and was excited to follow my passion without stepping off my career path,” she says.
For now, she’s working to support Catalyst’s strategy and operations in Canada — and learning and growing every single day. As for what’s next, Kimberly is enjoying every moment of her experience with Catalyst while looking forward to returning to A.T. Kearney with a renewed energy and fresh perspectives to share with the firm and her clients.
As an important step in solving organizational diversity and inclusion challenges, and to develop more inclusive leaders, Smith School of Business and Catalyst Canada, have formed a strategic partnership. Learn more about the new partnership here.