Cincinnati-based consultant Lauren McDonald shares how SEI fosters a unique sense of community while helping businesses face the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Lauren McDonald, a principal consultant at SEI Cincinnati, knows what it takes to be part of a family. As a mother of two, she can testify that parenthood — like consulting — can prove both highly challenging and deeply fulfilling. But before kickstarting a consulting career at SEI, Lauren’s work life didn’t always follow this balance.
Lauren began her career in a technology leadership program at a multinational energy conglomerate, and spent nearly a decade working in various roles at the company. At various stages, she worked as a big data engineer and served as an infrastructure service leader. Unfortunately, she was often fatigued by corporate politics and found herself shoehorned into managerial roles — when she really wanted to be solving business problems on the ground.
A Leap of Faith
During Lauren’s final role at the company, as a senior web architect for the company’s aviation branch, a colleague of hers left his post to become an SEI consultant. Lauren was not interested in consulting, but SEI piqued her interest.
“After grilling him over multiple lunches, I decided to give consulting a shot with SEI,” she recalls. She took a leap of faith and accepted a job with SEI. “And I’ve never looked back!”
“My passion is engineering technology solutions to solve business problems,” she says. At SEI, Lauren can act on this passion and build best-fit solutions for clients alongside supportive colleagues — while still focusing on her family and other important aspects of her life.
What Sets SEI Apart
It’s been nearly six years since she joined SEI, and Lauren continues to value the strong bonds that SEI fosters between team members. She cites SEI’s employee ownership model as a key contributor to the sense of community and camaraderie shared by employees. “SEI’s employee ownership-based business model brings an entirely different mindset to employees and shapes the culture,” she says. “At SEI, we work together, we reap the rewards fairly, and we all have each other’s backs.”
Not only is SEI defined by the collaborative nature of its company culture, but also by the trusting relationships formed between consultants and clients. “When bringing in an SEI consultant, a client always knows they’re getting top talent,” Lauren explains. “We don’t have a ‘B team,’” she says, “because we only hire ‘A team’ players.” The standard of professional excellence upheld at SEI helps garner trust from clients — and foster long-term partnerships that add value to both businesses.
To Lauren, it’s no surprise that SEI has been ranked among Consulting Magazine’s “Best Firms to Work For” for ten years straight. She says, “SEI provides a challenging and rewarding work environment with great, fun colleagues who are easy to trust and admire.” Plus, SEI’s high-performing team delivers consistently strong results to clients across a range of industries.
Business Conflicts Require Conscious Solutions
For Lauren, SEI’s ethos and approach to business are just as inspiring as the company’s culture. SEI’s “conscious approach” to engineering business and technology solutions aligns well with Lauren’s original motivation for becoming a consultant. Like all SEI employees, Lauren knows that in order to most effectively meet clients’ needs, she must deeply understand their problems, the proposed solutions, and the potential impacts of implementation.
During her tenure at SEI, Lauren has been involved in a number of highly challenging projects. In one instance, she designed and engineered a business event streaming platform for a Cincinnati-based Fortune 20 retailer. A reliable, scalable platform designed to host business events, Lauren says that the solution was built with “schema-first design” in mind for reliable data quality. The project enticed developers with a strong DevX and was rolled out across most of the business’ major departments.
The solution saw so much success that Lauren and her team were invited to present their strategy at the data-focused 2019 Kafka Summit in San Francisco. Their presentation was rated fifth best talk of the conference.
Lauren points to SEI’s approach to client engagements as a major selling point for both clients and prospective talent. She explains that at SEI, “consultants are often involved in the inception, architecture, design, and implementation phases” of a project — meaning they influence decision-making from start to finish. In Lauren’s current project focused on real-time big data streaming analytics, SEI has earned the client’s trust enough to design and build a critical core communication platform to support the corporation’s biggest challenges.
Inspiration for the Future
Throughout her time at SEI, Lauren has observed her teammates genuinely enjoying their work and bonding with their coworkers. She’s had a similar experience, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of those who have been SEI-ers for over 20 years. “It’s inspirational for me to imagine ending my career as relaxed, happy, and fulfilled as my SEI teammates are,” she says.
The most important lesson Lauren has learned while at SEI is to take time to “truly unplug and focus on what matters most.” SEI has a reputation for honoring work-life balance and providing support to employees in all aspects of their lives. Lauren’s colleagues understand and appreciate how important family is to her.
“My fondest memory of SEI is when the women at SEI Cincinnati threw a baby shower for me before I had my first child. It was so thoughtful,” Lauren remembers. For Lauren, what truly distinguishes SEI from other consulting firms is the sense of dedication, support and friendship fostered between team members.