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My Story – Margaret Downs

My Story

This is the story of how my career developed, what inspired me to help others, and how these experiences and insights benefit my clients today.

My Story

This is the story of how my career developed, what inspired me to help others, and how these experiences and insights benefit my clients today.

Roots

I was born and raised in a small town in northeastern Vermont surrounded by incredible natural beauty. I am grateful to have grown up in a caring, close-knit community of people who shared a love of the outdoors and respected independent thinking.

Vermont will always live in my heart, but I left that place long ago to pursue wider horizons and a lifelong journey of learning, adventure, and impact. I went to Harvard University for college and graduate school and later made a life-changing move to New York City. Succeeding in big schools and urban settings required a series of profound personal reinventions, so I know firsthand what transformation feels like and what it requires. In my coaching practice, I draw enormous inspiration from supporting individuals on their own path to learning new things, making change happen, and expanding their impact.

I was born and raised in a small town in northeastern Vermont surrounded by incredible natural beauty. I am grateful to have grown up in a caring, close-knit community of people who shared a love of the outdoors and respected independent thinking.

Vermont will always live in my heart, but I left that place long ago to pursue wider horizons and a lifelong journey of learning, adventure, and impact. I went to Harvard University for college and graduate school and later made a life-changing move to New York City. Succeeding in big schools and urban settings required a series of profound personal reinventions, so I know firsthand what transformation feels like and what it requires. In my coaching practice, I draw enormous inspiration from supporting individuals on their own path to learning new things, making change happen, and expanding their impact.

“I have to be learning new things to feel whole and energized. Sharing a learning experience with others is incredibly rewarding.”

“I have to be learning new things to feel whole and energized. Sharing a learning experience with others is incredibly rewarding.”

Being True to Myself

I started out in politics after college, moving to Washington, DC, to work in the office of Vermont’s congressman. I wanted to make a difference in the areas where he was especially committed: education and environmental conservation.  With only one year of work experience under my belt, I was tapped to become legislative director. Charged with supervising a staff of five, I was in no way prepared for this level of responsibility.

I’ll never forget what the congressman told me in the middle of a heated argument over policy. He said he promoted me because he knew I would always stand up and tell him the truth. This was such a profound moment in my career. I was only 23, but I was learning that speaking truth to power came naturally for me. And, that’s a good thing, as it is a requirement for ethical coaching and consulting.

Legislative work at the national level was exciting, but there was so much more I wanted to learn. I discovered that what I liked best about my job was the chance to lead a group. I always knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree, so I decided to go to business school, where I would be able to build my leadership skills.

Being True to Myself

I started out in politics after college, moving to Washington, DC, to work in the office of Vermont’s congressman. I wanted to make a difference in the areas where he was especially committed: education and environmental conservation.  With only one year of work experience under my belt, I was tapped to become legislative director. Charged with supervising a staff of five, I was in no way prepared for this level of responsibility.

I’ll never forget what the congressman told me in the middle of a heated argument over policy. He said he promoted me because he knew I would always stand up and tell him the truth. This was such a profound moment in my career. I was only 23, but I was learning that speaking truth to power came naturally for me. And, that’s a good thing, as it is a requirement for ethical coaching and consulting.

Legislative work at the national level was exciting, but there was so much more I wanted to learn. I discovered that what I liked best about my job was the chance to lead a group. I always knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree, so I decided to go to business school, where I would be able to build my leadership skills.

I believe that curiosity fuels a rich, good life, as well as a successful career.

Following My Dreams

At Harvard Business School, I was especially interested in the courses in business strategy and organizational behavior, and I loved collaborating with classmates on team projects and case analysis. These subjects and group experiences would become pillars of my future career.

After completing my MBA, I was fortunate to cut my teeth as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. It was the land of opportunity: I managed assignments for Fortune 500 clients all over the US and Canada, learned from a terrific mentor and many other brilliant minds across the firm, led talented and dedicated teams, and directed Bain’s new consultant training program. It was a thrilling experience, and I learned and grew so much. But, after nearly five years I realized it was time for change. I was approaching burnout due to the constant travel the job required. In addition, I felt drawn to New York City, but at that time Bain had no plans to open an office there. I also had a yearning to try my hand at entrepreneurship, and I was ready to take the leap.

So, I made the move to New York and took a leadership position with an environmental startup, which was a great fit with my commitment to environmental conservation. Unfortunately, like many startups, it didn’t work out quite as I had hoped.

But, I learned a great deal about the dynamics of smaller, young companies, insights that would benefit future clients.

Before long, I was recruited to serve as general manager of the strategy group of a fast-growing entrepreneurial consulting firm focused on the healthcare industry. During my three years at the firm, the group more than tripled in revenues. I learned what it takes to achieve rapid growth in a professional services firm. And, I felt fortunate to be part of a team that helped transform major healthcare delivery systems across America.

Following My Dreams

At Harvard Business School, I was especially interested in the courses in business strategy and organizational behavior, and I loved collaborating with classmates on team projects and case analysis. These subjects and group experiences would become pillars of my future career.

After completing my MBA, I was fortunate to cut my teeth as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company. It was the land of opportunity: I managed assignments for Fortune 500 clients all over the US and Canada, learned from a terrific mentor and many other brilliant minds across the firm, led talented and dedicated teams, and directed Bain’s new consultant training program. It was a thrilling experience, and I learned and grew so much. But, after nearly five years I realized it was time for change. I was approaching burnout due to the constant travel the job required. In addition, I felt drawn to New York City, but at that time Bain had no plans to open an office there. I also had a yearning to try my hand at entrepreneurship, and I was ready to take the leap.

So, I made the move to New York and took a leadership position with an environmental startup, which was a great fit with my commitment to environmental conservation. Unfortunately, like many startups, it didn’t work out quite as I had hoped.

But, I learned a great deal about the dynamics of smaller, young companies, insights that would benefit future clients.

Before long, I was recruited to serve as general manager of the strategy group of a fast-growing entrepreneurial consulting firm focused on the healthcare industry. During my three years at the firm, the group more than tripled in revenues. I learned what it takes to achieve rapid growth in a professional services firm. And, I felt fortunate to be part of a team that helped transform major healthcare delivery systems across America.

Deepening My Development

Strategic planning was fascinating on many levels, but even more compelling to me were the human challenges that clients faced in making new strategies work inside complex organizations.

To deepen my understanding, I pursued part-time graduate studies in organizational behavior while continuing to work in healthcare management consulting. I also engaged a coach to help me fine-tune my career direction. She helped me create a vision focused on my core strengths and what my career was building toward—helping leaders reach their strategic goals and tackle their organizational challenges.

When my employer sold the firm to a huge global services company, I took advantage of the opportunity to make another entrepreneurial leap and started my own consulting firm. I quickly landed a major anchor client that hired me to work on strategy and organizational design for more than two years. I also engaged an organizational development expert to coach me along the learning curve, and soon I had a full practice going. Reinvention: check!

Deepening My Development

Strategic planning was fascinating on many levels, but even more compelling to me were the human challenges that clients faced in making new strategies work inside complex organizations.

To deepen my understanding, I pursued part-time graduate studies in organizational behavior while continuing to work in healthcare management consulting. I also engaged a coach to help me fine-tune my career direction. She helped me create a vision focused on my core strengths and what my career was building toward—helping leaders reach their strategic goals and tackle their organizational challenges.

When my employer sold the firm to a huge global services company, I took advantage of the opportunity to make another entrepreneurial leap and started my own consulting firm. I quickly landed a major anchor client that hired me to work on strategy and organizational design for more than two years. I also engaged an organizational development expert to coach me along the learning curve, and soon I had a full practice going. Reinvention: check!

As one client told me, “Strategy I can figure out. What keeps me awake at night are the people decisions.”

Leveraging Curiosity & Client Focus

I am naturally curious and very devoted to my clients’ success. As a consultant, this combination motivated me to keep expanding my repertoire so I could better help clients deal with struggles and realize their aspirations. Some of my clients’ most difficult challenges involved organizational design and restructuring, leadership development, gender diversity, and merger integration.

Leveraging Curiosity & Client Focus

I am naturally curious and very devoted to my clients’ success. As a consultant, this combination motivated me to keep expanding my repertoire so I could better help clients deal with struggles and realize their aspirations. Some of my clients’ most difficult challenges involved organizational design and restructuring, leadership development, gender diversity, and merger integration.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve been able to serve clients with these challenges:

Helping the leadership of a digital services company update its organizational design to increase customer focus, enable international expansion, innovate and manage dynamic products, and manage increasing scale.

Facilitating complex transitions for two national professional services firms moving from a geographic organizational model to one based on practice groups to enable nationwide collaboration and the pursuit of large-scale projects.

Developing programs to improve gender diversity in the senior ranks of two national engineering firms with difficulty retaining talented women.

“I like the label ‘lifelong learner.’ It certainly fits me and has been so important in meeting my clients’ needs.”

“I like the label ‘lifelong learner.’ It certainly fits me and has been so important in meeting my clients’ needs.”

Helping Others Reach Their Goals

As a consultant, I have advised leaders in a wide range of organizations and worked with many committees, boards, and teams. The one-on-one work as a trusted advisor has always been the most satisfying part of any assignment. It also gave me crucial insights into the difficult challenges leaders face in today’s accelerated and evolving business environment. Becoming an executive coach was the natural next step for me, providing a powerful new way to help leaders navigate the contemporary workplace and achieve their greatest goals.

My experience as a consultant and former executive has given me a broad set of skills and perspectives to draw on. To deepen my understanding of coaching as a professional discipline, I completed New York University’s certification program, and I am actively involved in the International Coaching Federation’s professional development programs.

“As a coach, I do what I love best: collaborate with people around learning, growth, and change.”

Insight • Vision • Change

Ready to take your career to the next level and make some changes? If you would like to discuss how coaching with me can help, let’s connect.

Exploratory calls are always complimentary.

Exploratory calls are always complimentary.

Insight • Vision • Change

Ready to take your career to the next level and make some changes? If you would like to discuss how coaching with me can help, let’s connect.