Swati, who was born and raised in India and studied for a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering in Delhi, before joining a Gurugram-based analytics and consulting firm for three years. Leaving to completed an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, she became a summer intern with a multinational consulting company and then, once her studies were over, a full-time member of staff. Her role entailed significant travel, which included working on a variety of projects for the company’s clients across India, Australia, and the U.S.
Almost six years ago, however, Swati joined DHL Consulting as a Senior Consultant. “My husband works in aviation and moved to a company in Frankfurt,” she says, “So when I joined DHLC, we moved to a small city near Bonn, which means we can both commute easily to our respective workplaces.” She was promoted to Project Manager after six months, and became Associate Partner in January 2021.
Swati admits that moving to Germany from India was a culture shock at first. “It was September and very gloomy, so I wasn’t mentally prepared for the weather!” she smiles. “Plus, I didn’t speak the language. As soon as I joined DHLC, however, things got easier – especially because the company language is English!
My German colleagues were also very open and welcoming: if someone doesn’t speak German, they’ll happily switch to English to accommodate them, for instance. Also, the office has a very international culture, and welcomes colleagues from around the world. That’s not just lip service by the DHLC leadership, but an ideal that’s genuinely embraced throughout the organization.”
How Does Flexible Work Help You Balance Work and Home?
“It’s one of the things I like most about DHL Consulting,” she says. “When I joined the organization, my eldest was around 18 months old. I spoke to one of the Partners and said: “Because of my family situation, I prefer to work 80% of the time. However, instead of working four days a week, I’d prefer to work five days with flexible hours so I can be back home in the evenings for my son.” She completely understood, talked to HR and they were supportive of my suggestion.
Of course, I’m not saying that I never look at my phone in the evening because that’s simply not how consulting works. But the organization accepts that people need flexibility, and trusts them to complete their work to the highest standards.”
Have You Noticed the Consulting Industry Become More Progressive During the Time That You Have Worked In It?
Maybe I’ve been lucky to work for organizations that have been ahead of their time, but I don’t perceive progressive changes in the industry as ‘new’. I see them as a continuation of a shift that was already happening. For as long as I’ve been at DHLC, there has been a strong focus on fostering and improving diversity. Among other things, the firm rigorously monitors the percentage of international employees and women in the firm.
DHL Consulting Has a Woman CEO. Does That Change the Culture of the Organization?
I think it certainly helps. But it shouldn’t just be about one person, and it’s really important that gender balance is reflected throughout the organization. If there was a male CEO and he was open and progressive with a gender balanced leadership team, then I think the effect would be similar.
As a Senior Member of the DHL Consulting Team, Do You See Yourself as a Female Role Model? And Are Female Role Models Important to You?
Hmmm. That’s interesting. I haven’t thought much about that, to be honest — but, I suppose, at my level, yes, I might be considered a role model. However, I tend not to think about things in terms of gender. Take Sabine Müller, our CEO. I don’t think of Sabine as a role model because she’s a woman. But I do think of her as a role model because she’s good at what she does and I can learn from her.
Flexible Work Aside, How Do You Relax?
I find gardening very relaxing — a way to promote mindfulness. I used to hear the word ‘mindful’ and think ‘What is that exactly’ but I found the answer with gardening – it allows me to switch off and focus on something in a way that promotes stillness, it’s like a moving meditation. Basically, I enjoy a vibrant garden — so if I plant something and it grows and comes back year after year, it’s a nice feeling. I’m experimenting with vegetables this year, and the results have been great. Also, the kids can be with me, playing, helping or just jumping around while I do the gardening.
You also like hiking…
I do like hiking, but with two kids in tow, we need to plan our hikes well! You know: someone is always hungry and needs a snack, or is thirsty and needs a drink. So we usually stick to short hikes – up to ten kilometers – and find them do-able and fun.
You Say You Have a Love/Hate Relationship With Cooking. What Do You Cook?
I don’t always like the daily stress of planning meals, but I do enjoy experimenting in the kitchen when I have the time. We mainly cook Indian cuisine, but our experiments extend to Asian, Mexican, and Italian dishes too. Anything vegetarian is fair game, as are desserts. Trying something new is fun and exciting, and I love that — particularly if it turns out well.
How about German Food?
Well, I have to admit that I find Indian cuisine much more flavorsome. After all, historically, that’s why Europeans sought trade routes to India in the first place! Also, we’re vegetarian, so schnitzel is simply out of the question…