Wendy Woods is a senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group and an MBA graduate of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US. Working across Europe, Asia and Africa, Ms Woods spends much of her time leading BCG’s work in global public health and social impact.
Ms Woods grew up in Detroit, Michigan where she studied economics at undergraduate level. She has worked as a senior economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington DC and in her spare time she enjoys hiking, biking and skiing.
1. Why did you choose to do an MBA?
My public sector experiences provided me wonderful opportunities to work with diverse teams on important analytical problems. But the traditional constraints of working in governmental and multinational institutions led me to question whether I was always being as effective as I could be. I wanted to learn how things got done in the private sector. Business school felt like the right first step in gaining that experience.
2. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
Lead by example: less words, more deeds.
3. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
That unpredictability should not be feared. As much as we need to pursue our aspirations, life at times presents us with tremendous opportunities or hardships that we did not expect and cannot control. Have confidence in your own strengths to deal with the unexpected.
4. Who is your ideal professor?
Socrates, the classical Greek philosopher. There is a fantastic quote from him on a wall at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It says: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”. I always ended up learning the most when someone sparked my curiosity about something and left me to figure the rest out.
5. What advice would you give to women at business school?
Have confidence in yourself and your own capabilities. Don’t be afraid to make your mark and certainly don’t shy away from doing so. This isn’t about proving how capable you are, this is for the sake of achieving what you originally set out to do.
6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
Pretty much the same way I deal with any other environment. I try hard to bring a willingness to listen and a respect for everyone one else’s point of view, as well as a commitment to speaking my point of view and supporting what I believe. When you operate from a set of core values, it is effective in almost any environment.
7. What is the last book you read?
House on Fire by William Foege. It is an interesting read about the eradication of small pox. We’re currently working on the eradication of polio, which is challenging to say the least, so this was inspirational. It’s a great story of what can be achieved with innovation and persistence.
8. What is your favourite business book?
It’s not strictly a business book, but Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, is a fascinating and optimistic exploration of human behaviour and its evolution. At times, basic business analytics can under-weigh the human factor, but our behavioural traits influence everything we do in the workplace.
9. Where would be your favourite place to study?
In the field – outside and hands on, with the people and in the places I’m learning about. Sometimes it’s a clinic treating malaria patients in sub-Saharan Africa or a lab working on the development of a new TB vaccine.
10. What are your future plans?
To continue to grow BCG’s social impact work. There’s always more to contribute, there’s always more to be achieved.
Compiled by Charlotte Clarke