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Transformation in Action

Emma Falck on Her Multinational Experience and Serendipitous Return to BCG

December 14, 2017

The alumni team sat down with Emma Falck (partner and managing director, Stockholm) to talk about her career path at and beyond BCG, her return, and what has made the biggest impression on her the second time around.

Why did you leave BCG, and what were you doing until your return?

For me, it was about curiosity and wanting to gain a nuanced understanding of how large companies operate. I had a wonderful opportunity with KONE, one of the most iconic companies in my part of the world and the multinational landscape at large. I spent the past five years there, where first I was head of corporate strategy, in charge of building the strategy team and working on different aspects of design, orchestration, and implementation. I then served as director and later vice president of KONE’s new equipment business in Greater China, overseeing and enabling performance, as well as managing product strategy, marketing, and market intelligence.

What motivated you to return through "Talent Back at BCG"?

I was in a situation where I was very much enjoying working for KONE and living in Asia, but thinking of the long run, I needed to get my family back together in one place. While considering options to return to Europe, I looked broadly at many career alternatives, from different roles in big corporations to private equity to consulting. During that process, I talked to my former career development advisor, who is now leading BCG in the Nordics, and we discussed the return opportunity. From him, I got the sense that BCG had changed considerably, and it sounded incredibly exciting.

I see something quite entrepreneurial about working at a senior level at BCG. Partners, leveraging the best possible team and brand, can really chart their own course, and that possibility has high appeal. In addition, BCG has been developing rapidly, probably much more rapidly than many big companies, presenting a learning opportunity I couldn’t walk away from. I wasn’t supposed to seriously consider consulting again—returning was serendipitous in a way.

Is there anything you missed about the firm during your time away?

I’ve realized that the daily working experience can be boiled down to two key criteria, the company culture and the people around you. I missed the people at BCG. When I talk to BCGers in different roles, I usually leave the discussion smiling and thinking, “What an inspiring and dedicated person I just talked to.”

How did you perceive the process of being rehired, and what type of support did you receive?

During the recruitment process, it was about access and time. I talked to a lot of people in the Nordic and regional systems, as well as the Industrial Goods practice area people. They generously gave their time and frank opinions. I appreciated their honesty and support in my decision-making and never at any point felt any sort of pressure. Equally important is the support I’m receiving now. In one word—a word we use a lot at BCG—it’s apprenticeship. I’m receiving tremendous support from all directions: from my sponsor, my officer development advisor, OA and colleagues in Stockholm, colleagues in my practice area, and, of course, my executive assistant. All this really gives me the feeling that they all want us to succeed together.

How do you feel your time away from the firm adds value to your BCG experience now?

I think it’s important that we have people who move between BCG and the outside world. First, I understood that companies really do need and benefit from our help—something I was less sure about before I saw what was going on in reality. In addition, it was helpful to learn how to really get things done in large corporations. It is very much about involving and getting buy-in from the right people, paying a lot of attention to simple and effective communication, and being very pragmatic about what can be done and how.

One benefit was unexpected and very valuable: the opportunity to understand China better and learn to really enjoy working in the Chinese culture. I speak some Mandarin now and will continue working on it. It’s really opened up a whole new world and culture for me. I strongly believe that understanding China is a must in the coming decades.

Is BCG any different from when you left?

BCG has changed tremendously in five years—I’m not sure I would have come back if that were not the case. I have three observations in particular:

  • Specialization: We’re a lot more specialized and better at what we do. On one side, we have people who understand our clients very well, where their needs and priorities lie. Then there are others who understand a particular topic very well, such as implementing Industry 4.0 or creating new digital ventures. When you combine these dimensions, you get very good results.
  • Implementation: We’re focusing on working with clients on bigger pieces and in more hands-on ways. Rather than doing, say, a five-week strategy piece on supply chain strategy ending in a deck, we work hands-on with clients to understand their most urgent supply chain issues, involve our advanced analytics colleagues at BCG Gamma to help optimize their logistics networks and inventories, and then help clients really get the improvements done. It’s really about implementing together and driving impact.
  • Digitization: BCG has become very digital. I could hardly believe my ears when I met Lars Faeste in Denmark during recruiting and listened to him talk about what BCG is doing in digital. I knew how important work on digitizing the core was, but I hadn’t realized that BCG had the capability to do digital ventures or that we now have an army of data scientists. All of that developed extremely quickly.

How does it feel to be back?

First of all, I do think that with BCG I’m at the cutting edge of digitization and operational improvements. Even my husband keeps saying to me, “BCG is such a cool company nowadays.” Second, in the Nordics, we have good momentum with our business development and project execution. We are really supporting and pushing each other and having fun. Third, I feel surrounded by a lot of warmth and enthusiasm, and it’s particularly present when many BCGers come together and share stories. It’s very special.

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