It’s a long way from the Dutch countryside to the bustling streets of São Paulo. But for Silvia, bold moves and big changes are part of a life-changing journey that continues to take her career in exciting new directions.
Silvia, a BCG partner and managing director, has four words of advice for women who are on the fence about pursuing a career in consulting: Give it a try.
Silvia had her own doubts when a friend suggested she attend a BCG recruiting event while they were studying at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “I had an idea of who consultants were, and I wasn’t really sure I’d fit in,” she says. “But when I met several BCG partners and consultants, I was surprised by the diversity of their interests and backgrounds. That’s when I started to think seriously about a career in consulting.”
Accepting her own challenge to “give it a try,” Silvia joined BCG’s Amsterdam office in 2004 after earning her master’s degree in system engineering and policy analysis. Within a decade, Silvia advanced from associate to consultant—and then to project leader and finally principal at the firm. In January 2015, Silvia was elected partner, and she moved to Brazil with her husband and two sons to BCG's fast-growing São Paulo office.
Silvia describes working at BCG as “a continuous evolution”—a constant learning process of developing new skills that expand one's comfort zone, but always with a safety net of support from colleagues. “Working at BCG has helped me evolve not only as a professional but also as a person. My confidence and competence have grown hand in hand, helping me to achieve more in less time than I ever thought I could.”
“To truly live, you need to live without limits. A career at BCG can take you virtually anywhere you want to go.”
As the leader of our Women@BCG initiative in South America, Silvia is working to instill that same confidence in women from all backgrounds to stand up, stand out, and create an exciting career path of their own. “When I needed it, there were always people standing up for me and caring for me. It makes me feel good to provide that same support to help other women at BCG learn, grow, and thrive.”
Like most new associates, Silvia began her career at BCG working for a variety of clients and industries. This foundation gave her a broad perspective on different career opportunities at the firm. Within a year or two of joining, she worked on her first assignment in consumer goods, which she discovered was her true passion. Today, she is one of the leaders of BCG's Consumer practice in Brazil, and she focuses on innovation and transformation in grocery retail.
“I grew up in a family that believed that fresh food from the fields is good for you and that waste—of any kind—is something to be avoided,” Silvia explains. “Today, consumers are increasingly adopting the same attitude toward healthy eating, and it’s a real challenge for grocery stores to change cultures and business models to operate profitably and meet the needs of these consumers. When you consult in retail, you can see the tangible results right before your eyes in the store, which is why I think I enjoy my work so much.”
“BCG is the kind of place where women and men of diverse talents can thrive and create their own path to success—if they only give it a try.”
Among her career-shaping experiences at BCG are the nine months Silvia worked at a Swiss-based client as part of BCG’s Secondment program, which allows select employees to work at a client or social impact partner for up to one year. The time at the consumer goods manufacturer taught her many lessons, Silvia says, including helping her better understand client challenges and decision-making processes, as well as the importance of aligning a company’s people and resources to maximize the results of any initiative.
Today, Silvia is applying her decade of experience in Europe to new challenges in Brazil, including helping consumer brands and retailers respond to growing e-commerce demands, as well as developing strategies for efficiently capturing new market opportunities as consumers move from Brazil’s large coastal regions to smaller interior cities. That’s meant immersing herself in Brazilian consumer trends and culture, including how to read and speak Portuguese.
“There’s always something new to learn; something new to challenge yourself with,” she explains. “BCG is the kind of place where women and men of diverse talents can thrive and create their own path to success—if they only give it a try.”