Kate Jennings began her journey at Stax while she was an undergrad at the University of Illinois. With an interest in private equity and how investors strategize, she joined Stax Chicago as an associate. Three years later and now a Consultant, Jennings shares her experience and learnings, as well as reveals what she’s reading, watching, and the music mix on her phone.
You joined Stax Inc. as an Associate after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What opportunities were you looking for?
I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2018 with a degree in Materials Engineering and a minor in the Hoeft Technology & Management program. While at the University of Illinois, I took BADM 359, a class designed to introduce students to the field of consulting. Stax actually sponsors the course, and so that's how I first learned about the firm.
What interested me the most about Stax was getting a chance to learn how investors think. From creating models and sizing markets to running primary research workstreams and evaluating how well a company is positioned to capitalize on potential growth opportunities, the work Stax did stood out to me as a great way to gain exposure into how PE funds think about investments. It also afforded me the opportunity to learn how companies and their investors think about positioning themselves for exit at the end of the investor's holding period.
Describe your career progression at Stax, your current role, and what you have learned over the last three years?
I joined Stax as an Associate in 2018. Since then, I have been promoted to Senior Associate, followed by a promotion to Consultant. As a Consultant, I focus on managing the workstreams that form the basis of our research and synthesizing the findings into a narrative for the client.
Over the past three years, I have worked on more than 30 projects across a wide range of industries. One of my key learnings from these projects is how to ask questions in order to better understand what drives a given market. Our projects are typically four weeks long, so getting up to speed quickly on a particular market is a crucial step in the process. Having a solid foundation on the key market dynamics enables us to deliver actionable recommendations to our clients regarding their potential investments.
How has Stax helped with your career development and progression?
The pace of the projects at Stax allows for a lot of opportunities to work on your development goals. When I began at Stax, I was focused on understanding the tactical side of our work, such as how to write an interview guide and how to conduct a web survey. Over the years, I have become more focused on analyzing the implications of our findings for our clients. Throughout all of this, Stax’s leadership has provided a solid support network that assists in developing the necessary skills to excel on project work and opportunities for advancement.
In addition to an entrepreneurial culture at Stax, there’s a high level of trust placed on all team members. That, in turn, creates a lot of space for team members to use their creativity to solve challenging problems. The result is a unique opportunity to expand your skillsets within an inclusive and supportive environment.
Outside of project work, Stax is also very supportive of team members' interests. For example, I am very passionate about Dress for Success, a non-profit focused on helping underserved women excel in their careers. Stax has become involved with this organization and hosted events in which our entire Chicago office participates in holding informational sessions, panels, and mock interviews to help prepare Dress for Success's clients with their job searches. It's great to see my colleagues supporting a cause that's so close to my heart!
As University of Illinois alums, you and Brett Conradt, Managing Director at Stax Chicago, have co-taught the BADM 359 Business Problem Formulation and Solutions course there. Now as a Consultant, looking back at that experience and your three years at Stax, why would you advise undergraduates at the university to join Stax?
I believe Stax gives undergraduates unparalleled exposure to a wide variety of industries, project types, clients, and internal leadership. After three years here, I still feel like I learn something new on each project and have really enjoyed working with such a collaborative and driven team.
What are you currently binge-watching or reading?
I'm currently reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler and watching Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story on Netflix.
What music is on your phone?
A mix of music from the 1960s to the present, with an emphasis on Taylor Swift and Led Zeppelin.
What food can't you resist?
Anything with chocolate!