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“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.” I love that quote because it speaks to me about growth, taking risks, stretching yourself, challenging the status quo, and helping others grow.
These are my passions. This is what excites me and is why I come to work every morning asking the questions: What can we do to grow the business? What can we do differently to serve our clients? How can I support my team and grow the next generation of leaders?
Growth, personal and professional, is hard—it takes passion, honesty, perseverance, a willingness to try new things, and collective ingenuity—but it is worth it every time!
Dee Dee Helfenstein is a leader in the firm’s Strategic Innovation Group, leading the Solutions Studio Team responsible for the product portfolio, strategic alliances, identification of edge technologies, our innovation hubs and the Solutions Accelerator which provides rapid prototyping for integrated solutions to accelerate growth across the firm.
Dee Dee has over 20 years of commercial and government consulting experience across a number of industries, including financial services, healthcare, transportation, and government. She is an expert in business and organization strategy, transformation, business operations improvements, and program management and has supported clients, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Science Foundation, General Services Administration, and the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Navy, and Homeland Security.
Since joining our firm in 1998, she has been involved in numerous high-profile engagements, including the modernization of the IRS—one of the largest enterprise transformations of its kind at a federal agency. The effort included a comprehensive restructuring of the entire agency that impacted all employees and functional and operating units. In recognition of the client service she and her team provided to the IRS, she is a three-time recipient of the Booz Allen Excellence Award. In addition, she received the Vice President’s Hammer Award for Reinventing Government, the IRS Commissioner’s Award for the design of the Large and Mid-size Business Division, and the Small Business/Self Employed Commissioner’s Award for the standup of the SB/SE Division.
Dee Dee is currently on the board of the Management Consulting Institute; on the Corporate Advisory Committee for Capital Partners for Education, which provides mentoring support to low-income and at-risk students in Washington, D.C; and on the executive advisory committee for ACT-IAC, a not-for-profit that supports government and industry working together to create a more effective and innovative government.
Dee Dee graduated from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a B.S. in psychology.
Where do you see Booz Allen 20 or 25 years from now? As THE market leader for consulting solutions. We will be the firm our clients turn to when they need innovation, deep mission understanding, leading edge technologies and integrated solutions to solve their toughest problems
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that currently face your field? I think the consulting industry is going to go through a period of rapid change and evolution over the next decade. With the rapid pace of change of the digital world, machine intelligence, on demand economy, and our clients demanding full solutions versus capabilities I believe we will see exciting changes in our industry that will cause us all to grow, learn, develop new skills, and evolve. I think that is exciting!
What mentorship advice would you give to someone who’s taking on a new leadership role? I would give them my favorite quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said and forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have always loved this quote as it is about the heart and making people feel valued, motivated, and supported. My advice for new leaders is to always to remember to be present, listen, create leaders not followers, and most importantly—it’s not about you it’s about them.
Is there any advice that you would give to women in particular? For women, and especially moms, there are two pieces of advice I always give. The first is to learn to forgive yourself. I know we feel we need to be perfect at everything but that is impossible! You are going to miss a play, you are going to miss a meeting, you are going to have a messy house at times—forgive yourself and let go. The second is that every day you have to decide what are the glass balls in your life. We are all juggling balls every day—some are glass, some are plastic, some are rubber. Glass balls could be a client meeting, your child’s event at school, a sick parent, your own health, etc., but they cannot be dropped or they will shatter. Plastic balls if dropped might dent a bit but they can be picked up again, and rubber balls will just keep bouncing. We can often get distracted by the number of rubber balls we are juggling, but it is critical to focus on the glass balls. They are your top priority, they are the things in your life that you can’t let shatter. That advice has helped keep me balanced, centered, and true to the me I want to be and want others to see and experience.
If you could give the just-starting-out Dee Dee Helfenstein one piece of advice, what would it be? One piece of advice I would give her is to be more open. I have always kept my work life and my personal life very separate, and it was a learning experience for me to learn to share more and to be vulnerable at work. I thought not being 100 percent put together and sharing my personal struggles would make others view me as “less professional”. But you know what? It makes you more approachable, easier to relate to. People want to know that you’re struggling with work-life balance just like they are.
Do you think having children changed how you are as a boss? Absolutely. It’s forced me to prioritize (focus on the glass balls), to let go and delegate more, to open up and ask for help. All the attributes that make you a good leader also make you a good parent, as you are hopefully rasing a next-generation leader also. So being patient, being present, listening, creating a leader versus a follower, letting go—all important leadership and parenting lessons.
What are your top tips for motivating people on your team? First, you have to inspire them. They have to be able to see a future that is bright and that they want to be a part of. Second, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work side by side with them to accomplish your goals. They have to know that you have their back and that if they try new things you will support them even if they don’t work out. And lastly, you have to be willing to ask for feedback, listen, and change. That last one can be the hardest, but none of us are perfect and we all need to challenge ourselves to continually grow and change. If people see that you are willing to change, they will be too.