Tell us a bit about your company. What does Catalant do?
Catalant, then called HourlyNerd, started as a class project at Harvard Business School back in 2011. We came up with the idea of pairing small business needs with current MBA students to help deliver those needs, and eventually, we worked our way up to making contracts with large enterprises.Today, enabling enterprise access to on-demand talent remains a core principle of Catalant’s mission. We work with customers like GE and Pfizer to help them re-imagine the way work gets done, through strategic sourcing of high-end, project-based business talent via the Catalant platform (whether it is externally sourced through our expert marketplace or internally sourced through on-boarding a company’s alumni or full-time employees). Now, when an enterprise has a demand for talent, instead of making a full-time hire or bringing on a consulting firm, they can go on Catalant’s application to find exactly the right resource.
So, what makes Catalant different from other management consulting agencies?
Well, looking back at the beginning, our first-ever client was a burrito shop in Cambridge, MA. While it wasn’t a huge contract, it sprung from our desire to facilitate pairing gigs with the right freelancer. While we have since moved on from the Mom-and-Pop burrito shop, Catalant is one of the first management consulting agencies that hooks up experts with projects through a self-serve, on-demand talent access platform. Everyone can see reviews on projects and experts, and freelancers can choose projects that fit their background and interests.
What are your thoughts about women struggling to break into tech and consulting spaces?
I think that a lot of companies in the tech and consulting worlds are still operating like an Old Boys’ Club. From the start, we knew that we wanted to avoid that like the plague. The whole idea with Catalant was to create a system that could go beyond just recommending the best guy for the job, and recommend the best person, period. That way companies won’t be limited to the kind of outdated cronyism that prevent qualified women from getting into this space.
What kind of role does diversity play at Catalant?
You know, I think Catalant actually owes its continued success to its commitment to diversity! We designed our talent access platform from the ground-up to be purposefully blind to things like race and gender. Even if someone doesn’t think they’re judging a book by its cover, people can still end up turning down great talent due to subconscious prejudice. Catalant takes bias out of the equation entirely, and lets hirers make decisions based purely on ability. I think that’s one of things we’re most proud of here at Catalant. Expertise and experience become the first and most important metrics by which our corporate clients hire our experts.
I understand you just wrote a book (Reimagining Work: Strategies for Disrupting Talent, Leading Change, and Win with a Flexible Workforce) about this shift towards hiring on-demand talent. Tell us about that!
Well, my co-founder and I wanted to write a book about all of the lessons we’ve picked up in the five years of running our company. We took a look back at our experience in high-level management consulting and talent matchmaking, and put it all down in the book! The way we see it, the workforce is already heading toward the “gig economy”, and we wanted to explain how this change can actually work in the favor of smart and adaptable businesses. We’ve seen enterprises adapt through technology, specifically talent-access platforms, as the primary tool for staying ahead by hiring flexible talent. This book is truly Catalant’s brainchild, and we have distilled all of our mistakes and lessons in redefining how work is done into this book.
So, what then drives your commitment to equality and progress for women and all citizens?
I firmly believe that the future of work is tied to the forward progress of the gig economy and the individuals who seek more autonomy, choice, and flexibility in their work. We’ve seen that there’s far more expertise outside of the traditional corporate hiring model than there is within it, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that experts have access to the opportunities that they deserve. I want to see corporate America become more embracing of the flexible and autonomous freelancer because that’s the only way forward. Progress is about creating conditions that allow workers to decide what kind of projects they pursue.
What emerging trends in the management consulting space do you see that women entering into should pay attention to?
The most important thing to be aware of is that there is a slow movement towards the gig economy in large corporate orgs. Younger, more nimble companies may have an easier time hiring freelancers for their projects, but most of the time, the biggest Fortune 500 companies will be slower-moving and may rely on intermediaries to find the right people. That means: finding the right project for you is becoming increasingly easy, thanks to talent access platforms. That’s your best tool in growing the flexibility of your work and brand as a consultant. Flexible hiring tech is how orgs are tackling the talent shortage gap, and it’s also your best friend in finding the work you want to do.