Day In The Life of a Consultant with Annie

Q&A With Principal Consultant Annie Lyons

Annie talks about learning to appreciate ambiguity, failing fast, and finding quiet moments.

With a fiercely collaborative spirit, Annie inspires everyone around her to deliver exceptional results, catapulting clients and colleagues alike to success. Annie joined Propeller in 2018 in our Portland office and has been on a trajectory of growth within the firm, recently moving into a Principal Consultant role. This gives her the unique opportunity to support several clients including a leading health insurer and Fortune 500 retail organization, working as an engagement lead, project manager, and thought partner.

You were at your previous company for nearly 18 years, what made you want to move into consulting?


I was lucky enough to engage with incredible internal change leaders and external consultants through my career at SAIF corporation. Those engagements showed me not only the challenges of transformational work and consulting, but how a great consultant could leverage their own unique skillsets and backgrounds to help clients succeed. 

After nearly 18 years it was terrifying leaving, but I intentionally wanted to disrupt myself.

So, you knew you wanted to move into consulting, how did you find your way to Propeller?


One of my good friends came across Propeller at a change management conference. She knew I was interested in a career shift into consulting, and she said: “I met your people. You must apply.” At the time I was looking at the Big 4 firms, but when I went to the Propeller website and started experiencing the company ethos and their artistic, less templatized approach to solving problems, I knew it was the right place for me.

I thought I knew what collaboration meant, but at Propeller it is next level. I’ve never felt diminished in the collaboration process, only elevated and hungry for more thought partnership from my colleagues.
What do you like about working at Propeller?


The people. I thought I knew what collaboration meant, but at Propeller it is next level. I’ve never felt diminished in the collaboration process, only elevated and hungry for more thought partnership from my colleagues. That’s a result of the dynamic nature of our employee structure. You have an army of 100’s of consultants standing behind you, who want you to be successful.

I also love working in a place where I know I will be challenged not just in what I do but how I think. Consulting is inherently ambiguous and uncertain, and while that might strike fear in some organizations, Propeller doubles down on the power of ambiguity— helping all of us understand how to harness uncertainty to drive productive and often far more meaningful results for our clients.

A colleague of yours said, “Annie makes ambiguity look easy.” How did you get so comfortable with ambiguity?


When I was a couple weeks into my very first client project, I went out to coffee with a colleague. I was uncomfortable and explaining how I wasn’t sure what I should be doing and that I kept trying things, but nothing felt right. And he replies, “I know. It’s awesome, right!” He tells me this is the best phase of any project. You get to try things and prototype. Then once it gets figured out, it is just like managing any other project or program. 

He really shifted my whole mindset. Maybe I should be appreciating this. And I have found a profound appreciation for how productive uncertainty can be. It helps you live in a constant state of curiosity, and it keeps you sharp. The first 30 to 60 days on any project is a series of productive failures and a way to get immediate feedback.

I have found a profound appreciation for how productive uncertainty can be. It helps you live in a constant state of curiosity, and it keeps you sharp. 
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY WORKING AT PROPELLER LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?


My day often begins like any other job—taking phone calls and meetings. Consulting offers a different level of pace though as priorities constantly shift. You get a never-ending series of first days, navigating new experiences with limited understanding and often unclear expectations. First days are scary but also so fun, because it gives you the opportunity to be curious, ask discovery questions, and bring a fresh set of eyes to the table.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PROPELLER ETHOS?


“Do good work.” In one of the projects I am on right now we started this guiding principle of show me, don’t tell me. The problem statements for the client are big and complex and there was a lot of “where do we go next” from our entire team. It got to a point where we agreed that we needed to put our thoughts down on paper. Show the problem, don’t just talk about it. 

I took that to heart for myself personally. As an engagement lead my work often feels a bit fuzzy. But I still need to do good work and have tangible ways to show that, which is often just reflected in how I elevate the team around me. Good work never goes unrecognized by clients or your colleagues.

Good work never goes unrecognized by clients or your colleagues.
What advice would you give someone joining Propeller?


Think in terms of horizons. You don’t need to do it all, experience it all, or even understand it all in the first month or even the first year. Give yourself permission to layer in your experiences. The best learnings will simply come with time, with doing the work, and getting in those “reps” with clients.

It is equally important to remember that the totality of what Propeller can offer extends far beyond the client you are with now, it is the opportunity to engage with an incredible group of professionals who will teach you more than you ever realized.  


How do you like to spend your weekends?


I live in an old house that we’re renovating, so often I’ll be at home working on projects. Overall, my weekends are fairly quiet. I am a hyper introvert and since I am so on during the week, I like to find moments where I am able to collect my thoughts. I love getting out in nature and going for long walks with my dog and family or meeting up with friends for coffee. The Oregon coast is perfect, so I try to center any activities or meetups around the beach. 

To wrap things up, I have a few rapid-fire questions for you:

Salty or Sweet? Salty

Favorite food? Does coffee count?

Dream vacation spot? Maui

Morning person or night owl? Morning, 4am riser for 20 years.
(Probably why coffee is your favorite food!)

What’s the first career you dreamed of having as a kid? Air Force pilot

What celebrity would you want to have coffee with? Meryl Streep


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Annie Lyons feels most alive when helping organizations crystallize their value and rediscover their true purpose. Passionate about people over process, she’s adept at aligning opportunity with talent—empowering her team to leverage their unique strengths to navigate increasingly complex environments. Annie holds a bachelor's degree in applied science and economics from Western Oregon University.