How my non-traditional career path landed me a Continental opportunity I never dreamed of
Kelle Allen never wanted a desk job. Yet, here she is with one at Continental. This is her story about taking a chance, being willing to learn, and reaping all the benefits that come with her role as a Senior Consultant for Continental’s Business Consulting group.
I knew that Continental made tires – that was it.
I was looking to move to Charlotte and, therefore, also needed to find a job here. This Senior Consultant position was the first one I applied to. I worked for a construction company years ago that did work for Continental’s plant in Sumter, S.C., so I figured there could be a bit of a connection.
Oddly enough, I don’t have a business background. I went to school for athletic training, but that didn’t really pan out after college. I never wanted a 9-to-5 job. My thought was always, what could I do that would keep me from sitting behind a desk? Yet, here I am.
What does a Senior Consultant do inside Continental?
Consulting is like having an extra resource added to your team – an extra set of eyes to come in, dig below the surface, figure out how to help solve problems and, ultimately, affect our bottom line and the way we do business. Sometimes people are too engrained in their everyday work to see the bigger picture, so we take a deeper dive because we bring an objective, unbiased perspective. There are three of us in the Fort Mill, S.C., office, and more than 90 worldwide.
I approach every project and every internal customer with the idea that I need to get to know them, their business, and their topic or challenge. I need to listen and understand them right from the start. A lot of times people view consultants as those who want to come in and tell you what to do without understanding what you do, as opposed to listening and understanding – and then helping you figure out what to do.
Why is it that you think Continental hired you, even though you didn’t have a traditional business background?
I’ve worked in leasing offices at apartment complexes, bartended and waited tables, and I was a physical education teacher for a year. I think my customer service background and ability to connect with people is what helps me in this consulting role. Yes, you need to be analytical and have business acumen, but you can learn just about anything. You can read a book, talk to someone, even shadow someone, but communication and the ability to connect with people are skills you can’t teach.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I get to do a lot of international work. When I joined Continental, my territory was supposed to be North and South America. But now, a lot of my projects are between the U.S., Mexico and Germany. Growing up where I did, most people don’t get to travel and work with the people I do on the level that I do it. That’s probably the highlight of what I do.
I go to Germany twice a year for a couple of weeks at a time. Mexico at least once a year. Most of my projects are multi-cultural, international projects. I recently returned from Frankfurt, where I was for three weeks. I really appreciate the ability to have that kind of exposure and opportunity to see everything. It’s truly a global role and it’s taken me places I never thought I’d go.
How has Continental’s culture helped you flourish – and what would be your advice to someone who is in the situation you were when you moved to Charlotte and looking for a job?
I love that the company is so huge and far-reaching, because you can move around and use your skillset and ambition to be successful. They’re good at supporting that. There’s an understanding that some people are in roles that they’re really good at, but might not be passionate about. So, they’re really good at helping you look at your passions, your career and what you want to do – and helping you get there.
And in terms of advice, based on what I know now, I’d say don’t think about it and just go for it. Really and truly, I think we talk ourselves out of things and compare ourselves too much. Until you take that step and try, you’re never going to move in the right direction.