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Elizabeth Lascaze

Using many small moments to make a big impact

As Elizabeth told her fellow newly minted MBAs at USC’s Marshall School of Business commencement, “personal moments of incremental improvement” can help turn individuals into leaders.

A health scare propelled senior consultant Elizabeth Lascaze to pursue her MBA and change careers.

Just 10 weeks into her new position as a senior consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital Organizational Transformation & Talent (OTT) practice, Lascaze urged her fellow Marshall grads to apply the now-familiar business concepts of “margin” and “scale” to their own lives. By building on the outer limits—the margin—of those who had gone before, and leveraging scale in the form of the 300,000+ global network of USC Trojans, they, too, could make an impact on the world.

“The theme of my speech mirrors the way we approach addressing issues for our clients—by breaking them down into smaller components. If someone puts an elephant in the room and tells you to eat it, you’re going to take it one bite at a time. I realized that our days are full of small moments to make a big impact."

A zero moment

As she looks back on the events that led her to pursue her MBA, change careers, and join Deloitte, Lascaze points to a personal wake-up call — her zero moment. She experienced a serious health crisis only a few months after she and her husband had uprooted themselves from their Boston home to relocate to LA for her husband’s new job. After what she calls “crazy surgery” at USC Medical Center and a close encounter with her mortality, she felt compelled to pursue her long-time bucket list goal of going to grad school.

“I know we don’t all have experiences like that,” she says, “but I think each of us has a moment that pushes us toward feeling like ‘Life is short, but my story isn’t finished yet.’”

Lascaze attended Marshall in the evening while continuing to work full time as a supervisor at a global marketing firm, advising Fortune 500 clients on their national consumer media strategies and execution. Early into her studies, she knew she wanted to switch careers, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

She started interviewing executives she thought she might want to work for one day, asking them where they saw room for improvement in new graduates. Many of them pointed to gaps in leadership ability and in understanding the people impact on an organization.

“As one executive told me,” Lascaze says, “you can teach anybody the technical stuff, but if you don’t know how to galvanize people around a mission, then all you have is a good strategy. That resonated with me and made me want to work in human capital, particularly in helping organizations fulfill their purpose and actually do what they were designed to do.”

After meeting with a Deloitte OTT recruiter on campus, Lascaze was hired as a graduate-level intern and assigned to work on a change management engagement for a large biopharma company. She joined Deloitte full time in February 2015, and is now working on her second post-hire assignment, an M&A project led by Kevin Knowles, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, who leads the firm’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) practice for Human Capital.

Knowles was eager to work with Lascaze after being impressed with her skills during an internal presentation about the project her team was working on at the time.

“Elizabeth is clearly a natural leader and has fantastic presence, both in terms of technical, subject matter knowledge and as a team member,” says Knowles. “To have a new practitioner coming out of grad school already fully oriented around impact and expressing the voice of her generation in a powerful way is very appealing. Like many of our people, she embodies our TMT growth strategy, which is to focus on key issues for the industry, build our brand, and continually raise the level of our capabilities.”

Learning from a leader

Lascaze’s leadership training began early on. In her first job after college, she worked in the office of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, eventually becoming his assistant. She went on to manage a donor relations program during Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, interacting with some of the country’s leading executives and fueling her desire to one day attend business school.

“I saw that business people, whether at the state level or the campaign level, often approach problems very differently than career politicians. I realized that if I wanted to earn my seat at the table, I needed to learn how a decision maker thinks.”

She credits Romney for her solution-driven bias, recalling one morning in particular: “I walked into the Governor’s office saying, ‘Sir, there’s been a problem….’ Before I could even finish, he was asking if I had a solution for him. I was just a 20-something kid at the time, but he taught me early on that people are looking for solutions. They may not take your recommendation, but they want you to give them something to work with.”

Lascaze carries this lesson with her today as she works with clients on their pressing issues, applying many of the skills honed in her years in government and in consumer-facing marketing and public relations roles.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but my experiences were preparing me for what I’m doing now. Clients don’t pay us to talk about how difficult their problems are; they expect us to come up with tailored solutions that can make a positive impact.”

Being the one student chosen to speak to her classmates and the nearly 5,000 family members, friends, and faculty gathered at the May 2015 graduation ceremony was the latest “big impact” in a series of many incremental achievements for Elizabeth Lascaze.

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