Taking service to heart, growing in leadership

Jade Parsons’s story

Jade ParsonsA day of sketching monuments including the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
Right out of grad school in Indiana, I arrived exactly where I’d told family and friends I wanted to be — in the Hollywood of politics and policy. I was a Grant Thornton recruit, working and living in D.C. I came to influence, change and support evidence-based decision-making as a leader, which is something I’ll focus on throughout my career. It’s why I came to this firm rather than anywhere else and — because I’ve been provided with abundant opportunities — it’s why I’m still here.

The Public Sector practice, where I’m an associate, is behind me in my ambition. One opportunity I seized is co-leading Grant Thornton’s Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program after finding a mentor in the firm who went through the program. The program is offered by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help assist active-duty service members transitioning into the civilian workforce. At Grant Thornton, the program falls under the umbrella of our Veterans and Allies business resource group. Three times a year we host transitioning service members for 12 weeks. We recently began hosting opportunities for military spouses for six weeks, three times per year as well.

As our firm complies with COVID-19 social distancing precautions, we are adapting with agility, authenticity and kindness. I encourage myself and co-workers to check in on one another and on clients, being communicative, calm and honest. Early on, my team got together virtually for a collegial happy hour. Right now as in routine times, we offer our best when we think and act as a team. The program is very mission driven, as am I. As much as I enjoy my job, my favorite part is working with these service members. The supporters of the program are some of the best people at the firm. I’ve found a place that’s home, and I can advocate for this home through Hiring Our Heroes.

Making my impact at Grant Thornton I feel that if you’re working in the public sector, you should have a servant’s heart and a desire to work for the greater good.

Jade Parsons and SisterMy younger sister and I enjoyed unplugged time on our way to Hoover Dam.
Jade Parson in cooking classI love to cook! I recently took a Spanish cooking class and am now working (read: eating) my way through Southwest Asia.
My first project was strategic planning with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I had formal training in my master’s program in public affairs, so it was a good fit. I was then assigned a dual role — training at VA hospitals across the country and assisting with the change management always necessary with new technology. In these engagements, I gained facilitation and interpersonal skills that I’ve applied in projects that followed.

In my engagement at the House of Representatives, I facilitated process mapping sessions with a handful of offices and positions — from lawyers to carpenters — to understand and document how the interworking of congressional services is delivered. At times I was a young professional prompting high-level people — for example, the chief IT officer — to look at how the sausage is made and providing improvement opportunities for the near and long term. I was grateful for my VA-gained skills. In the course of my time there, I met many former military service members and saw Grant Thornton’s long-time presence at the House come alive.

After the House, I moved on to the Department of Defense and a Marine Corps pilot project. It was a new experience in several ways, including work on the Marine Corps’ based in Quantico, Va. I’m writing the plans for strategic communications and training to set the tone for organization-wide change. I’m doing a good deal more strategic thinking as I prepare the team to engage with stakeholders in new ways.

Jade Parsons group of fiveHiring Our Heroes graduation for U.S. Army Captain Cody Retherford (second from the left) in Washington, D.C.
Along with my client work, I’m devoted to the Hiring Our Heroes program. I provide direction and assistance to service members who are separating from the military and are interested in management consulting. I prepare these fellows’ program plan and what they’re going to be doing in their 12 weeks with the firm — how they’re going to develop, whom they’re going to meet and the project they’ll work on. They’ll meet with senior leaders and work on account teams, seeing what it’s like to be in the consulting world and explore job opportunities that align with the skills they acquired in the military. I’m someone to guide them through their experience here, bounce ideas around with, and help with networking and finding roles that suit them by the end of the fellowship. As you can imagine, even as I mentor fellows, I learn from them and am mentored by other leaders in the program. Another mutual benefit is that we’re sometimes able to offer employment. So several of my former fellows are now my colleagues.

Through all these experiences, I’m learning more about how to champion myself, to be captain of my career and a leader in service.