Riverflex is about people who want to do things differently. With the “Riverflexer in the spotlight”, we want to celebrate people who are part of our network who have been exceptional, leading and delivering outstanding projects and who have been leading admirable careers as independents. One of these people is Maria Kinkina, an independent strategy consultant with experience working for top-tier management consultancies. Maria consistently exceeds expectations and her strategy consulting skillset, combined with strong project and stakeholder management skills makes her a great Riverflexer.
We spent some time interviewing Maria and finding out a bit more about her experience as an independent consultant as well as her experience working with Riverflex so far.
Can you tell us a bit more about your professional and personal background? Why did you decide to become independent?
Going independent has been a completely life-changing experience for me.
My name is Maria, I’m a strategy consultant, and I worked at Bain London for several years. Before that, I had a strategy and assessment role with a nonprofit in Bulgaria. I went independent because I wanted to have more freedom to choose the types of projects that I work on and to have some time off for my other interests and passions between projects.
One of the big reasons that I went independent is that I am a kitesurfer. During my time at Bain, I became more passionate about it and now I am currently competing at a professional level. For example, this summer I competed in Mauritius and became third in the single elimination and fourth overall. I have just come back to Europe to start the project that I’m currently working on right now.
Why did you join Riverflex?
I became independent at the start of this year and I was looking for opportunities. I actually heard about Riverflex through a friend of mine, also at Bain, who was working on a project with Riverflex. I joined Riverflex because I really enjoyed the fact that I could work in a team. I also really wanted to become more focused on digital and I think it’s a good move for me professionally.
Highlights from my experience with Riverflex include working in a team and meeting more like-minded people. It was great to be part of a community of people who have interests similar to mine.
Another highlight from my experience is that Riverflex really has my back. I told them what I was looking for in terms of a project, for example, the project I am working on now where I’m leading a team. This is something I was looking for and they helped me find the right opportunity. And I also know that if I ever struggle with work, I can count on the guys that Riverflex. So that’s great! Whether it’s running for tight deadlines or having client situations. I know I’m not alone.
Currently, you are leading a big IT strategy & transformation project for Riverflex at a global retail company. What has your experience been like so far and your greatest learnings?
“I’m working on a digital transformation and IT strategy for a European retailer…A great thing about this project is that I’m able to lead a team, I really enjoyed figuring out how to lead a team of independents.”
I’m working on a digital transformation and IT strategy for a European retailer. It’s really exciting because the retailer never actually did IT across Europe in a coherent way. So we’re helping all the brands come together and figure out how they can work more effectively together, and how they can win in the changing world where technology is redefining everything. A great thing about this project is that I’m able to lead a team, I really enjoyed figuring out how to lead a team of independents. It’s slightly different because everybody’s coming from a different background. So there is a moment in the beginning where we’re learning to work with each other. That has been really fun! We’re in a good place where everybody’s bringing in their individual style and experience and we’re learning from each other.
Another highlight is working with really strong clients. I’m working with all the CIOs across Europe, and it’s been a great experience to help them think through their priorities and to help develop their strategy together with them.
What advice would you give to other strategy consultants who are thinking about becoming independent?
Firstly, my advice to people about going independent is that you need to be really clear about why you’re doing it. It will really help you find the right opportunities and connect to the right people. Secondly, my advice is to do it! It’s amazing! It’s definitely scary at the beginning, but what I didn’t realise is that going independent gives you complete freedom to actually do exactly what you want– both in terms of the types of projects that you are joining and also how you run them. Another bit of advice that I have is to connect with other people. Riverflex is really good for this because they offer a community. The more people that you meet, who are going through the same things, the easier it will be to make the transition.
Going independent has been a completely life-changing experience for me. I was able to combine work with my passions, working part-time while kitesurfing. I have much more time to think about what I want to do in the future. The most amazing thing for me has been that I didn’t actually have to compromise on the quality of work that I’m doing. I’m still challenged in a very nice way during my projects and am doing meaningful work. I don’t feel that I had to give up on this to combine it with other passions in my life.
What kind of work are you excited to do in the future? How do you see your career as independent going forward?
My plans for the future involve continuing to consult as a freelancer. I want to develop my personal brand and continue to work with Riverflex if possible, with teams, because I really enjoy that. And during the time between projects, I’ll continue kite surfing, training and competing professionally.
I have plans to start my own company. I’m still figuring it out– something with product and sports. I also really want to get involved again with the nonprofit sector, either with animal welfare, or something in climate change.