Getting to know: Keri VanOverschelde
Keri VanOverschelde is a Senior Operations Management Consultant for Think Consulting. Her background is in higher education, where she managed large teams on complex projects, including major technology integrations and project solutions. Along the way, Keri completed two Masters Degrees (Organizational Psychology and Public Administration), and was awarded her PhD in Organizational Psychology in 2017.
Keri became part of the Think team in 2021. In this piece, Keri explains how she came to Think, and how finding a role that satisfies your personal drivers is the best way to career success.
Think: What is your title and your role at Think?
My title is Senior Operations Management Consultant. My clients know me as the person who is always asking questions. My role is to be a problem solver and educator. I work closely with my client teams and I really get to know them. My purpose, at the end of the consultancy period, is to leave the organization in a much stronger place, and the people I have worked with, operating at a higher level.
I additionally hold the title Manager of Service Delivery within Think. I manage a team of Project Managers and Business Analysts across a variety of projects. They have varying levels of experience and I’m responsible for their professional development and growth. I am coaching and mentoring the next generation of strategic leaders and consultants.
Think: You started out in the classroom. What led you to Think?
My parents are both educators, so it was a very natural step for me to follow that path. My first undergraduate degree was in Elementary Education and Teaching, and my first job was working with preschoolers.
I moved into administration within a couple of years and really found my niche on the organizational side. I made the switch into higher education through program planning and operations. It was called “operations” but it was all project management of various types. I was closely involved in policy and procedures, training standards and compliance, and maintaining relationships across academic units.
I discovered I have a real flair for managing complex information and technology, whether it’s introducing new systems, or upgrading and communicating the latest improvements. I rapidly gained more senior responsibilities where I was implementing systems that went much deeper into the organization, including international affiliation agreements and other procedures. I was the go-to person for system concerns, system changes, upgrades and rollouts. It was very satisfying to be delivering continuous improvement; not just to the organization but to the people as well, helping them become more efficient and effective.
Think: What do like about working for Think?
It’s important to me that what I do is aligned with my personal principles. At Think I have the space and opportunity to be an educator, a researcher and a problem solver. I am developing my team at Think, helping them grow. I help my clients solve complex problems as a project manager. Being challenged is really important to me. It’s very satisfying to get to know a client, to understand their issues, get them turned around and on the right path to success. By the time I exit, I have them operating beyond where they wanted to be when we started.
Think: Can you describe a highlight from the last 12 months?
What a coincidence – I’m working on this year’s accomplishments for my annual appraisal right now. A highlight is definitely my experience on the Sundance Film Festival. In rapid succession, Sundance introduced new platforms, new vendors, a new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a new event director. Any one of those would be a lot, but to do all of it in a short space of time was huge. Delivering this year’s Sundance so successfully was incredible. To see the new director grow into the role so strongly, was awesome. I’m additionally proud because Sundance is a national non-profit. I’ve been working with non-profits on and off, for the last 15 years. I’m privileged to be in a place in my career and personal life where I can give back. As a child of educators, I was raised within strong supportive networks and I understand the value that comes from creating that sense of solid community.
Think: Let’s pivot and talk about AI. With your educational and technology experience, where do you see the impacts?
AI is going to have a big impact, no doubt about it. I really believe that many entry level jobs are going to disappear into the AI maw. Data-entry jobs, very repetitive process-oriented jobs, even problem-solving tasks like debugging code – these are all going to get subsumed into AI. It’s dangerous to close your eyes and hope it won’t get you. People need to lean into the technology and see how they can fit into it and utilize it. You must give it a go otherwise you will get lost in the big shuffle that’s on the horizon.
It’s not all doom and gloom. AI has positive impacts too. It can accelerate research processes because it can review enormous amounts of information so fast. But it’s still a robot and a machine, and you have to review what comes out of it carefully. This where Project Managers and the strategic advice they provide cannot be replaced. There’s critical thinking and real-world understanding that’s required. The understanding of a client’s organizational culture, how fast the company can redirect, and how to help people through change – these are all elements that require human interaction and intelligence.
But hopefully we will – as a society – always help people fit into this. And I’m fully aware that trade schools and vocational programs are experiencing dire shortfalls in applications. There’s a desperate shortage of experienced and qualified electricians, plumbers, contractors and general trades people. If you are good with your hands and capable, higher education may not be the best path for you. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has to go through college to thrive. For example, my nephew is amazing, he’s clever and smart. He did an apprenticeship to learn how to drive trains and is now one of the lead trainers in his state – he couldn’t be happier.
Think: And lastly, what do you enjoy about working for Think?
I have wonderful clients, including two national non-profits and a client in broadcasting. I work with a great team inside Think, who involve me early on, even before any consultancy contract is signed. I spend time with potential clients in initial discovery, asking questions, getting to know their situation. I help make the plan that is proposed: what I’m seeing, some solution ideas and a plan to resolve their issues within months.
I get to pitch in on a wide range of clients and work with a wide range of fascinating people. Think is composed of a melting pot of professionals, someone always has some experience on the platform, or the background knowledge or the right experience to inform strategic thinking. Think’s reach is huge, and I’m enjoying being a part of the team that is growing our business further.
To find out how Keri could help with your projects, submit the form below.
There’s no commitment, just an open mind and an experienced problem solver who can help frame your challenges.