Dr. Ashley Brown Talks About Her Work As A Leadership Consultant And Finding What Inspires You

Dr. Ashley Brown is a Principal at ghSMART. Drawn to helping leaders thrive, Ashley’s career has spanned the private, public, and social sectors. Prior to joining ghSMART, Ashley was an integrative consultant at McKinsey & Company before shifting into professional development with the firm. She also spent time in people operations at Google, academic administration at the University of Michigan, and was an analyst in the US Intelligence Community. Ashley graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Spelman College with a degree in Economics. She completed a joint PhD in Public Policy and Political Science at the University of Michigan. Ashley lives in Baltimore with her husband, two children, and their dog.

What kind of work do you do with your organization? What energizes you about your career?

I’m a leadership consultant at ghSMART. I work with CEOs, senior executives, and investors on leadership assessment, coaching and development, and organizational effectiveness. The most energizing part of my career is that I get to see the human side of inspiring, accomplished people who are driving change in the world. I hear the stories of what shaped them.

What did you study in graduate school? Can you say a little bit about your research?

I studied American Politics and Public Policy. My dissertation explored how local elected officials developed and leveraged their social capital with a focus on the impact of identity politics.

Why and when did you choose to pursue a non-faculty career?

When I was an analyst in the Intelligence Community, everyone on my team had a PhD in Political Science, Public Policy, or History. After I decided to resign from the IC, I briefly considered the faculty track. While I loved the academic rigor and relative intellectual autonomy of the professoriate, I never found my purpose or calling in academic research. I wanted clear expectations, and I wanted my impact on the world to be tangible. I also missed working in teams toward a common, defined goal. Candidly, the geographic flexibility and compensation in the corporate space were also appealing as I was making my final decisions.

In what ways did your doctoral training help you in your career?

My analysis and critical thinking skills were significantly sharpened during my doctoral training. My undergrad degree and the first few years of my PhD were heavily quantitative; however, much of my dissertation research was qualitative. Being able to distill transcripts into thematic, fact-based data for my clients increases my accuracy and credibility, as well as their confidence.

Do you have any advice for PhD students considering a career in your specific sector?

Use your time during your doctoral training to learn more about yourself — when are you most energized? What inspires you? What drains you? When are you at your best? As a consultant — and as a grad student, it’s easy to get lost in other people’s expectations of you. Being true to yourself will be the surest way to succeed in whatever sector you pursue.


APSA’s Career Paths series explores the wide range of career trajectories that political science PhDs can take and provides specific career advice for graduate students entering the job market, as well as other political scientists at all career levels who are looking for new career opportunities. Individuals interested in contributing to the series should email teaching@apsanet.org

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