Jay Milliken, Senior Partner - Global Lead of Growth Strategy, Prophet

Over his 20+ year career at Prophet, Jay Milliken has held multiple leadership positions across North America, Europe, and Asia. Most recently Jay led Prophet’s growth in Asia for 6 years as Regional Lead and previously Jay was based in London where he led the European growth at Prophet. Jay has assisted many global companies with the development and execution of customer-driven growth strategies with specific emphasis on leveraging customer relationships, strategic brand assets, and a deep understanding of customer behavior. Currently, Jay is Global Lead for Growth Strategy and heads up Prophet’s growing Sustainability practice. Given his background in strategic consulting, Jay brings a high level of analytic rigor and structured thinking to all of his work. His passion lies in linking his client’s business strategy to the in-market activation of that strategy.

Jay’s recent client work spans industry, geography and growth stage which allows Jay to share both direct and tangential experience to help craft actionable growth strategies. Some of his recent clients include Samsung, PENN Entertainment, Marriott International, Mondelez, Constellation Brands, and Resideo. Jay also is a frequent speaker on growth and customer strategy related topics and has appeared on Bloomberg TV and radio, and had his thinking published in Ad Age, Marketing Week, The South China Morning Post, FORTUNE, and Campaign Asia.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Jay shared his professional trajectory, insights on the latest trends and developments in the consulting industry, personal hobbies and interests, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.


Hi Jay. Can you please provide a brief overview of your background and experience in the business consulting industry?

After getting my MBA I joined an internal consulting team at a large U.S. retailer which was started by a group of ex-Bain consultants. There I learned the core consulting skills at the hands of some amazing mentors and incredibly smart consultants.  I then joined Mercer Management Consulting and rode the dot-com bubble up (all growth) and down (lots of cost cutting/efficiency).  This experience cemented my interest in growth consulting. I then joined Prophet and have been here for 21 years and have been able to live and work across the globe including North America, Europe, and Asia).

What do you love the most about your current role?

I am currently focused on building two practice areas at Prophet. The first is Customer Growth Strategy which has been the main focus of my work throughout my consulting career. It is exciting to be able to bring Prophet’s unique capabilities together with a customer-focused growth strategy approach. The second area is building our Sustainability practice which combines a passion area with my focus on growth. Prophet has a unique perspective on customer-focused sustainability, and it’s been rewarding to find more ways to bring this approach to our clients.

What are some of the current trends and developments you’ve observed in your industry recently?

One of the big buzzwords right now is AI, and that is true in consulting as well. Firms are quickly determining how best to use AI internally to make their client work more efficiently and are positioning AI externally to clients and prospects as enabler for efficiencies across a wide array of functions. While I see the power of AI, I think “A” should be reframed as “Augmented” instead of “Artificial” as the role that AI can play in consulting is more around efficiency than it is about replacement. AI, if used properly, can accelerate research and understanding but it doesn’t (yet) have the ability to create truly authentic ideas or outputs as well as humans.

I also think that the consulting model will need to evolve in the near future, and not only because of the impact of AI on the traditional pyramid structure of a consulting team. Other factors that will impact the traditional consulting model include sustainability requirements (pressure from clients to reduce their Scope 3 emissions, new work models (WFH vs. WFO, remote vs. hybrid vs. office-based) and talent gaps (need for more specialized talent vs. generalists).

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

It might seem trite, but my professional journey would not have been possible without the support of my wife. When Prophet asked us to move to London to grow our European business, my wife selflessly gave up her dream job as a prosecutor. What we thought was going to be a 3-year posting turned into a 10-year adventure that included six years in Hong Kong after London. Now that we’ve returned to North America, it’s my turn to support her return to being a lawyer.

What key lessons have you learned that contributed to your personal growth and success?

Over a long career, I’ve learned a lot but the one lesson that resonates the most is to lean into discomfort. I can think of many times in my career where I was presented with a choice, one of which was easier or more traditional and the other was more difficult. I often took the path less traveled and have rarely regretted those decisions.

As a leader, what approaches do you use to create a culture of experimentation and innovation within your team?

The great thing about focusing on customer growth strategy is that there is a natural place for innovative thinking. Developing growth strategies usually follows a path of divergent and then convergent thinking so there is routine time for more innovative ideas. This doesn’t mean that this is the only time where teams need to bring more of an innovative mindset, but it does provide clear boundaries for when innovative thinking is expected. At other points in the consulting process, innovative thinking can also provide value and the best way to encourage that is to try and ask all team members to provide suggestions on ways to improve the thinking or the way in which we share the thinking.

What does the term “authentic leadership” mean to you?

Be true to yourself. I think there are elements to leadership that are universal but true leadership needs to reflect who you are as a person. Consulting is inherently a people business and it’s obvious when someone is not being true to themselves. As you mature as a leader, you learn to be more balanced and understand what personal elements to apply and when.

What are some of your passions outside of work? What do you like to do in your time off?

Most of my non-work time is spent with my family, although they frequently say that I need to find more hobbies. As a very involved co-parent of four active kids between the ages of six and 16, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I am passionate about a few things and looking to get more involved in equality in sports and the sustainability of our oceans. When I do have time off, nothing makes me happier than time on the beach somewhere with a stack of books.

What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

As I enter the later stages of my consulting career, my goals have shifted from personal accomplishment and growth to more communal. Having spent over 20 years at Prophet and lived/worked in all our global regions, I’m very focused on finding ways to grow the future leaders of the firm both individually as well as more systematically through expanding new practice areas.

What advice would you give to somebody who is considering entering your field or has just entered the field?

I’m not sure my advice is consulting-specific but the biggest points that I try to make with people entering consulting is the need to work hard before you can work smart.  There is no substitute for hard work (sorry, AI) but there is a payoff later in your career when you benefit from your experience.

The other big piece of advice that I give is that in consulting it is important to be inquisitive. You have to want to learn about new industries, new companies, and new ways of working. If you are looking for a career where learning and change are not constant, then consulting is not for you.

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