The Public Policy Program and the Schroeder Center for Health Policy are pleased to connect current undergraduate students with W&M alums working in a chosen policy field. Sarah Joyce ('XX), who is majoring in XX, spoke with W&M alum, Max Shipman ('17, Public Policy/Philosophy), as part of this program. Mr. Shipman currently works as Senior Associate with Freedman Consulting. Below is a brief question and answer summary of their chat.
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Max Shipman (W&M, ’17) about his role as Senior Associate at Freedman Consulting LLC. Here is a summary of our conversation, which I hope other William & Mary Public Policy majors will find helpful.
Can you tell me a bit about your current job responsibilities as Senior Associate at Freedman Consulting, LLC?
I do a range of strategy work for philanthropies, non-profits, and government entities, mainly for progressive causes and issues. My current role is Senior Associate for What Works Plus, Freedman Consulting’s new funder collaborative focused on the equitable implementation of federal infrastructure, climate, and economic development funding. I help our group of core funders learn about these federal investments, coordinate with each other, and develop new strategies to support the funding’s implementation. I also work with decision-makers in the federal government, such as the White House Infrastructure Team, and a range of nonprofits that implement programs to improve climate resilience or workforce training.
Recently, I also helped conduct a landscape analysis for a larger group of philanthropic foundations interested in how they can support implementation of recent federal investments made by the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS & Science Act, with a focus on outcomes for climate, equity, and labor. This was an attempt to understand the bill’s funding streams and related opportunities for philanthropy to support their implementation. As part of that, I analyzed the landscape of hundreds of federal programs and potential opportunities for philanthropic intervention.
What policy issues do you deal with on a regular basis?
I deal mainly with federal policy related to climate change, infrastructure, and economic and workforce development, often with an equity lens. To choose one example, I’ve worked on the Justice40 Initiative, a federal environmental justice effort to ensure disadvantaged communities benefit from new climate, energy, and environmental investments.
What skills do you use most in your job?
I find that being a good generalist is very important. It’s helpful to have advanced beginner to intermediate knowledge on a lot of things, and you don’t have to be an expert on anything in particular. For example, I have found being competent on everything from Excel analysis and making slides to reading federal bill texts and organizing events have helped me in my career, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on any of those.
Having good project management skills – staying on top of things from beginning to end and being proactive – is critical to success no matter what you’re doing. Writing is also an underrated skill. You will be surprised by how many people can’t write clearly or succinctly, so it’s a great skill to have.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I like cross-functional roles that put you in contact with all areas of the organization or initiative. It allows you to get a bird’s eye view of how everything fits together. In my current role, I also like that I can learn about the wide range of federal funding that is available for different issues. I like research-oriented work, but a lot of my current role involves events and external facing stuff, and I enjoy trying to make the research actionable for people in decision-making roles.
How did you find your job?
I was at the Just Transition Fund (JTF) for a little over three years. One of JTF’s focus areas is helping communities access federal funding for economic and workforce development, such as through grant writing assistance. That experience with federal funding helped me get my current role at Freedman Consulting, which is also focused on federal funds but for a broader range of issues.
How and why did you transition from the non-profit world to consulting? What influenced your decision?
I had been at the JTF for over three years, and while I had a great experience there, I was ready for a change. I think it’s helpful to work in different organizations, especially early in your career, so you can get exposure to different roles, work styles, and colleagues. Consulting appealed to me as a way to bring an external perspective to mission-driven organizations, plus the opportunity to work on a broader range of topics and projects.
What are the major differences that you see between consulting and non-profit work?
Non-profits rely on grant funding, and sometimes there isn’t a direct connection between the quality of the work and whether or not you receive a grant. For example, sometimes you get a grant because the work sounds nice rather than it because it’s effective, and vice versa. I wanted to see how things operate in a for-profit consulting environment, because it seemed like there might be more of a focus on the merits of the work itself, rather than just how it looks on paper. If clients keep hiring you in the for-profit world, it probably means you’re doing a good job. Also, because it’s client-driven, consulting itself can be a lot busier day-to-day than the non-profit world.