Founder and CEO of Attaché Services
When most students enter MIT Sloan, they view balancing a career and a personal life as a dance to be learned in the future. Alicia Anderson, a mother of two when she came to the School, had been dancing for years. “By the time I was a second-year graduate student I had taken on an identity that was different than the norm,” she says. “I had two children and people were fascinated by that. It sparked many conversations about work-life balance. Having children allowed me to add a lot to the conversation.”
Anderson came to the School with dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. With a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, Anderson was drawn to MIT Sloan's student body. “I wanted to be at a place that attracted analytical thinkers even if they weren't engineers,” she explains. Her experiences with classmates and professors gave her insight that narrowed her entrepreneurial focus, but ultimately it was her identity as a working mother that gave birth to the idea for her eventual enterprise, Attaché Services, specializing in services to assist women.
After graduating, Anderson had another baby and worked as a general manager in a predominantly male operations department of a Fortune 100 telecommunications company. Juggling the demands of a family, a career, and achieving personal fulfillment, she surveyed female peers to learn how they managed their high-profile careers while having families. She discovered that the key to success is outsourcing. “Women today cannot do everything,” she clarifies, “especially when we choose to take on such challenging roles. Businesses often have to restructure and downsize, and so do we. What do you keep on your plate, and what do you decide to stop doing?”
In March 2008, Anderson left her six-figure corporate job to become the founder and CEO of Attaché Services, based outside of Washington, D.C. Her firm's initial offering for women is a personal assistant — or personal attaché — who performs tasks ranging from grocery shopping or taking the car in for maintenance to caring for a pet or organizing a closet. Attaché Services' assistannts enable working women to devote more time gaining fulfillment from both their personal and professional lives.
During Attaché's first year, Anderson focused on individual clients to fine-tune the logistics of its service. She now plans to more than double her client base in the second year by reaching out to corporations and law firms to include her services in their benefits package. “The first few years in a high profile job can be overwhelming,” she explains. “Firms can offer security by paying for their employees to have a personal assistant. It addresses the core needs of their workers, allowing them to spend less time performing the undesirable tasks that make life unappealing.” Through this service, she says, employees are happier and workforce turnover decreases, which benefits everyone.
As Anderson has expanded Attaché Services, she has become an expert on the work-life balance of women in high-profile jobs. In addition to presenting educational workshops on the topic, she is also co-authoring a book with an industrial engineering professor. The book will employ engineering concepts and ingenuity to help women better understand work-life balance. Anderson credits her time at MIT Sloan for teaching her the importance of innovation when solving problems. “As I studied strategy, economics, and finance, I thought about how women are filling the law, business, and medical schools and will eventually be the partners, C-level execs, and medical pioneers on which companies depend,” she reflects. “I felt an obligation to carve out a path for these women and for the organizations that employ them.”