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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

#inmyMM: Petite Power Moves with Consultant Katherine Vasbinder

April 02, 2016

Katherine Vasbinder may look diminutive—she’s 5’3”, with a quick smile—but don’t be fooled: This 28-year-old management consultant is a cigar-smoking, fast-talking, code-writing powerhouse with a sharp chess game. For our #inmyMM customer series, here’s her guide to making it work.

I LIVE in New York, on the Upper West Side. I love it there. I grew up in China, but I came here when I was 12, and I’ve been here pretty much ever since—high school, college, job.

I WORK as a management consultant, helping major financial institutions improve their internal processes. We try to automate their business processes, either by improving their existing systems or building new software for them.

I STARTED OUT thinking I’d become an economist. I went to undergrad at Barnard right in the middle of the economic crisis, and I was interested in public policy, so I did an internship in D.C. where I worked with economists on financial reform. After college, I started working at the federal reserve, basically doing research. Eventually, I moved into a regulatory capacity, and I became interested in analytics. I went back to school and then got hired in management consulting, working with technology and data. I learned how to code on the job.

I DON’T KNOW how to drive. It’s terrible. But my goal for this year is to learn.

I WEAR mostly solids; I’m not a big pattern person. When I worked at a think tank in D.C., CSPAN would come and film some of the events, and we were always told to wear solid colors, because they look better on camera. I’m very petite, so if I wear a pattern, I tend to get lost in it. My mom, who is also petite, used to work in the fashion industry in China, and she always told me, “You have to wear things that aren’t going to swallow you. Wear solid colors so you stand out.”

I AM CONSCIOUS OF my posture. I actually took a seminar on body language. In business, a lot of people convey power by taking up space, and I’m only 5’3”, so I’m careful not to slouch—even when I’m on the phone. Other tricks: Keep both feet flat on the floor, even when you’re sitting, and make sure your chest stays open. If you’re talking to someone, don’t stand too close—you’ll have to look up at them.


Katherine in the Alex, a favorite navy cocktail dress.

MY WARDROBE IS small. I like to have as few pieces as possible and make different combinations out of them. I share a tiny closet with my husband, and I pride myself on taking up less space in it than he does.

MY GO-TO MM PIECE is the Etsuko dress. It’s the first MM dress I ever bought. It stretches, and it’s easy to take care of; I can just machine wash it cold. I own it in two colors. I also have the Narie and the Rachel. I travel in those. As a consultant, sometimes I don’t know if I’ll have a desk or if I’ll be sitting all day in some really strange space that’s designed for something else. And sometimes I’m in the dress for 13 or 14 hours, so my clothes need to be comfortable. I bought the Alex for my husband’s company Christmas party. I love that the neckline is high enough that I don’t have to wear a necklace. It’s an earrings dress.

I ADMIRE Ellen Pao, formerly of Reddit. I know she’s controversial, but she took a hard shot at the glass ceiling and double standard.

I TREAT MYSELF by going to a cigar lounge with co-workers. It’s a celebratory thing; I don’t do it all the time. I’ll go to the Carnegie Cigar Lounge in midtown, smoke a cigar, and have this drink called a B&B. It’s part brandy, part Bénédictine.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver.

petite style
Petite styleKatherine Daily Schedule Management Consultant

Photos by Takahiro Ogawa

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