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April 23, 2019
From the defence force to consultant: what I've learnt so far
By: Nicholas Schepel

Nick wasn’t sure how well his defence force skills would translate into the business world. He’s been pleasantly surprised to discover how much Accenture values his army-honed capabilities – and the difference his new job is making in the world.

When I joined Accenture just over a year ago – after eight years in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport – I was surprised to find many of the skills I learnt during service were relevant for my new job in consulting.

Turns out, all that day-to-day planning and liaison between units gives you a pretty good foundation in consulting skills. Every day, I draw on my army experience in logistics and as a small team leader. There’s a lot of crossover in managing the ‘scrum’. You have to keep people on track and defuse problems. In meetings, I have the confidence to make my point – which is helped by years of practice being direct and staying on topic when speaking to senior officers!

Of course, what I didn’t know was the digital piece. That, I had to learn from scratch. But Accenture does a really great job of making that happen.

As soon as I started, I joined a learning cohort with orientation courses and Accenture sponsored training events to help me understand the basis of the consulting lifestyle. These are things like client relations, project management, how to present your work, how to network and Accenture Consulting fundamentals – that was really important… and something I hadn’t learnt in the army.

I’ve also learnt from the people around me who all have their own niche specialties and passions. We have highly charismatic leaders, with amazing ideas. I love watching how they captivate their audience. Then there are the tech guys – many with a touch of the mad scientist in them – it’s fascinating to find out what they’re working on.

And, of course, you keep learning on the job. Right now, I’m learning the digital delivery process: plan, test, validate, squeeze out the bugs… implement! It’s amazing to see an idea that I first heard as someone’s vision actually made real.

The other day, we were shown a video of users’ reactions when some new tools we’d designed for them went live. People were so excited. I hadn’t realised the importance of making someone’s life easier at work. It made me think about the purpose of my work now. Before Accenture interviewed me, a mentor of mine said my Army job would feel like most important work I’d ever do. And, at the life and death level, that’s probably true. But seeing the impact we are making on people’s daily lives is rewarding and shows me I can still make a difference to the world.

At Accenture you find innovation in every conversation. I love the fact that we’re always looking to do something that little bit better. I’ve never met an Accenture person who was content with ‘doing it the same way’. New ideas are always invited in every conversation. Everyone – even the new guy – is encouraged to bring something new to the table.

If you’re ex defence and interested in learning about technology, this is one of the best employers you can consider.

Be aware that corporate work is different. You’ll have way more autonomy – no micromanaging! – and you have to forge relationships yourself rather than using the chain of command. You need to be outspoken, confident and willing to learn all the time.

But you’ll also be bringing with you some vital core skills that the firm will value. For me, it’s been a great fit.


Nicholas Schepel

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