When I first applied to Accenture in 2003 or so, I think when they saw my degree in Music they binned my application because I never heard back.
A couple of years later, they found me on Linkedin and contacted me to join their Information Management Services team in the Accenture office in Dallas, US and I accepted.
Two years into my role I was asked to represent Accenture at a University recruitment event. Before it kicked off I was asked by HR to run through my elevator pitch.
As others had done in their intros, I started with my educational background. When the recruiter heard that I’d graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music, she was quick to tell me not to say that on the day. “Don’t say that because we don’t want students with those kinds of degrees to think we’re going to hire them. We don’t want the 19th century French literature major. We want the majors in economics or computer science.”
It’s exciting (and perhaps a bit gratifying) to see how that has completely changed in the last few years. The Accenture who wouldn’t hire me 15 years ago has done a complete 180 on their approach to hiring and clearly recognises the value that diverse points of views and backgrounds can bring when tackling our client’s most challenging problems. At one point, I think I was the only Accenture employee out of about 300,000 with a music degree.
My role at Accenture:
I’m currently the Applied Intelligence Delivery Lead in New Zealand. I work predominantly in our Health and Public Services operating group supporting Government clients and managing anything that falls in the Big Data, analytics, and information management domain.
My career has been non-linear. I’m a professional classically trained musician, studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and moved to Salzburg in Austria with a plan to do my Masters at the Mozarteum University. It was in Salzburg that my career direction changed.
Recording for a scoring session at the Eastman Scoring Stage at Warner Brothers
The computer lab in my dormitory where I spent a lot of time playing computer games often had networking and tech issues. I taught myself how to repair everything – right down to soldering components on motherboards if needed - and get the network stuff working at 2am when I couldn’t wake up the guy whose job it was.
I taught myself enough to get an initial helpdesk job as tech support for a private school. There I was tasked with figuring out on my own how to support their accounting software which then led to building reports and customisations to make the software bend to whatever the will of the business was.
Three years later I took a job as a consultant for the software company that made that software. And after three years with them, Accenture got in touch with me to join their growing Accenture Information Management Services team.
My journey to Big Data
Since then, my path within Accenture has gone from data integration to data warehousing, reporting and Big Data. In my first Accenture role, I was put in charge of a team with a technology I had never worked with before.While it was initially intimidating, it was a huge confidence boost knowing that Accenture believed in me and my ability to figure it out, and I had the support of a good leader to help me through as well as our global network of experts.
Accenture believed in me and my ability to figure it out, and I had the support of a good leader to help me through as well as our global network of experts.
My roles changed as technology and clients’ needs evolved, and for the past five years my focus has been on big data and analytics.
What I love about my career
What I love most about my career in Big Data is the kind of problems we get to solve and the astronomical rate of technological advancement. There’s no cookie cutter way to solve a lot of these problems. In the Big Data ecosystem, there are countless tools and technologies, and nobody can be an expert in all of them. It’s constant experimentation to find out what’s going to be the best thing for a given situation.
Opportunities in New Zealand
Although the scale may not be exactly comparable to other markets, New Zealand has the same kinds of fundamental business challenges and opportunities as the US and other parts of the world – challenges that clients are solving using big data and advanced analytics.
What I find especially interesting and what gets me excited about the future is how public cloud big data platforms have completely transformed the economics of big data and analytics. Clients can truly start small with minimal investment to do amazing innovative things that would have required hundreds of thousands of dollars in upfront capital investment just a few years ago.
From a New Zealand perspective and because of the smaller scale, the tension between balancing cost and benefit is perhaps more pronounced than other markets. Being able to bend the cost curve down means New Zealand businesses can innovate more quickly and for lower cost than they could have historically. Big ideas can be piloted in a small, safe market like New Zealand before being tried at a larger scale elsewhere globally.
The Government in particular is pushing the boundaries in what we can do for digital services for next generation citizen experience which would be underpinned by analytics and big data.
The Skills in Demand
Successful big data practitioners live at the intersection of business and technology – they understand how to spot an opportunity to apply analytics to business problems, they’ve experienced the pain and challenges of working with disparate data sets, and they can get their hands dirty in front of a keyboard bashing out some R or Python code. They’ll also understand operations – how analytics impact the business, the culture, the operating models – as well as what the journey from prototype to fully industrialised solution looks like. Entrepreneurship and continuous learning are essential. In any career, you must always try and find a way to stay relevant.
I’ve been with Accenture for 11 years, originally with a background in Music, and I’m still figuring what I want to do when I grow up. The future – and indeed the present - in big data is ripe with opportunity, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and deep learning. Whatever the future holds, I’m excited about continuing to work with our clients in New Zealand and around the world to help them solve their most complex business challenges.