From growing up on a sheep farm in the North of England to chairing boards and working alongside billionaires, newly appointed Digital Lead for ANZ, James Scott, talks about the importance of humility and why he keeps coming back to Accenture.
The two most important lessons I’ve learned throughout my 25-year career are resilience and humility.
I was recently appointed to the role of Digital Lead for ANZ. It’s my third time to join Accenture and what many people wouldn’t know is that my journey to this point wasn’t straightforward and it definitely wasn’t plain sailing.
I grew up on a farm in the North of England about 20 minutes from the Scottish border. I left school at the age of 16 and for two years had a variety of increasingly worse jobs such as cleaning toilets at the local bakery.
My career options were limited - ranging from farmer to hotelier. I continued in a series of dead-end jobs such as night shifts at a wood yard and general labouring.
Then I did a higher diploma in Electronics and eventually returned to Uni to study Electronic & Electrical Engineering. When I initially arrived at University, I was embarrassed by the different route I had taken to get to University and whilst my fellow students spoke about their grades I hid my secret because I was ashamed.
Fast forward 25 years and I’ve got my Engineering Honours Degree, I’m a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia, a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Chairman of two Data & Analytic businesses.
But it’s the experiences early on in my career that instilled the core values that helped me to where I am today.
Careers may not be straightforward but never underestimate what a variety of experiences will give you in life. Whilst you might not think that working in a bakery cleaning toilets is something that will help you in your career progression, it definitely does. It’s these experiences that strengthen resilience, keeps you grounded and above all instils a sense of humour.
A challenge today in professional services and other industries that we work in is that we can often get caught up in our own self-importance. And as people climb the corporate ladder I’ve often seen a superior attitude take them right back down again.
On the other hand, some of the most successful people I’ve met, including billionaires, have been the humblest of people with an exceptional work ethic.
One of the reasons this is so important here at Accenture is because we are a people business and it’s helped me make decisions and connect with people along the way.
As I mentioned this is my third time back at Accenture and although many things have changed since when I first joined in 1997 (when it was called Andersen Consulting), we remain a people, client and outcome focused business – and that’s what I love about this business.
There are a few reasons why I’ve re-joined.
Firstly, in the space of traditional advertising and creative agencies, if anyone can truly take on the likes of WPP it’s Accenture. And through our Accenture Interactive business and leveraging the broader Accenture footprint, the ability for us to invest and acquire brands and companies and build a capability behind them is what truly frightens the incumbents and what excites the marketplace.
The fact that Accenture knows that it needs to constantly change and has never been afraid of change is exciting.
And then of course it’s the people: As individuals we like to leave a legacy, whether that is to build a business, grow a team or deliver something that you can point to and say “we did that, hand in hand with our clients”. And I get that at Accenture more than anywhere else.
That’s what life’s about. To get involved in work that you’re passionate about, that you’re engaged in. It might be hard work but when it’s complete you can sit back and know that as a team we delivered it and have that sense of accomplishment and pride.
The Accenture brand has never been as strong as it is today.
I truly believe this is a great time to be part of the Accenture business, having watched from the outside the brand and market respond to Accenture over the last 5-7 years and I’m excited about what this means for the digital team.
As a company, we are already remarkably agile and resilient. Now we must ensure we also remain humble.