From graduate to managing director
December 12, 2019
Savita joined Accenture fifteen years ago straight out of university and immediately began to make her mark in the resources and telecommunications industries. She has spent the last five working part-time as an IT Delivery Lead while also caring for her daughter – and she’s just been promoted to managing director.
It hasn’t really sunk in yet. For years, I battled the combo of being a woman in technology, appearing to be the least experienced person in the room (I look younger than I am and I’m a notorious giggler!) and having periodic crises of confidence. Consulting is project-based work. Essentially, you start a new job every 6-12 months – each one more difficult than the last. Every time you start in a new role, it rocks you. I had to learn to stop being my own worst critic, back myself and trust that Accenture had put me there for a reason.
Today, none of that’s changed. I’m still giggling and still get nervous in each new role. Only, now, I’m a managing director.
I spent the first few years at Accenture living a ‘rock star’ lifestyle, experiencing things I’d never dreamed of. Every week, I travelled to some far-flung corner of Australia to work with our resources clients, including working on a mine site in the Kakadu.
Exceptional leaders I met while on an international women’s leadership course earlier this year
I met my husband on a plane to Brisbane. (Thank you, Qantas!) After we got engaged, it suddenly got a bit tricky doing all that travel while planning a wedding and keeping my relationship in one piece. So, I put in a request for a project in Sydney.
With my husband, Toby
When I found out what the role was, I realised I’d have to start from scratch. I’d spent my entire career in the resources industry working on SAP projects. This time, the client was in a completely different industry with different platforms. And I was a brand new manager! I felt like the biggest imposter in the world.
Fortunately, I had a lot of business process knowledge that was useful to the project. And, gradually, I realised IT transformation skills are very transferable. It’s less about technology and more about understanding people, articulating a vision and solving problems. When I finished that first project, the client decided to keep me around. I’m still working for them, currently part of a large scale Salesforce transformation.
I’d just started feeling really at home with my new client when we had our daughter. None of my friends had children when I was pregnant, so I didn’t know what to expect. I decided to take nine months off which, in my head, didn’t seem like a lot of time. But I found it to be incredibly isolating, especially since the world I was so used to was completely flipped around. My husband was travelling a lot, so I often felt like a single parent.
With my daughter, Zara
What saved me was my mothers’ group (who I laughed and cried a lot with) and my mentor Emma Neil, and career counsellor, Brett Barker who checked in on me every month to offer support and make sure I was ok – which was lovely.
When I thought I was ready to come back, my baby was so little I didn’t want to put her in full-time care, so I came back to work three days a week – and I’m still working part-time today. Accenture and my client were great about it. I thought I’d have to take less senior roles. But I’m still a delivery lead, managing large teams, working closely with senior stakeholders, managing risks and issues in large-scale projects.
I manage by finding people I trust for the days I’m not there. If needed, I’ll get on calls during the days I’m at home with my daughter. When she goes to school, I’m going to work four days a week, so I can be a canteen mum, go on school excursions and help out in the classroom.
In parallel to my delivery work, two years ago I started leading Accenture’s Technology Graduate Program – the Associate Academy - with the wonderful David Ostberg. We spent a lot of time talking to our new intake and finding out how best we can help them succeed. This wasn’t just about running social events for the grads (although that’s important too!). We also introduced a new two week training bootcamp, a rotation program so people can try out different types of work before deciding where their passions lie, and revised the promotion and recognition scheme.
Helping to shape the next generation is my favourite part of the job. Our grads have this insane energy. They pick up new skills really fast, love trying new things and are hungry for continuous learning. I find it contagious. I grab that energy and take it with me into my other roles. I’m hoping to extrapolate some of the ideas in our grad program across the wider technology business. We could all do with an injection of that engagement, passion and learning mindset!
Dinner with the 2019 graduate associates
The other thing I really want to do is round up a posse of mothers returning to work and make sure they get all the chances I’ve had. I’ve been so lucky.
Being a working parent isn’t easy. After a tough day, you’ll find me secretly binge-watching crimes series with a glass of wine in hand. I won’t lie – being part of our leadership team in ANZ makes me nervous. It’s a big, new challenge. But when the self-doubt kicks in, I remind myself of why I was given this opportunity in the first place – and how excited I am to see what this new chapter brings.