2020 has been a big year for Melissa: COVID hit, her two daughters needed to be home schooled, her work supporting federal government became more important than ever – and her Canberra-based firm, Apis, joined Accenture! Find out how she coped with the whirlwind of change.

I joined Apis in July 2012, bringing with me years of learned experiences working in and around local, state and federal governments in Australia and the UK. While I was in the UK, the global financial crisis happened – and money was scarce. I spent much of my time undertaking service reviews and scrutinising ‘essential’ versus ‘nice-to-have’ to deliver productivity improvements and enable continuity of local and county-level government services.

At Apis, I landed in social policy, working in aged care, agriculture and human services. I love that we contribute to improving services, not only for customers, but for the service delivery people who’s job it is to serve our diverse community. I know from personal experience how hard it is to listen with empathy, toggle between multiple computer screens to find the right information, and help customers navigate complexity all at the same time. My job is to design business operating models and services that remove this complexity and enable the overall experience to be far more intuitive and simple.

The pandemic crisis has forced people who have never engaged with our social welfare into the ‘system’.  Accessing this ‘safety net’ can be an overwhelming and confusing experience for many. Social policy service delivery has never been more important than now.

So, 2020 was always going to be a huge year for Apis. Our acquisition by Accenture made it massive. The transition was exciting and daunting at the same time. There was a mindset adjustment for me, moving from being a minority shareholder of Canberra-based firm Apis, to an employee of a massive global entity.

I’ve been on the other side of the change management equation, and I’m delighted with how we’ve been welcomed to Accenture – despite it all being virtual. There’s been a real commitment to transition us to new ways of working as smoothly as possible. The team has done a great job of providing timely information incrementally, and without overloading us. I’ve been grateful for always having someone, somewhere on the end of a phone or an MS Teams chat!

I am a very practical person who learns by doing. Luckily for me, I had an opportunity to join a small global team in developing a point of view on what the ‘new normal’ might be post-COVID. It was fantastic getting to know people in new parts of the world. Everyone was collaborative, interactive and helpful. Immersing myself in new ways of working from the outset like this really worked for me.   

As well as staying 100% committed to my client work and transitioning to a new company, my husband and I were also juggling home schooling for my 6- and 8-year-old daughters.  When our working from home (WFH) started, I initially worked an unsustainable work pattern. It was so easy to stay switched on, and I held the belief that because I was at home and not in the office, I needed to somehow compensate for the lack of physical presence. For a few weeks, I was not great at managing boundaries.

It eventually caught up on me, and with the support of my boss I took an extended long weekend to recharge!  It was reassuring that when I recognised I needed a break and called it out, it wasn’t seen as weakness but as a strength. I now focus on keeping lines of communication open with all critical stakeholders – including my girls and husband. Keys to my new ‘balance plan’ were dedicated precious time with family, getting enough sleep, taking frequent mini sun-bathing breaks, and movement - ensuring I hit at least 10,000 steps each day.

Like many people, we’ve missed out on travel plans. In our case, a five-week epic adventure to Europe. My family is British-Australian and we are missing our UK-based family terribly. There’s nothing unique about that story. It’s a tricky time for so many. I’ve welcomed the camaraderie and connectedness my work brings. All of us have our own stories to tell, and we have been there for each other in different ways. 

That’s also true on the client side. Intuition and empathy are two critical ingredients to working through this pandemic together. We’ve all had to find the humility to admit that what was important yesterday may not be today. I remember saying to one client, “I’m not sure these priorities are real anymore.” And they said, “I’m so glad you offered that. I know how much hard work you’ve put into this project.” 

Despite the turmoil, I’m curious what the next year will bring. I’ve met a lot of impressive people so far in Accenture – clever, funny and connected. Navigating the extent of our business service offers is a journey in itself. I’ve worked alongside folks from Strategy and Consulting, Alpha Beta, Accenture Interactive, and Technology Services. It’s fascinating how each part of our business has its own personality, contribution and value proposition. I am looking forward to weaving it all together to help our clients solve their business problems. That’s what I am most passionate about.

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Melissa Robbins

Management Consulting Senior Manager

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