The calling of corporate stewardship

“I recall sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop researching new opportunities,” said Johanna Elms, when reflecting on what drew her to consulting. “I came across a job with Accenture and the first thing I noticed was its commitment to first nations people, environmental stewardship and young women moving into STEM related fields. I knew these aligned with my principles. However, at the time I didn’t think I had the consultant edge needed to thrive in the industry.”

Three years and several projects later, Johanna remembers how she overcame her hesitation. “I was interviewed by three awesome women, all leading various areas of our consulting practice and I found myself asking, ‘if they can make it here, why couldn’t I?’” She has since proven this to be correct, leading complex projects for large federal government clients and developing industry points of view with Accenture leaders.

Before joining Accenture in 2017 as a Management Consultant Manager in Canberra, Australia, Johanna earned a Bachelor of Advanced Science in Neuroscience and Pharmacology with honours from the University of New South Wales. She attributes her success as a consultant to this STEM background. “I have systems thinking and an evidence-based mindset that has translated to the complexity of technical architecture. When I studied the brain, I would not have guessed I could apply this to enterprise technology solutions.”

Bringing her experience from working across public entities to her new role, as an experienced hire, Johanna has continued her specialisation in consulting for public service. Johanna emphasises the importance of understanding the technological and industry disruption happening across the globe and how this is providing opportunities for government services. “We are on the edge of a massive industry disruption in the public sector– the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of public services, with businesses and individuals relying on government. Citizens are demanding change. How we help our clients respond will shape the economy through recovery and growth.”

She is currently engaged in a project with a federal government client focusing on reducing Australia’s black economy through technology-enabled accountability. She describes working with a team she can learn from: “Accenture is comprised of leaders who actively seek out different approaches through innovation,” said Johanna. “With complex public service projects, it is the combination of people on the team bringing fresh perspectives that help our clients to drive solutions.”

Johanna is an active thought leader in public service innovation, recently presenting her research on the intersection of innovation and Agile in government at an Australian conference. She advocates for workplace culture to be a key consideration in every major public service decision, especially the focus on equality in workforces.

“This investment in the workforce culture affects innovation, equality drives productivity, and these are key factors that will help the Australian Public Service thrive.”

In addition, Johanna was instrumental in authoring an Accenture perspective for Government - Industry consultation on Cyber Security. “Accenture’s consulting style is based on the integrity of the recommendations we gather through interrogating the problem and gathering evidence,” said Johanna. Bringing experts from Security, Industry and government practices as well as gathering insights from Accenture global leaders demonstrated how Accenture can effectively organise to provide deep insights to client problems. Johanna reflects, “I reached out to a colleague in Japan and gained immediate insights from their recent project tackling similar problems. That sort of dynamic collaboration globally empowers me to be constantly thinking how I can do something differently.”

Johanna’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has extended into school classrooms. She developed a program for school-aged kids to learn about IT and what being an innovator looks like in the current world. The program features different thought exercises using human centered design, lean innovation and systems thinking principles to demonstrate the intersection of humanity across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers. “Through this program we hope to show the diversity of thinking needed to solve problems and therefore demonstrate there is a place for all in innovation.”

When asked about her spare time Johanna says, “I love the outdoors and riding with my horse in our beautiful countryside.” In fact, it is her love of the outdoors that is leading Johanna to support Accenture’s growing sustainability practice. This practice spans industries to derive insights for clients around sustainable supply chains and energy transition. “I want to be a part of an organisation that nurtures the environment for future generations to come,” Johanna says.

Returning to the kitchen table and her laptop, Johanna reflects, “When I think about why I chose Accenture: it is the core values of integrity and stewardship over social issues that led me here. I feel that this is an organization I can see walking alongside clients towards a future I want to create.”

This investment in the workforce culture affects innovation and [is a] key factor that will help the Australian Public Service thrive.


Johanna Elms

Manager – Strategy & Consulting, Australia & New Zealand

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