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February 17, 2015
On the Bench and Consultant Training
By: Hollie Willets
When you’re not on a project at Accenture it is known as being “on the bench”.  I had never been on the bench in the whole 3.5 years I’ve been here, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I went into the main Accenture office (a novelty when you’ve always been at client site) and set myself up to do all the online training in my learning plan!  I learned about Issue Based Problem Solving; Social Styles; Negotiation Essentials and many more topics.  Some of the courses were like slide decks you click through with random quiz questions interspersed; others were recordings of webcasts – there was enough variety to keep me interested.
 
I soon exhausted the online training modules but knew there was a residential course available.  I was signed up to the April session but managed to move it forward to January.  This meant I had something in my calendar to look forward to.  One of the hardest things about being on the bench is not being able to plan anything: not knowing what you’re doing from one day to the next. Having something planned, even if not a project, was useful. 
 
I was also on the hunt for a new role of course, but there didn’t seem to be a huge amount available in the post-Christmas lull.  I would check myScheduling daily.  This is a sort of internal website listing all available positions – you can download into Excel and filter on location, client, skills and level required so it’s quite a useful way to see what’s out there.  I got in touch with a few people and still others contacted me directly as their roles were not yet on myScheduling.  I had two particularly interesting sounding propositions.  The first was a role type I was familiar with, but I client I had never worked on.  The second was the opposite.  In the end I went for the first option.  I think I have got to a point in my career where I’ve done a lot of varied stuff which has been really interesting but I now want to start specialising.  I’m now in week one of my new role so will tell you more about it in due course as I settle in, but it’s essentially change management which I’ve been doing for a while now.
 
I secured the role just before I flew off to Chicago for training.  AMCU Live is Accenture Management Consulting University, held at a hotel/conference centre in Illinois.  I went in July 2011 when I first joined as a brand new analyst.  This time was a lot colder (so much snow!) but the general set up was very similar: long days of classroom courses followed by social events in the evenings.  This course was for consultants and managers mixed – so you actually do the same course twice but there are several years in between and they update the curriculum quite frequently.  It’s open to everyone so I was working with colleagues from Lagos; Rio de Janeiro; Melbourne; Shanghai… all over!
 

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The week is made up of several modules taught by senior managers from all industries and geographies.  The course content was actually quite similar to the online modules I’d been doing, so it was great to reinforce some of those concepts.  Most of it was quite familiar: general project management methodology and ideas about communication such as personality profiling.  However there were some other less familiar courses such as Value Creation which was about reading balance sheets and things.  To be honest, as well as being a general refresh of Accenture methodology, the main part of the training is the networking.  It is genuinely interesting to share experiences with people from the other side of the world who actually do very similar work to you.  We are now all linked up to each other so if I ever need advice or am looking for examples of deliverables I know I can reach out to any of those people.

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