April 02, 2019
Bold Choices
By: Aaron Sherwood
Aaron won 'Best Newcomer' at our internal recognition awards

Last week I received the best news of my career to date – I won ‘Best Newcomer’ at our internal recognition awards, called the Greater Than Awards. As I reflect on the person I am today, the successes I’ve had both professionally and personally, one underlying theme has remained consistent the whole way through: bold choices. My parents made it very clear to me that I had all the tools needed to make a success of myself, but it’s how I decide to use them that dictates my success. It was this tough love approach that meant that I either sunk or swam – and in this case, swimming was non-negotiable. I knew that starting a role at Accenture would be no walk in the park and standing out and being bold would be a tall ask. But what’s important is that you focus on your own strengths and don’t get lost trying to be someone else… because the truth is that there really is something for everyone at this firm!

The power of your ‘army’ (AKA your network)

Your network is your single most important asset – but attitude fundamentally determines your network’s altitude. I spent my first week at Accenture on ‘the bench’ – which I initially had very mixed feelings about. It turns out that not being put immediately onto a project was a blessing in disguise, because it gave me the opportunity to find my feet and build my network. About one month in, whilst working on an RFP (request for proposal) for a major retail client, I stumbled across a post on LinkedIn by Adrian Spragg, Managing Director and Industry Lead for Aerospace & Defence which was titled ‘Maritime in the New’. Naturally I was intrigued, so I took it upon myself to look on our internal portal for further information. Whilst reading through the POV, I was particularly captivated by the ‘Hyundai Connected Ship’ example which resulted in me scribbling a whole host of follow up questions on paper. Immediately I thought to myself, what’s the worst that will happen if I send an email asking to meet? I took the plunge and within a couple of hours, I received a message back asking to meet me over a coffee… This was singlehandedly one of the best coffees I’ve ever had, because not only did I get to meet an incredibly inspiring industry leader, but this also led to three months of hugely exciting work in Aerospace & Defence. During this time, I took ownership of a large proportion of our campaigns, organised a COO (Chief Operating Officer) digital immersion day and drove numerous lean canvas business modelling workshops for a blockchain proposition. On reflection, this experience taught me that there’s nothing more powerful than being bold and being yourself to develop your network.

The power of being yourself

This brings me onto my role as an active and vocal Mental Health Ally. According to Accenture’s latest research, mental health touches 9 out of 10 of us. It's hard enough to experience a mental health issue, without having to face the judgement, shame and isolation that often surrounds them. That's why I’m on a personal mission to help end the stigma around mental health discrimination in the workplace. I take pride in sharing my personal story, showcasing that with the right support, everyone has an opportunity to flourish. In my view, it’s important to remember that we’ve been employed by Accenture because we’re high performing individuals – but this does not invalidate the fact that we all have mental health.

Interview with Barbara Harvey

I was recently asked by Barbara Harvey, our UK Mental Health Lead, to speak at the International Women’s Day event on a ‘friendship bench’ – a pioneering initiative which is actively tackling the mental health crisis in Zimbabwe. This was the opportunity to share my story to over 700 clients, employees and students in the audience with one simple message: it’s okay to not be okay. Initially I felt incredibly nervous getting up on the stage in front of that many people, but I saw this as a time of growth and an opportunity to help other people. A great piece of advice that was provided to me the night before was to channel my fears and nerves into ‘positive excitement’. This is exactly what I did – and I had a lot of fun in the process! Considering this, I’d actively encourage everyone to jump at such opportunities.

Make your next decision a bold one.

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