October 28, 2019
A dual focus
By: Judith Jackson-Merrick

My latest recruit

I have recently returned to work having spent ten months on maternity leave with my little girl Chloe. She is bright, sparky, and ferociously independent, and so I had a very energetic time away from work (and some would say that I have been given a taste of my own medicine!). Being a mum is hugely rewarding and it’s eye-opening when you see yourself reflected-back in your child. Chloe is very social and is at her best when she is surrounded by people and centre of attention; she got that bit from her dad. Chloe is a welcome recruit to our family life and provides me with a healthy and balanced dual focus.

The focus on my career

Prior to going on maternity leave I was driving our IBM Watson campaign – growing our UK capabilities in Watson and AI, including the now mature UKI Watson Hub. This was about understanding the market need, ensuring that Accenture had the right market presence and relationship with IBM, and building our expertise and offerings, skills and capabilities in Watson. Leading in this space gave me the opportunity to work across Accenture and with our inspirational senior leadership – throughout Technology, cross industry, and with Digital - in a way that was unparallel in any role I’d previously had. I was also a technology lead for a government account where I worked very closely with the client to support our Health & Public Sector (H&PS) practice and feed in the right tech capabilities – and yes, I did my fair share of Brexit planning!

I’ve been promoted every couple of years since I joined Accenture in 2009 as a bright-eyed graduate – keen to come back to Accenture after a summer internship. I started out on our graduate programme and “grew up” in Consulting. Retail was one of my interest areas and I was an industry expert in convenience retail and downstream energy, consulting to the big oil companies and in forecourt retail. Working closely with senior leadership I gained considerable experience building an Accenture practice, running it as small business, and developing multi-disciplinary and global teams. I helped to build a new practice within Resources which was completely unlike any client-facing or project-work I had done before. Instead, I was helping to build a brand, looking after internal and external marketing and writing our client engagement plan. It was an unusual experience for a manager in consulting, but one that’s really helped me later in my career. I would strongly encourage others to look for opportunities to understand the inner-workings of our organisation and to increase their commercial and sales acumen, early on in their career.

At a junior level I gained good experience of what it meant to be a Delivery Lead, I was held accountable for sales and revenue targets, and I gained experience of large-scale technology delivery, and conceptual architecture. I am a qualified project manager and I have managed large scale programmes and portfolio for my clients.

When I made senior manager, I was highly specialised in the Resources industry area and felt there were two things that were limiting my professional development and importantly, my ability to add additional value in my dialogue with clients.

The first was that I had little cross-industry experience – I wanted to understand more about areas like Financial Services or Communications and Media, so that I had more diverse examples at my fingertips that I could talk to our Resources clients about.

Secondly, throughout my career at Accenture, I have believed that our differentiator is to work with and stay at the forefront of technological innovation and helping our clients to harness the opportunities which that brings. I was losing touch with our technology roots and I was keen to address that. Moving to Accenture Technology was a self-inflicted learning curve! I have exponentially broadened my horizons and learnt so much in the process – I have not looked back.

A friend and senior MD told me a few years ago not to tie myself down to a particular job title, and to try and keep my portfolio open to new and exciting opportunities; and on the return to work that has been the plan.

The focus on my family

Accenture is a brilliant organisation for saying “yes” – I’ve always been given every opportunity to pursue new opportunities at work, and indeed at home, with encouragement from my colleagues and sponsors to work flexibility and embrace family life. I have friends and colleagues in other organisations who do have anxiety about being granted part time work, so I think we are lucky in that extent and if you want to do something there are people who will help you find a way. The onus is on you to find the balance that works for you – and I want to be open about the fact that I am still working out what that means for me.

People understood that I would need time when coming back from maternity leave to figure out what my working life would need to look like. It is early days coming back full time (and full throttle) has really helped me get my feet back under the table. My husband and I had shared parental leave, and so my husband Dave, and Chloe, enjoyed the summer together and got up to all sorts without me! I am now working three days a week, which was a very conscious decision on my part. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past couple of months talking to individuals within our firm who work part-time and understanding my options, and it was by no means the default that it would be I and not Dave who would work part time. The challenge now is not shaping a part time role but shaping one that meets with my own ambitions and aspirations and learning how to create the right boundaries.

I think the biggest change I’ve seen over my time here is a positive shift in our culture – expected working hours, compassion and “respect for the individual”. I try to be open and honest with my colleagues about how I am feeling each day, as I believe it’s important to keep talking about wellbeing and hope that this will promote the kind of compassionate culture that I would want my daughter to work in one day.

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