Summer Intern to Senior Manager
I’ve been at Accenture for just over ten years now, so it’s been a while! When I was at university, I was keen to pursue a career in technology, but I wanted a role with variety. I discovered the Accenture Summer Internship programme and liked it so much, I stayed.
I’m now a senior manager within Application Services for our Communications, Media and Technology practice, specialising in big system implementation software projects for telecommunications companies.
What I love most about working here is the amount of variety I get and the satisfaction of seeing a project through. I get variety day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. But I also get enough stability on a project that I can really get my teeth into it and feel like I’ve delivered something concrete.
I think one of the big things for me throughout my time here has been the excellent coaching and mentoring I’ve received - the mix of classroom training but, also effective on-the-job coaching. Team management is something that’s very hard to learn from a classroom (you need real examples) and the way some of my managers have coached me in that area has been so helpful.
Ups and downs
The other big thing has been the constant support through all my mental and physical health issues. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder which means periods of depression usually during the winter. When it comes to physical health my knees come and go and, when they are bad, I need to use a wheelchair - when they are good, you can’t tell from looking at me.
During my first couple of years with Accenture I had some ups and downs and then soon after I made manager, I had a bit of a breakdown and a long period of depression. I took time off work with a long, slow recovery and Accenture was very supportive through all of that. I got everything I needed to help me get well and there was a good team around me - my Career Counsellor, HR Representative and Line Manager – in fact everyone was supportive in helping me get back to work in the way that I needed to and that really made a difference for me.
Since then I’ve had several other periods of ill health but, through all of that, I’ve felt supported and my managers ensure that I have what I need to be able to perform at my best. This means that despite all the ups and downs in my personal health, I’m able to continue with my career.
The support that’s in place
When it comes to the support, there are specific employment policies covering the things you hope you never need and don’t want to think about: sick leave policy, permanent health insurance, private health insurance. When starting a job, most people don’t read all the small print on policies, but Accenture’s support is really good. These being in place have meant that through all my periods of ill health I’ve not had to worry about money because I was still getting enough sick pay to meet the bills. It meant that I didn’t have to be concerned about NHS waiting lists because I could use the private health insurance. I can work part-time when I need to and have the flexibility to work from home depending on the state of my health. Then I have all the intangibles like supportive people around me who will say the right things and do the right things. If I can’t get to the office by wheelchair on public transport the company helps organise a wheelchair accessible taxi. I also have a light box on my desk that I get storage for in the office so I can use it when needed. It’s a combination of all these things that mean I don’t have to worry and can just focus on getting myself well.
I am based client site a lot of the time and to be quite honest, workplace adjustments can vary a lot from client to client. Most of our clients are very supportive and really good at disability adjustments. We do have our central adjustment team to help-out in negotiations with a client who maybe doesn’t quite get it and needs a little education on what’s required but, on those very rare occasions, it’s just meant extra time working from home or working from the Accenture offices to make things manageable whilst adjustments get sorted.
I first got involved in our Mental Health network when it was only three people in the UK and that’s grown massively since those days – now we have thousands of Mental Health Allies globally. I’ve been very involved with our Accent on Enablement network for a few years now and even led this for a while. Accent on Enablement is our network for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, as well as carers, friends, family, colleagues, in fact anyone who wants to support. I strongly encourage people to get involved and sign-up as a People with Disabilities Champion and as a Mental Health Ally.
These networks have helped me get to know other people dealing with similar situations because, even though we may have widely varying health conditions, a lot of the experiences of coping with time off work and dealing with adaptations to return to work can be similar. The community is great as well and we’ve had some encouraging times together like going to watch the Paralympics in 2012. We also work on things like improving the process for requesting adaptations in the office. For example: dyslexic people who want mind mapping software or adjustments to their computer; or blind colleagues who need screen reader software; or getting a lighter backpack if you have back problems. Also, soft adjustments such as changes to working hours or working patterns. I have what we call a passport – a tailored adjustment agreement – that I can take to each new line manager which makes it easier to have that conversation whenever I move project. This covers situations like ensuring I get enough breaks during the day so I can do my physio exercises, getting some fresh air and daylight at lunchtime and if I do need to work late, that I get my dinner at a decent time. It’s funny because some of those things are common sense that help everyone, but these can be extra important if you’re dealing with mental or physical health issues.
Accenture has earned a lot of my loyalty by helping me through all the rough patches. I was really pleased to get promoted to senior manager recently and found that as I’ve got more senior there’s more choice in projects so, I can fit work-life balance around me and find the time to enjoy all my hobbies from Sci-Fi and Open Source Programming to helping out with charity events at my local church.
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