Earlier this year, I published an article on LinkedIn which commented on my first year at Accenture and reflected on some of the key lessons I have learnt along the way. I thought that the primary one lesson would be that pursuing a ‘purpose’ should be our greatest goal, and that we should bring this purpose with us into our working lives. To reach this conclusion, I had spent a considerable amount of time over the year reading a variety of books around personal development, mental health, evolution and change.
Upon reflection, I have come to the realisation that telling others to pursue purpose is not the best advice. The word purpose itself is so great and all-encompassing that the pressure of discovering it and living with a greater meaning can often lead to a heightened feeling of anxiety. In the months since I wrote that post, I have had a change of mind in how I approach the subject of purpose. Whether it’s a quote on Instagram, or an empowering YouTube video, purpose has become a dominant theme in our society. Given my passion for mental health and personal wellbeing, I find this a little concerning.
The key aspect I misunderstood was the difference between being passionate and thus talented and knowledgeable about something and purpose. Many of us, whether university graduates or established in our careers have things that we are interested in. This could be a specific technology, an industry, or a form of consulting, but these are unlikely to be your purpose, and this always left me a little confused. This piece aims to give you insight on my journey in bringing what I am interested in (with me into the early stages of my career) with the hope that a greater purpose may gradually reveal itself. Aligning with the Truly Human pillars mentioned in my introductory article, I will focus on ‘Soul’ and the importance of pursuing your passions, curiosities and what brings you excitement in the search for your purpose.
Before joining Accenture, I had developed a passion and curiosity about blockchain technology. In my final year studying Politics and International Relations, I wrote a dissertation on how technology can be a tool to build trust in developing countries. In this paper, I coined the term 'trustnology', which fitted into wider industry conversations, including at Davos, about the importance of trust in disruptive technology. For me, blockchain and distributed-ledger-technology represent much more than the advancement of a databases. It ushers in the emergence of a new era in business and society, whereby collaboration, openness and transparency are of central importance. Through developing ecosystems, a far more efficient system can emerge, with trust given the same centrality in the technological and digital realm as we give to it each day in our personal interactions.
I maintained this interest when I joined Accenture and was eager to find a way into the blockchain space, which was a rapidly growing area inside the organisation. Through Accenture's network of mentors and career counsellors, it didn't take me long to meet key people in the space to discuss my interests. Over a few months, I supported where I could; researching for Proof of Concepts, writing up event summaries, sharing content and ideas, attending training and giving small nudges to other people throughout the company on the current and potential value of blockchain.
The first quarter of 2019 saw a culmination of many of my professional and personal ambitions. I had the opportunity to work alongside members of Accenture Development Partnerships on how blockchain can be used for humanitarian work and international development. I also demonstrated emerging technology to a wide range of clients from different industries within my role leading the Industry X.0 Zone, an Innovation Studio in the London office, and started to become known for my enthusiasm for blockchain.
I also saw an opportunity to engage with the rising number of analysts looking to work with and learn about blockchain. As a result, I founded the Analyst Blockchain Community, with the goal of educating and inspiring young talent in the organisation on blockchain and distributed ledger technology. In February, I launched this community, the formal creation of my first ‘intraprise’, with a well-attended event that had people from all areas of Accenture discussing blockchain. Since then, our community has seen great engagement, with continued support across the company and side-of-desk opportunities growing for those who want them. This experience has also further informed another area of interest in my life; intrapreneurship.
To me, this represents the power of pursuing passions within organisations and trying each day to get closer to discovering something that will make you truly fulfilled in your career in the overall journey to discover your purpose. Although I was fortunate to have had a subject of interest that I could tie into my job and have been able to forge the early stages of my career around, this does not mean that it is mandatory for everyone.
In time, we will all find a sense of purpose which gives us joy each day in both our personal and working lives, yet it should not be taken as something we all should either already know or find easily. Finding a sense of meaning is what life it truly about, and what most will search for their entire lives. This does not mean it must be detached from your job and corporate lifestyle, although if it is not currently in your day-to-day life, perhaps it could be? What are the things that make you come alive and how could you make this a greater part of your day? I believe you can find and refine your purpose while in the corporate world by taking responsibility for your career and happiness and knowing that your job, doesn't happen to you, but for you.
I’ll close with a quote that I love, which has comforted me when I have been overwhelmed at times by having an impact and living with purpose. It’s something I often use when talking with the ACG new joiners.
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman
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