September 16, 2014
Week 2 - Chicago
By: Declan Moran
After a marathon 8 hour flight, we arrived in Chicago 2.5 hours after we had taken off in Dublin. A little delirious after the flight due to the time difference, we made our way out of O'Hare airport and were greeted by a welcoming minus 30 degree breeze. We quickly made our way back into O'Hare airport and waited for the limo that had been arranged for us. The cold weather had been something we had been expecting, but actually experiencing one of the most extreme cold snaps in North America in decades was something else entirely.
Our limo took us to St Charles, an hour west of Chicago. St. Charles is a small town with a large complex called the Q-Center that caters for conferences and training groups like ourselves. Upon arrival, we checked in, saw our rooms (single-person rooms, all on the same corridor as one another) and then briefly explored the rest of the complex. The Q-Center was quite empty on the day of our arrival, as the other hundred or so fellow new joiners from the four corners of the world had not yet arrived. As this was the case, we arranged to be taken back to Chicago, check into a hotel, and explore the city over the course of the Saturday and the Sunday. This included an obligatory night out in Chicago's famous Rush and Division neighbourhood.
Upon our return to Chicago, we finally met up with our new classmates. France, Australia, Turkey, China, France, and Slovakia among others were all represented. By far the largest proportion of students, however, came from the UK. We quickly got to know each other well, through time spent playing pool in the games room, to meeting up for lunch and dinner together, and to socializing at one of the many evening networking events that took place in the one of the conference rooms within the 150,000 square foot labyrinth that is the Q-Center (it really is that big, and that's just indoors!).
The course material we studied was different to many of the previous technology Start groups; Firstly, as we were training in Chicago rather than in Bangalore, and secondly as our training had much less of an emphasis on Java and programming in general. Training was instead a high-level introduction to the skills and tools that we would need to apply in our roles in order to stand out as an analyst, all the while preparing us for on-site client engagement. There was a heavy emphasis on group collaboration. For this reason, we were divided up into groups and subgroups of 5 people. The course progression loosely followed Accenture's V-Model; taking us through the activities and skills required to effectively progress from a project's plan phase right through to the project's deployment. A lot of this material was totally new to me and, reassuringly, was new to the majority of my classmates.
Towards the end of my second week in Accenture, I began feeling much more assured of where I was within the company, and where would like to go. When the Friday of our first week rolled around, and after the week's last set of presentations and seminars, the majority of the student body packed up our things for the weekend and set off for Chicago again (in a limo again, of course) to catch a Chicago Bulls game and to explore more of the city.