I started my career with Accenture, then called Andersen Consulting, in Sophia Antipolis, France in 1999.
At the time, the Sophia Antipolis office (or Andersen Consulting Technology Park as it was then) was one of the firm's few technology hubs. I was attracted by the opportunity to specialise in technology, work on international engagements (we had no local clients) and to live on the French Riviera.
My first two years with the firm were spent commuting between the South of France and Germany where I worked with the a client in Frankfurt and subsequently a CMT client in Munich. In typical fashion, I was leading a team after 6 months with the firm and expected to give feedback and guidance to men several years older (and several inches taller-) than me, whose arrival in the firm had been delayed by their requirements to partake in military service and the lengthier study programmes often seen in continental Europe.
What you’ve learned
My time with Accenture in France saw me starting at the height of the dot com boom through the subsequent market deflation and boom that ended with the credit crisis. I was able to witness important changes for the firm including the shift from accounting heritage towards consulting services, the "Octel" message left by then CEO Joe Forehand wherein he announced the firm's name change; the IPO, the creation of the Indian delivery centres and helping our clients become high performance companies. It was that shift towards High Performance Delivery that showed me something of the firm's excellence in strategy execution. I am thrilled to be returning as we embark on our New Applied Now strategy; firstly, because the strategy has innovation and delivery at the core, but also because near the top of the list of things I am certain of is Accenture's ability to reinvent itself at scale. In my younger years, being largely pre-occupied with immediate client delivery situations, I might not have had the same appreciation for these things or the required ability to look up to watch as these things unfolded. This is not the case today and I look forward to playing my own part in shaping and supporting the change journey.
During my first stint with the firm where I was promoted from Analyst to Senior Manager through projects ranging from Financial Services, CMT, Retail and Public Sector undertaken across 5 countries; I came to value team work, variety of experience and delivery satisfaction above all.
My counsellor of the day, now a Senior MD within Accenture Digital, will recall that my decision to explore other opportunities in 2009 was purely driven by a wish to see things through a lens other than the one I had known over 10 years. During my time away from the firm I often found myself thinking about how an Accenture team would overcome this or that problem, generally concluding that Accenture would more innovative or more effective than what I was observing at the time.
Having had the experience of working in different organisations, I realised that few if any companies can offer the depth of challenge and satisfaction along those dimensions I have identified above; an industry position cannot offer the breadth of (industry) experience and competing firms have different cultures and constraints making them feel less familiar, less relevant to me personally. In working elsewhere, I learned that while Accenture is undoubtedly a demanding place to work, it is the place that offers a thrilling balance of challenge and satisfaction, a sweet spot that leaves me happier at the end of the working day than I had felt elsewhere.
What you look for in graduates today/advice you would give
Today, as in the past, Accenture has high expectations of graduates. Knowing they are ever more savvy and demanding of and for themselves, our expectations of their ability to learn and contribute as valued members of the firm are increasing.
In so far as possible I would like our grads to try and think of the big picture and to sincerely explore how we can help them to maximise their potential and the value they bring to the firm, to our clients and to society.
Graduates and new joiners should take advantage of the learning opportunities offered by the firm. Indeed, the learning objective was a point stressed last week in a meeting with our Chief Strategy Officer, Omar Abbosh, who instructed a group largely composed of Managing Directors to “learn, learn, learn”. Learning within a firm is different to in academic environments and graduates should seek to identify mentors to assist them in their development.
My wish for new grads is that they enjoy what they can do within, and on behalf of, the firm. Accenture's core asset is its people and we want our people to be content, creative, collaborative and committed. To share a little anecdote from the inside, grads may be surprised to learn that there are groups of retired Accenture staff in their 60s, 70s and 80s who each year reunite over ski holidays, weekend gatherings, drinks, lunches and family occasions both happy and sad. The relevance of the point is that many of these people have worked 20-30 years together and the outcome of their teaming, as enjoyed in retirement, is deep respect and solid friendships that lead them to extend their relationships beyond their working years. This to my mind bears deep testament to the heritage and legacy of the firm, specifically values of teaming, collaboration and respect. As the firm evolves and embraces new opportunities and challenges, enabled and emboldened by the talents of our new graduates, this legacy is to be protected and extended to new generations of talent.