Skip to main content Skip to Footer


This woman in tech uses American Indian teachings as a compass

By Suzanne Randall, Managing Director, Accenture, Denver

Follow Suzanne Randall on Twitter. This opens a new window.

I have always been very proud of my American Indian ancestry. My large, extended family in North Dakota is a major driving force behind my professional and personal success. I know where I come from and how it has shaped who I am today. I am an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, from my mother; and my late father was an enrolled member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia. Thanks to my Dad, I am a direct descendant of Pocahontas. How cool is that?

Throughout my life I have been a student of many experiences. Now, as a working mother with three vibrant and spirited children, I am reminded how important it is to embrace each day with optimism and flexibility.

I am a planner to the core, yet I know that on any given day so much can happen that is simply out of my control. I find that when I take a pause—and refocus on a few teachings that have been passed down to me from some of my greatest teachers—nothing is insurmountable. This traditional wisdom all ties back to a simple, yet powerful approach—the Medicine Wheel.
"I find that when I take a pause—and refocus on a few teachings that have been passed down to me from some of my greatest teachers—nothing is insurmountable."

The Medicine Wheel is a circle organized into four quadrants that has been used for generations by various American Indian tribes for sharing of knowledge. Four is a sacred number in Indian Country. While traditional teachings of the Medicine Wheel vary, they all encompass the inseparability of the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects of life. Here is how I use it in my daily modern life.

The first quadrant represents the physical, and the color is red. I use “red” to remind myself that to accomplish all that I need, I must put myself first. This prioritization is not easy. Taking care of ourselves can often be the last “to do” on our list, but it is essential. Little but important things, such as getting good rest, drinking lots of water, eating right and a little singing, can do wonders!

The second quadrant is symbolized by the color yellow and focuses on our emotional health. I use “yellow” as a reminder to start each day anew with gratitude. When I am cognizant of what is going well in my life, I can perform at my very best. To me, “yellow” also means straight talk, being a good listener and collaboration.

The third quadrant represents spirituality, and the color is black. My faith is my anchor, and each day I work hard to stay grounded. This past year, I lost my dear Dad to cancer. It is by far the most difficult loss I have ever known. And yet, at the time, I was overcome with a sense of peace. My Dad provided a lifetime of advice and joy that I will pass along to my children.

The fourth quadrant represents intellect. It’s symbolized by the color white and completes the circle. I’ve always believed that knowledge is power. We must never stop learning and growing. Last month, I attended the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. It was inspiring to be with 15,000 women technologists as we learned about the latest tech trends covering everything from artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction to bioinformatics and the latest in data science.

I was proud to watch Julie Sweet, Accenture chief executive officer, North America, share the stage with Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, as they launched our joint research “Cracking the Gender Code,” which identifies three key actions to get three times more women in computing. I truly believe there has never been a better time to be a woman in tech, and now is time to work together to inspire the next generation!

What I love most about The Medicine Wheel is it is all about integrating, not balancing, all facets of our lives. By using it as a compass to keep us mindful of what is most important, we can greet each day with fresh eyes, and be greater than.