What does it take to be a “culture maker”? As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we sat down with two Accenture executives, Casey Wells and Stephanie Jamison, to talk about their journeys to success and how they shape an inclusive environment for those who are emerging as the next generation of leaders.
What was your path into the utilities industry and how has your career progressed?
Casey Wells: As a liberal arts double major, I could never have imagined my career path! Where I am now is testament to taking the opportunities that come your way and finding a way to make them work. On joining Accenture, I was staffed on a utilities project—and despite my academic background being a world away, I decided to go with it and be courageous. After a couple of months on the ground getting into the project, I realized this was the industry for me. In my time at Accenture I’ve done everything from technical architecture to strategy. But what’s been consistent is my drive to get embedded in my clients’ businesses and really understand the big challenges they are facing.
Stephanie Jamison: My path was quite different as I came from an engineering academic background and tried out jobs in engineering at utilities and in aerospace. I like engineering but I wanted to use it in a different way. I joined Accenture and began to work on utilities projects. And about 15 years ago, I really got hooked on the utilities industry—I realized it would be a hugely important business sector in the future for people, society and the environment.
What advice would you give to young leaders around you?
Stephanie Jamison: Being successful takes a number of things. In my case, the first layer was about hard work and learning the job—this is absolutely required to be credible with our clients and to own the space where we operate. Individual behaviors matter a lot—and you have to push a little and have the courage to lead and move ahead. I always say to my teams, what’s the worst that could happen? And I really try to live by that. Be curious, ask, explore, use those around you to learn.
I also believe that it’s important to become a practitioner in your industry. Speak your clients’ language, get under the skin of what it means to be an “industry person.” And of course, find your sponsors and mentors (and be a mentor). Always bear in mind that what makes a good mentor for you may shift over the course of your career and you may need new mentors as your own path evolves.
Casey Wells: I couldn’t agree more with Stephanie’s advice about finding good mentors—I always recommend having a “board of directors” of mentors who bring a range of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. That diversity helps to think about things in new ways so you can chart your path based on the input from many. I also think it’s important that each individual defines success in their own way. This means looking inside yourself and determining what will make you feel accomplished, both personally and professionally, and make it uniquely yours.
When you figure out your North Star, follow it. I also say to “find your way to yes.” As you progress on the journey toward your North Star, look at what you can draw from the opportunities you encounter and how those pieces can be crafted to make create the opportunity you want. It’s about taking a broader view to chart your own path. And finally, be curious and don’t ever stop learning. Find those things to feed your mind every day because that’s what keeps us relevant.
<<< Start >>>
<<< End >>>
How are you a culture maker?
Stephanie Jamison: Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture at work is imperative. While gender balance matters, there’s something more subtle about an inclusive way of operating and I try to drive that in my day-to-day work. It is about doing the right thing for the business and for people so they can flourish. It’s also important for me to support others in my network who operate in a less inclusive work environment than we have at Accenture.
Casey Wells: I truly believe Accenture is an inclusive place for everyone and I want to play my part in that. I think of how we work as a team sport—where shared success is the goal, regardless of gender—and we can all win together. I really try to bring a “can-do” attitude and find a “way to yes”—which could be taking an assignment I don’t know how to do (YET) or solving a problem for a client I haven’t navigated before. Being brave and being positive (as well as hard work) has helped me amplify my impact. And while this blog is being posted as part of International Women’s Day and as a woman leader I feel a responsibility to coach and council other women, I also recognize that my male colleagues play an important role. It takes all of us to drive a culture of inclusion, both inside and outside the workplace.
Stephanie Jamison and Casey Wells have both grown their careers within Accenture’s Utilities practice, each coming from different backgrounds and following their own path to lead the global industry business. Their stories are testament to how hard work and a positive attitude along with strong mentors and an inclusive culture are a powerful combination for success.
Happy International Women’s Day!