Considering a career move as a strategy consultant? It needn’t be the quantum career leap it might appear—I should know.
My journey to strategy
I was hardly born into a career in strategy. After graduating with an engineering degree, I joined a research lab that focused on defense, where I worked on computer modeling and simulations. I then moved into engineering consulting, focusing on hardware design verification.
After earning an MBA at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I had my first real exposure to enterprise information technology as a consultant with a big IT outsourcing firm. I then started working for a multinational financial services organization, where I worked in partnership with Accenture for the first time.
While I’ve worked in different roles and in different environments, there’s been a common thread throughout my career: technology. If you’re more interested in what technology can do—improve capabilities, make organizations better, enhance the interaction between people—than spending all day with your fingers on a keyboard, then consider a transition to a career in strategy.
5 tips that eased my transition:
Invest in your new environment.
From day one, listen to what you’re hearing because it’s authentic. It will prepare you for what’s coming. I remember attending a session on the values of Accenture Strategy. It wasn’t just a standard presentation. I remember thinking, “This actually feels real; these values are important.” And they’ve proved so.
Build relationships—and your network.
Given Accenture’s size and scale, I was initially surprised at the importance of person-to-person interactions. But they really are critical. Put in the effort to make valuable connections, and in time, you will have access to just about anyone, even if it takes a couple of hops to get there. In an organization of nearly 450,000 people, this fact is staggering, but it’s true.
Draw from previous experience.
There’s often an overlap between roles in strategy, technology and consulting. Clients don’t just want help to figure out a problem; they want to know how you can solve it. You might be surprised by how often you’ll find yourself tackling a problem you’ve encountered before; use this experience—it will help you talk authentically with the client. I always use a blend of my personal experience with the breadth of Accenture’s knowledge and resources.
Tap into the knowledge of other people.
Learn by watching. In my early days at Accenture, I observed my career counselor—what he did, how he responded to requests. Reach out to people; ask them to share their knowledge. Don’t be frightened to ask, “How do I handle this client deliverable or meet this particular challenge?” You’ll always get the chance to return the favor in the future. And as you progress, there’s no shame in telling a client that a colleague would be better qualified to answer a question.
Don’t focus on what you did; focus on what it meant.
When interviewing experienced hires for Accenture Strategy, what interests me is not a person’s technology background but rather their insights into how technology made a positive impact on a business. When you’re interviewing, instead of saying, “I designed the architecture,” or, “I reworked the processes as a scrum master,” it’s better to say, “I shaved three months off delivery time to market,” or, “I created ongoing cost savings.” Then say how you did it.
I like to think I’ve followed my own advice. Throughout my career, I’ve always had a “four-year itch,” but I’ve been with Accenture Strategy for six years now. I haven’t always gotten it right and things haven’t always gone to plan, but I’ve learned and moved on.
I’ve been promoted from manager to senior manager, and I am now involved in project origination and sales, continuing to lead clients into the New. Blockchain, automation and artificial intelligence may grab the headlines, but to me it’s also about new architectures and operating models.
If you’re thinking about moving to a career in strategy, take my advice: Just go for it! Join the Accenture Strategy team today .
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