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They said I couldn’t. So I did. My career path to digital engineering

May 16, 2022

Today, more and more girls are encouraged to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.

But studying geosciences and seismology as a young woman in the 1980s and 1990s meant I was frequently breaking new ground.

Regularly facing expectations about what girls could or couldn’t do meant I developed an attitude of, “Yeah, I can; and I will prove it,” despite the doubt that I sometimes felt.

That attitude helped me follow my passion for seismology and work in the utilities and energy industry. Now I’m breaking ground in new ways as a senior managing director and Industry X lead, helping clients change what they make and how they make it with the power of data and digital technology.

How I found my path

I think a lot of my attitude of resilience and drive to succeed comes from my childhood. I begged my parents to send me to boarding school like my brother, because it sounded like he was having lots of fun. Thinking I was too young, they set a ridiculous goal for me to achieve before I could go—so I did, and off I went to boarding school for a short time.

When it later came time to choose subjects to study that would help shape my career direction, my dad sat me down and asked what I wanted to do. I knew I was interested in math and science, so he came back with some brochures from the university, including one on geophysics and seismology.

And that was it. I knew from around 15 years old that was the path I wanted to follow.

I got a scholarship to attend a university in Johannesburg—the first female they had ever sponsored for a geoscience degree. But it was a time of instability in South Africa as the anti-apartheid movement gained momentum, so my parents decided to move back to the UK. At 18 years old, not knowing anyone, I started studying at Durham University.

      I developed an attitude of "Yeah, I can; and I will prove it."

      The importance of authenticity

      After graduating, I got a job in the exploration division of a large gas company. Then, I moved back to South Africa for what was initially a one-year contract with Accenture to start the energy and utilities division. But I ended up staying 12 years!

      During that time, I accepted increasingly demanding roles and also met my husband, Colin, and had my two children, Isabelle and Tom. Balancing my demanding professional life with my personal life was a challenge—but one I readily accepted, even though some said it couldn’t be done.

      It never bothered me to hear what those people said, because what I think of myself is more important to me than what others think of me. I like to think this authenticity is something I bring to my work more and more as the years go on. I’m honest, I share how I feel, and I encourage others to do the same, at home and with my team at Accenture.

      Inspired by change

      I left Accenture for a bit to pursue jobs in industry and as a CIO for one company, and then I returned. When I initially left the consulting world, I didn’t think I’d be back. But this is an exciting time, and it’s a great opportunity to take everything I’ve learned over the years to help my team understand different industries and how to be a better consultant.

      As a change agent, I get frustrated when things stand still, so I love being in an environment where people have a growth mindset and a hunger for knowledge.

      The drive of everyone at Accenture to constantly move forward and make real, impactful change inspires me.

      I’m excited to see what comes next for us and our clients.

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      Fay Cranmer

      Senior Managing Director – Industry X, Growth Markets Lead