Think you need a background in science to be a consultant at Accenture? Think again.
I studied French and German at university, a degree which some might call “fluffy” compared to traditional STEM subjects. I disagree—there’s nothing fluffy or subjective about the complexities of linguistics, and you can’t waffle your way through a German translation. Like any problem, it must be broken down in order for its meaning to be revealed. You’re taking something seemingly impenetrable and making sense of it
I joined Accenture 25 years ago as a recent graduate, and coming from an arts background put me in the overwhelming minority. The prospect of becoming a software programmer was quite intimidating, and most of my colleagues were from computer science or engineering backgrounds. But I quickly discovered I was rather good at it. Computer programming is a lot like learning how to speak a new language. Once you understand the rules and break it all down, what seemed complex and meaningless at first becomes simpler and more accessible. This doesn’t just apply to software either—more broadly, this is also how we approach business challenges at Accenture.
I work in the financial sector, and fairly soon after joining Accenture, I was a developer on what turned out to be one of the real highlights of my career—the development and implementation of an electronic trading platform for the London Stock Exchange. Transacting shares on the Stock Exchange used to be an expensive, manual and error-prone process. Then, suddenly, it became something you could do over a computer for pennies. It completely changed how business was transacted. It was so high profile that even my grandmother knew about it from reading the news. I’ve since worked for many of our investment banking clients, mainly on all their big, technology-related programs. The industry has developed a bruised reputation over the years, but I’m proud of what we do here. Bit by bit, the work we do helps to make the industry smoother, better controlled, and better at supporting the wider economy.
As you may have already guessed, I’m attracted to complicated things. My idea of relaxing on the train on the way home from work is doing The Times crossword, and in my spare time I’m a race director for a long-standing running event called the Green Belt Relay—Britain’s most complicated running event. It’s a staged relay race through the countryside that involves having to do markings for a 220-mile course through the North Downs and across churchyards and towpaths. It’s intensely competitive and loads of fun.
The thing is, anyone can identify problems and complain about them. But at Accenture, I get to find solutions. The key to it is to get to the underlying data. Once you do that, problems become quantifiable and solvable, and the solutions often become obvious. The ability to identify and implement the simple fix that can make the difference is something we’re really good at here at Accenture.
I think the beauty of being a consultant lies precisely in the fact that it’s not well defined. We learn to deal with complexity, paradoxes and uncertainty. We’re given problems that nobody has an answer for, so it becomes our job to navigate the unknown.
Now, if that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.
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