As I recently completed the one-year anniversary of having been at Accenture, it seems fitting to take a moment and reflect on my first-year experience as an analyst. Having joined the company in November 2018, I initially thought I would get to play the “newbie” card around Fenchurch Street, where the Accenture UK Office is located, for at least a couple of months. To my surprise, a new cohort of analysts had joined the firm only two weeks after me – a speedy welcome, indeed!
The real work began when I landed my first project. As an analyst in the Technology Analyst Group (TAG) with limited background in technology, I worried I had spent the first two weeks of our Induction & Orientation training in Madrid, Spain learning about the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) for little use or reason, as it didn’t apply directly to the work or project I would later work on. Over time, however, I learned the SDLC was arguably one of the most fundamental and crucial processes to understand at Accenture, and it has served me well in many ways since.
Looking back, there are a few pieces of advice I wish I could have given to a “New Joiner Noreen” on how to survive her first year at Accenture:
1. Seize every role or opportunity you get
When I started looking for my first role, other analysts used to say things like: “Take whatever you can get for your first role”. Though I belonged to TAG, I had the opportunity to explore roles across the whole of Accenture. I landed my first role as a Strategy Business Architect, which relied heavily on understanding the end-to-end project timeline, key project milestones and communicating progress to the client on a periodic basis. Even though I had never produced status reports or trackers to maintain this information before, I began asking lots of questions and relied on my team members to support, where they could. Doing this helped me learn how to manage an influx of information in a very short and quick period.
In the first couple of months on my project, I also learned how to navigate the Microsoft Outlook Suite. This included things like utilising the MS Outlook Calendar to book meetings and schedule calls or learn about OneNote, a virtual notebook used to input and share notes with colleagues. My claim to fame was learning how to copy and paste an email into another email – a neat trick I have consistently used and has saved me loads of time since! It was these little “nuggets” I picked up along the way from teammates and other colleagues that I now utilise in my everyday work to effectively manage the hundreds of emails I receive, both from my project as well as the other internal Accenture activities I contribute to.
One of the other things I have thoroughly enjoyed about Accenture is the three charity days it offers to every UK employee. This summer, I took my three charity days to help lead a summer camp called Encounters for children aged 13 – 15 in Kent, England. Not only was my project team supportive of my planning in the lead up to the camp, but they took an active interest in learning more about our camp theme, modules, and the final presentation on “Environmental Sustainability”. Above all, it was great to know such charity initiatives were not only supported, but in fact encouraged, by the Accenture community. Opportunities like this make me proud to have spent a year with Accenture and give me the chance to live out the company’s ethos not only at work with colleagues but also outside in my local community.
2. Always ask for help (even when you think you don’t need it)
When I joined my first project, I had a million questions: What do the words “ping”, “catch up”, “working session”, and “project plan” mean? Am I allowed to “ping” a Senior Manager with a question? How do I upload this file for others to see (and why do people keep using words like “SharePoint” and “MS Teams” to answer this question)? How do I log hours and submit my expenses? How do I use QPT? And more importantly, what even is QPT?!
Initially, I found myself spending a lot more time worrying about the more tedious parts of being an analyst versus figuring out how to complete a project-related task I had been assigned. Once I spoke to a couple of the people on my project, however, I realised everyone was extremely supportive, welcoming and invested in my success as an analyst. Not only were they always available for me to pop in and ask a silly question but I could even “ping” (i.e. send a chat message) to those in other countries and time zones to discuss challenging, client situations. Soon enough, I came to see the team members I worked with as friends, rather than simply colleagues, that I could look to for help and support in any situation.
In some cases, this meant I would walk into a meeting with one question and walked out with three more, but I also learned that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; I had the opportunity to question, explore, learn and thrive. At the end of the meeting, session or day, I wasn’t expected to have or know all the answers, but I was expected to try to learn. To this day, I continue to try to learn in whatever task, role, or project work I am given, because I truly believe it helps me not only become a better analyst but will also help me progress to become a better consultant in the future.
3. Find your person (or people)
Yes, networking is a big part of Accenture, but it doesn’t have to be scary! One of the key things I have learned over the last year is just how much people really are invested in your success and helping you realise your career aspirations.
When I first joined Accenture, I didn’t know how I could make it alive in such a big company when I didn’t know anyone. Accenture was so confusing and complex, where did I even begin? The only person I could think to contact was my TAG Recruitment Buddy, Abu. I had a brief phone call with Abu when applying to Accenture, and I was so sure he wouldn’t have even remembered my name. To my surprise, Abu graciously responded to my email by meeting with me and giving me lots of guidance and materials to read. After this, he later connected me to other members of the TAG community, helped me learn about structure of Technology and even flagged analyst-specific training opportunities I could sign up for.
In the past year, I’ve participated in a Design Thinking Academy (DTA) as well as a Conversational AI Course, where I met several other analysts and consultants interested in design thinking, agile methodologies and artificial intelligence.
As I have a health policy and life sciences background, I mentioned to Abu at one of our meetings that I was keen on learning more the work Accenture does with its life sciences clients. Abu connected me to a few individuals through whom I met a manager named Jessica, who offered to have regular catchups with me to discuss my goals and aspirations within Technology and Life Sciences at Accenture. Thanks to the support of people like Abu and Jessica, I have not only overcome the fear of networking but also seen the value of a support system within and across TAG at Accenture.
Finding “your people” can be a tough journey, but the only way to do it is by being open to talking and learning from anyone along the way and seeing whose interests click with yours. And once you find those people, my advice to “New Joiner Noreen” is to never let them go.