1. What key program (mentorship, sponsorship, or paid leave, for example), do you credit for helping you get ahead at your company? How has this program been especially helpful for you as a woman?
Accenture offers all of the above: a strong network of leaders who are willing to provide advice and a lift up via mentoring or sponsorship. The paid leave policy was very helpful after the birth of my two children. My mentors and sponsors encouraged me wisely to maximize that leave and I am very glad that I listened. For me, one of the greatest lessons I learned at Accenture is that you shouldn’t approach your career alone. I’ve been very fortunate to benefit from the counsel and support of strong mentors and sponsors and have in turn helped formalize programs to help other female leaders grow and thrive. Mentors and sponsors have been invaluable in helping me to see my strengths and my blind spots and use that knowledge to grow.
2. In what ways has support from your colleagues/company helped you to grow in your career?
My company and my colleagues have exposed me to new opportunities and helped me dare to dream big. By learning from the perspectives of others, I have developed more confidence in what I can personally achieve and, more importantly, what can be achieved through collaboration and the difference it could make, not just for me, but for other women.
We are all more successful when we join forces, innovate and collaborate, than when we try to tackle anything on our own.
3. What are some of the greatest obstacles you’ve faced to progressing in your career?
A few things come to mind. First, I had to get comfortable taking risks and stepping outside my comfort zone. It was through new assignments that I learned how to stretch myself and achieve more than I initially thought possible. When men want a new role, they typically just go for it, whether they fully fit the job description or not—women need to get more comfortable with that kind of risk. Another thing that I learned was to quiet the noise externally (the doubters) and in my head (the imposter syndrome). By remaining calm, asking for help and focusing on what I could control, I learned to navigate challenges and develop resilience. Finally, I learned the difference between goals and intentions. Goals are external achievements; intentions are about your relationship with yourself and others. By setting intentions first and combining them with goals, I learned to live in the moment with gratitude, which has helped me take the focus away from success or failure and enjoy the journey in my career and personal life.
4. Was there a single defining moment in your career, and what did you learn from it?
The time I thought I would be promoted to managing director versus the time I achieved it. I didn’t make it the first time because I thought hard work alone would get me there. It was a defining moment that taught me to advocate for myself. It is important to be intentional about what you want and share that intention with others. The clearer you are about this, the easier it is for others to help you get there.
5. What advice would you give other women aiming for the C-Suite to succeed in their career?
I do feel that now, more than ever, there is a war for talent. There are more opportunities for women to grow and lead, whatever their industry. The key is speaking up, stepping up and stretching. Don’t wait until you have all the skills in the job description to go for the job, just go for it. Skills and traits that women have traditionally brought to the table are valued now more than ever: listening, empathy and collaboration are critical to success for all leaders.
Most importantly, have mentors and sponsors. Don’t try to do it alone. We can all get so much further when we work together. Be sure you have people around you who can promote you, counsel you, champion you and team with you. Working hard is important, but so is working smart, collaborating and making sure that others are aware of your contributions.