When I found this cartoon many years ago while bored in St. Charles training (at http://www.bigtimeconsulting.com) I kept it on my desktop for the day I would quit Accenture. Now after 3.5 years, today is my last day in Accenture, and to be honest I put the cartoon up not because I feel this was my experience with Accenture, but just because I’ve been holding it so long for this day!
Before I write about why I quit and what I intend to do I would like to say my career at Accenture has been fantastic (and I’m not kissing any arse now because I don’t work for them anymore!)! Truth be told, anyone looking to get into consulting, the lifestyle is shit, flying early morning Monday to a client site, living in a hotel and spending you life with your project team whether you like them or not (which fortunately I did!) before returning back on a Friday night, too late to go out, to spend 2 brief days (if you’re not working weekends) catching up on all the crap you couldn’t do during the week. That doesn’t take into account the long hours, crappy managers, crappy clients and team politics you have to put up with sometimes. On top of that, if you go into the business side of Accenture (I was technical) you will most likely end up doing monkey work, making presentations for your manager and filling out spreadsheets. However, this is consulting in general – not just Accenture.
However, if it was just like that I wouldn’t have stayed for 3.5 years! The fact is Accenture is just like any other huge organisation of 160,000 people worldwide. Like any big global company, there is inevitable bullshit, especially in the way they have to manage all their performance reviews using a bell curve to ladder everyone :p but with a large global organisation come opportunities! And I have to say (without sounding arrogant) I am an example of someone who took advantage of all the opportunities I could! And this is my advice to anyone who’s just coming out of university to enter the big wide world – your first job is a stepping stone to getting as much experience as you can before moving on to what you really want to do. So decide what you want and do it! Anyone who doesn’t in a big company like Accenture only has themselves to blame. The amount of times I heard people winging about the lifestyle or how they came to Accenture to travel to exciting places and are still stuck in some crappy town outside London just haven’t tried to do anything about it! My career has gone exactly the way (apart from one exceptional period) I wanted because I took control of it. First of all they put me in the Business Intelligence group (databases) when I first started, most likely because noone else signed up to be in that group when we were choosing and as I joke I told the HR girl who was asking I would do it and then said “not really” which basically got me shoved in there :p Now I could have stayed there and my career would have been boring as hell for doing so, but I didn’t, I agreed to give it a try for 6 months, just in case I was wrong (which I wasn’t, should have known my intuition was right!) and as soon as the 6 months was up (I’d carefully ensured I wasn’t sucked into the NHS project in Leeds at the time so I wasn’t trapped) I went straight to my future boss Hani and told him I wanted to join the Portal & Content Management group. I wouldn’t take no for an answer, even if Hani still did remember me as the drunk guy who nicked some flags at a community event a couple of months before :p I guess another thing to add at this point is make sure you have a great manager – Hani is a great manager, he looks after you but more importantly gives people the opportunities to excel. So 6 months into Accenture I found myself becoming an expert on a piece of software I’d never heard of, but because I’m such a Geek, I got to know it in no time and somehow ended up becoming not only Lead Technical Architect for a huge FileNet case management system for a huge UK bank, but development team lead overseeing a team of 10. This project pretty much set me up in Accenture as a leading expert, meaning I got to pick and choose my projects thereafter, and taught me that I didn’t know shit about running projects when I left university and how I had so much to learn. However the project was a great success and now I think I’m pretty good 😉
So in December 2006, my fantastic boss called me up on Saturday to say “Hey, wanna go to Korea?”. “Why not…” I replied and I flew out the next day. My second time in the Far East – it was AMAZING! Best 2 weeks of my life up to that point even though I spent pretty much 90 hours in the office each week! That experience reminded me of one of the reasons I had joined Accenture, to go and work in amazing places and in different cultures, so I was gutted when the project fell through and my supposed 6 months in Korea never happened. However, Accenture is the only consultancy out there to have a program for non-profit consulting work called Accenture Development Partnerships. Its a volunteer program and you have to take a pay cut to do it (that’s how they achieve their low fees to NGOs) but I wouldn’t have traded that salary cut for anything! I signed up as soon as I could, getting on the program in about 2 weeks (which is exceptional as most people wait months or years to get on!) because of a very big project that needed my skills for NetHope. That led to me not only working with and presenting to all the major global NGOs about Enterprise Content Management for the next 14 months, but getting to travel and work in Thailand (7 months), Kuala Lumpa (3 days), US (several trips to DC, Seattle and then Baltimore for 5 months), and India (2.5 months). I even blagged a commercial project in Hong Kong for 2 weeks in between because of my FileNet expertise (another example of if you don’t ask, you don’t get!).
So really I have had an amazing time in Accenture. I’ve met & worked with amazing people, some amazing clients, especially being exposed to the NGO sector and helping them do their good work around the world, and travelled the world and lived/worked in some fantastic (and not so fantastic) places! I tell my story not to brag, but because it is an example of what anyone can do in a large global company if you know what you want and go for it! I wanted experience, so I put myself out there for lead roles on projects well before I should have gaining experience I never would have for another 2-3 years if I’d waited, and I wanted to work in new cultures. Even India was partly my choice because I wanted to work there to see if it really was as amazing as all the business books I read, so luckily the business reasons made sense and I pushed for the project to be done there! You really can do what you want in Accenture, and any large company if you’re smart and driven. So if you’re sitting there complaining about your crappy project role or how you’ve never left your home town and want to travel, you only have yourself to blame and you have to ask if you really wanted those things anyway…some people say they do but actually just want a nice quiet life and just like to winge I’ve noticed…
Why would I leave such a fantastic place? Well to be honest, there was nothing left for me really. Coming back to London to do a normal consulting project outside Accenture Development Partnerships program would have been less responsibility, less interesting work and to be honest very little in the way of new experience and development. Another reason is that one of the negative things for a wannabe entrepreneur is all large business’s need fixed processes, or methodologies to operate. Having 100’s of thousands of individual thinkers all trying to do their own thing would reak chaos, so I honestly felt my brain was being conditioned, corpratised as I like to say, into thinking less creatively and seeing only one way of doing things. On top of that, how many more enterprises did I need to work in to see how the industry works? I have reached a comfort zone, and like everything else in my career to date, I couldn’t just sit back and waste another few years relaxing and doing what I already know, I want to start my own business and Accenture wasn’t teaching me anything new towards achieving that…
So while it seems rash to some people, I’ve handed in my notice and quit. I don’t have another job lined up. I don’t intend to get another job. I have a few ideas, a few contacts, and a chance to either finally do my start-up, or if needed go work for one so I can learn all the stuff I need to be an entrepreneur. I feel like I’m on my first project again, as much as I’ve read about doing a start-up, now I’m in the details I don’t feel like I have a f***ing clue how to get started and getting bogged down in market research and trying to write a business plan for my idea. Still, that’s how I felt on my first project and it ended up being one of our most successful projects to date. One thing I will take from that is I was successful because I was surrounded by other successful people and experienced managers who could mentor me, that’s what I need to do now and is the main reason I didn’t continue working for Accenture while I planned my start-up, it takes time and dedication to learn and do something right and I need to throw myself into it fully if I’m going to be successful.
Thanks to all the people who made Accenture great.