Lessons Learned From a Career at Accenture

One of my mentors Liz Tinkham shared this great letter to her younger self

Liz Martin circa 1984

With Liz’s permission I’m sharing this letter that she shared with many of us on her last day at Accenture. Liz has personally influenced my journey greatly and her leadership and the lessons she’s learned are invaluable.

Image courtesy of Unsplash
I am often asked about my career, the things I’ve learned, and what I would change if I had a do-over. Fortunately, I got most of it right, but today I thought it would be fun to write a letter to Liz Martin, circa June 11, 1984 with some advice. Here goes…

Dear Liz,

Congratulations! You’ve made an excellent choice by joining the Management Information Consulting Division of Arthur Andersen. And while your father and mother are completely perplexed as to why their Aerospace Engineering graduate daughter would join an accounting firm, be patient with them, in a few years they’ll come to see why you’ve made this choice.

Liz, your energy, positive attitude, sense of humor and curiosity will take you a long way as the business changes and evolves from Arthur Andersen to what is now Accenture. You will meet extraordinary people who will become your best friends, your clients and even your husband. You will be put into circumstances that will stretch your abilities far beyond what you thought yourself capable of and you will land on your feet. You will experience a miraculous financial event called an IPO that you had no idea existed while in college, and you will help build what is now the world’s leading management consulting firm.

But, there are a few areas where I might offer advice to you:

  • Keep Learning. Set aside two to four hours a week for continual learning. Make it a priority and don’t let it fall to the bottom of your to-do list just because you’re tired and you have three little kids.
  • Your curiosity will serve you well — So keep building on the depth of your understanding in the industry and functional areas in which you practice. This is a life long journey and the more senior you get, the more important it will become to stay current.
  • Be Coachable. Seek and willingly accept coaching and advice — As the superstar student you are, you think you know it all or that not knowing it all is a sign of weakness. Being coachable is not a sign of weakness and being an interested student will differentiate you. Many people will offer you advice, coaching and help and you need to graciously accept it, always. And make sure to find a coach or a mentor from outside of Accenture who can provide you with a different perspective and counsel.
  • Stay In Touch. You are going to meet extraordinary people within Accenture, through client engagements and networking opportunities. While on a project, you will grow very close to the entire team and often to their families. But consulting is transactional, so once the project ends, your need to be together will end. This doesn’t mean that your personal relationship needs to end. Nurture those relationships. Many of your early client relationships will become your senior clients later. These people can and will be helpful to you throughout your career, nurture those relationships, value the people you meet on this journey.
  • Set personal boundaries. You will have three wonderful children who you will love dearly. All parents older than you tell you “the time goes so quickly”. Liz, the time goes so quickly. You will not need to work until 7 or 8 pm every night to get ahead. That does not need to be part of your definition of what it takes to be successful. In fact, what it takes to be successful is getting your job done well, regardless of hours. Set personal boundaries and stick to them. Your career will not suffer, your children may.
  • Be true to yourself. You will get continual pressure to behave in a certain way to suit a person or job: don’t do it. Your experiments in trying to be the tough gal based on the advice of your boss will fail miserably because that’s not YOU. Your authentic style will take you far in your career.
  • Don’t make your husband your #3 priority. You will go onto marry a terrific guy who loves and supports you. But in the heat of making Accenture partner, having three kids and all else you have going on, he will fall to fourth priority for you. Don’t let that happen. He’s your life partner, and your #1 fan. Treat him that way. And, by the way, the same can be said about all those other people who support you with their unconditional love like your parents, in-laws and friends. Put what matters most first and keep reminding yourself what matters most.
  • Take control of your 40’s. Goodness, the “wander years”….your career is going to rocket through your 20’s and 30’s, but you are going to let it stall in your 40’s. You will wander for a few years without a career anchor. Don’t wander too long, find a coach who will kick you out of your doldrums and help you get back on track. There’s always more to learn, there’s always a place for your curiosity to thrive.
  • What’s the worst-case scenario? This will become your go-to saying, it will have you “leaning in” before it’s the in thing to do. This try-anything mentality will take you and your family on great adventures and bring about incredible opportunities. Enjoy this, it’s everything.

Best of luck to you Liz Martin!

With warm regards,

Liz Tinkham

In writing this letter I found lessons that I’m still learning, areas that bring me great personal interest and have me leaning in to this next season of life with great curiosity. If you’re inclined to write your own letter to yourself on your first day with the lessons you’ve learned please share them with me by adding the hashtag: #LessonsLearnedwithLiz
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