You joined Accenture in 1987 and held a number of senior roles at the company before being appointed Country Managing Director for Accenture Ireland in 2014 - tell us about your career to date?
I studied Microelectronic Engineering at Trinity College Dublin from 1983 to 1987. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, but I felt engineering would help with problem-solving. It can be applied in so many ways.
I began my career at Accenture as a software programmer. I had done some programming at college. It wasn’t my greatest love in life, but I was always interested in the applied aspect of technology. I didn’t use that language then, but my focus was very much on how technology could be used to solve problems. In retrospect, I had as much interest in business as in pure technology – on how you could use it, as opposed to what it is in and of itself.
When I joined Accenture, the company was relatively small with just 65 to 70 people. Our projects then were primarily technology-focused. We were building software from scratch and offering business advisory services, what we now call management consultancy.
Ireland is somewhat unique on so many levels from an Accenture point-of-view. We have a very strong client-facing business and, in the late nineties, we chose Ireland as a hub for providing customer services to Accenture itself. Our building on Grand Canal Plaza still, to this day, provides very high-end, high-value services to the global firm. The reason it was located here is because Ireland has the necessary breadth of skills, the multilingual capabilities and experience.
Ireland is also at the intersection between the Americas and Europe, which are two big parts of Accenture’s overall business. Ireland acts as a nice pivot point, hence the recent addition of The Dock here in Dublin, which is Accenture’s largest innovation hub.
What does your role involve - do you have a “typical day”?
My role day-to-day is to make sure that we are doing the right things for, with and by our clients. We have always had a very clear “client first” mantra. Putting the client first is what points the business in the right direction.
My days typically involves partaking in numerous client meetings. I am involved in Accenture’s role in the wider marketplace and in our Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
Ireland is undergoing profound change. It has regenerated itself in a remarkable way and is very different to the country I once knew. That can only be good and our generation needs to be very careful to support this change.
At Accenture, we are extremely passionate about supporting diversity. It is something we live and breathe. Gender diversity is vital. More than half the people we hire every year from the graduate pool are women and we have to make sure we make the most of that [talent pool] as a country and that everyone gets a fair crack of the whip. Our workforce is made up of 60 or so nationalities.
My view is simply that, when people get up in the morning and come to work, they should not feel they have to hide anything. They should be who they are, be as good as they can be and enjoy it. We want to make the workplace here as natural as possible for everyone.
What is the most important trend in your industry currently? Where are the opportunities?
The debate among our team at the moment is about the use of the word “digital.” It has come to be regarded almost as the answer to everything.
The big trend we see coming to the fore over the next three to four years is AI, applied intelligence or intelligence of a technical construct.
Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, said recently that AI wouldn’t hit us in one big bump, it would arrive in a thousand little things. AI will be like the spreadsheet in five years’ time. We won’t be able to comprehend that there was ever a world without and that is huge.
The fact that devices and products will be connected will have profound implications for some industries in this country, as we bring analytics and data to the fore and the digital world becomes real.
It’s like an iceberg. Right now, we are only seeing the bit above the water.
What do you do to maximise productivity and effectiveness in your role?
Most of our people are online full-time, because we are a tech firm, but there is value in going offline to boost productivity, in taking time for yourself and time to think.
Doing that can be tough, because so many people spend so much time with their heads down, using a device.
In a world where there is information, data and “stuff” coming at you from every angle, the best way to be productive is sometimes about putting technology aside and instead working through a problem on paper.
At Accenture, we have writable walls and I will sometimes use them to “scribble” and work through problems. People must wonder “what is he at?” but it’s the engineer in me.
It is very important to us, as a company, to make sure that we make the most of technology without allowing it to consume us. That’s a big challenge for our business. We could all be online day and night, because that is the nature of the world as it is now.