Anne has been with Capgemini for the last 2.5 years of her 20 year long consulting career. Principal and Head of the Employee Transformation team, she is a self-confessed energetic optimist who is curious about, well, everything. She’s owned both dogs and cats which means she can get along with anyone, and once got arrested for a week in Kuwait. Thankfully she was released because it turned out the photos the Kuwait soldiers were suspicious of were actually just pictures of her hotel carpet as she tested out how strong the flash was ...
I find out why Anne thinks consulting is the perfect fit for her, her top tips for new joiners at Capgemini, what she believes businesses can do to encourage women in the workplace, and who she’d invite to a dinner party.
You’ve been a Consultant for a number of years with different firms. Why did you decide to join Capgemini?
I’m more discerning now about the type of work I do than perhaps I was earlier in my career. Capgemini demonstrates global reach with a solid London client base – the best of both worlds. But it’s also the nature of the work. There’s a lot of flexibility in the kind of projects Capgemini does and I think we’re given a high degree of responsibility in delivering the work.
Do you have a career defining moment?
I think the truth actually is that I have loads. I was recommended to a CEO based on some previous work I’d done for another company and the CEO’s very first words to me during our meeting were ‘You’re not here to take my job.’ That didn’t even occur to me! A lot of the time we go to a new client and worry about the project or the scope or the technical delivery, but actually the client can often be worried they will be shown up to be stupid. It was a good reminder of how important it is to be aware of how others view you as a consultant – this is a people business.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received and who was it from?
Celebrate your successes but also celebrate your failures – because you’ll probably learn more from your failures. The person who introduced me to consulting told me that. If you want to consult, you have to sell, and when you sell you aren’t going to win every single time. You have to learn from that too even though losing is always disappointing.
Why do you think you’ve done so well throughout your career?
Probably because I’m optimistic, energetic and curious. And I really think consulting is a perfect fit for me. It’s not something I fell into – I took great care when I was thinking about what I wanted to do, including spending time with an occupational psychologist. Consulting was one of the careers that came up as a great fit with my capabilities and preferences..
Do you have any top tips for new consultants?
Throw your whole self in. Use your initiative: If you don’t know, find out. Don’t live by the boundaries of your experience – use what you have done or know as a springboard into other things you haven’t yet done. My lifetime mantra has been, “How hard can it be?”
Why do you think it is that, even at graduate level, fewer women choose careers in consulting (and finance, technology, science)?
I think because of the perceived demand these types of jobs make on people coupled with not enough female role models to demonstrate otherwise. Also, consulting at a junior level demands a degree of confidence and a willingness to put yourself forwards which doesn’t always fit well with some women.
Do you think it’s important for businesses to address such gender disparities and if so, why?
I think it’s embarrassing now for businesses to still have teams that are exclusively male or not diverse in any other sense. Our clients are making huge strides in these areas and it doesn’t sit well with them – they expect diversity from us too.
Equally, we are in a challenging and hot market and to miss out on potentially 51% of the population seems to be counter to what consultants are supposed to be – smart. There’s enough research out there now to show why we need diversity. Change doesn’t happen because people don’t want it to, or they kid themselves that because they have two women on a team it’s diverse. It gets a bit lonely when you’re the only woman sometimes.
Do you manage to have a life outside of work?
I write film scripts so belong to various groups that cajole and inspire me in script writing. I went to LA with one of my scripts recently too! I’m also part of a community group where I live that sponsors local events. I’m passionate about education so I do a few bits and pieces around that too. And of course I enjoy a spot of wine tasting. I’ve made some great friends as part of consulting so they understand the lifestyle.
The biggest challenge is not feeling guilty. Deciding to make a 7pm showing at the movies is ok! We’re not required to work all the time. But managing the accompanying guilt is the hardest bit. We need a life outside of work to stay sane though, and need people outside of the industry who will help us rein in our appetite for the adrenaline rush that goes alongside consulting.
Finally, you’re having a dinner party and can invite three people who are guaranteed to come. Who would you invite and why?
Bill Clinton. Oprah Winfrey. Helen Mirren.
Bill likes to be surrounded by women so he’d enjoy himself and be good fun I think. Oprah would have some great stories and has some fabulous friends. Helen’s been the Queen so she’d have some stories too – plus I think she was quite racy back in her earlier career. All three would be good value for money!