Stasia Smith is a Management Consultant with Capgemini Consulting UK and a Performance Manager for entry-level consultants in CCUK’s Business Model Transformation Practice. Stasia joined Capgemini three and a half years ago, a move she describes as her best career decision yet.
I sat down with Stasia to talk about her career to date, working for Capgemini and the lessons and insights she has learned along the way.
What were you doing before Capgemini?
Before Capgemini, I spent 10 years at British Gas. I started out in Manchester, setting up payment processing and debt recovery. My role evolved over the years and I was given lots of development opportunities while I was there. They even sponsored me during my degree, which I completed part time while I was working. I was then head hunted by a small consultancy in London, where I spent 4 years before leaving to work for myself. I soon realised that working on my own wasn’t for me so I moved to an Indian global consultancy and ended up travelling a lot to the Netherlands and Paris, where I met the love of my life! I brought him back to London with me, joined Capgemini, and I’m marrying my partner this Spring.
What was your dream job growing up?
I used to be a serious gymnast and when I was very young I wanted to be a trapeze artist in the circus! There was also a period when I was obsessed with ice cream and I wanted to be an ice cream woman. Even at that age I recognised that there were only ice cream men and I saw a gap in the market for an ice cream woman. Once I got a bit older, I knew I wanted to travel with work. I got my wish! I’ve travelled to Paris, India, America, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands and Portugal- all for work.
With hindsight, what is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself?
Looking back, my advice to myself would be to have more self-confidence and not to be afraid to succeed. I’ve never rushed through my career and while I don’t regret that fundamentally, it meant that I never really had a goal and I drifted a bit. I think it would have given me more focus if I had explored what careers were actually out there at an earlier age. I would have had so much fun in the CDC!
What do you think differentiates the CDC from other consulting graduate programmes and how might this appeal to female applicants?
Our culture, our values and our people. I think this makes a real difference. There’s room for women to be women. We want people to be individual and to do things their way. Of course we use Capgemini’s methodologies and frameworks but there is also a culture of trusting each other and valuing each other’s strengths. We help each other to learn and develop and it’s incredibly supportive, from the communities that exist and the social events that underpin these to the training available and the regular knowledge shares that take place.
What do you think CDCers have in common?
We recruit people who are intelligent and have potential and who demonstrate our core values, people who balance boldness with modesty and who know how to have fun. It’s these core values – honesty, boldness, trust, freedom, team spirit, modesty and fun - which are the common thread. We genuinely look for these in the recruitment process.
How has Capgemini changed since you’ve been here?
We have an increased presence in the Financial Services sector, which is good for the company but, as it is typically a male-dominated industry, this can be off-putting to women. I think we have recognised the challenges of this and we are doing more about it.
Why do you think some women might feel intimidated or put off by certain industries?
There is a perception that certain sectors such as Financial Services, for example, can be male-dominated, aggressive environments and that they demand long hours and are very competitive. However, the reality is more often than not very different and it’s important to communicate this. [At this point, I interrupt the interview to corroborate Stasia’s view as I have been working with a very friendly FS client for almost 12 months!]
What do you think we can be doing to encourage more young women to enter the world of consulting?
I think every female consultant has a responsibility to talk to young girls about what they do and open up their eyes to the options available to them. It’s about raising awareness. It’s too easy to complain about the late nights and the hard work but at the same time we need to remember to talk about the travel, the community aspect, the development opportunities etc to present a balanced view.
How have you been encouraged in your own career?
I have been incredibly supported throughout my career. Different people have taken the time to say “you’re good at that” or “you should try this”. I have been lucky to have been pushed, supported and mentored by both men and women. Just recently I attended a Capgemini Leadership training course in India. That was due to Rachel Charlton [Head of CC UK’s Business Model Transformation Practice] saying to me that I’m a future leader and giving me the support and confidence to grow and progress. It was essentially a week with personal life coaches! That’s a huge investment from Capgemini. It was a hugely valuable experience and has really helped me to understand how to overcome my own barriers.
How do you juggle the pressures of your work?
I have learnt to say “I’m not doing that” and “that’s not important”. You need to be able to prioritise and identify what matters and what doesn’t. I think there is huge pressure on women to be perfect and to do everything. I think increasingly that pressure applies to men too. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves. We are conditioned to want to do everything well. If we are trying to do everything well we are probably doing lots of things badly so it’s better not to do some things at all. Teamwork is an important part of this and technology helps too -Internet shopping is a real time saver!
Lastly, what do you think your best career decision has been?
Coming to Capgemini, no question. I felt like I had come home! The people, the culture, the opportunity, the freedom, the support. Importantly, I am surrounded by a host of great female role models – Rachel Charlton, Philina Toiny, Anne Gauton, Erika Moore, Kerry Appleton-Norman – I could go on. They inspire me, they push me and I know that there is always a glass of bubbles at the end of the day if I need it!