by Asif Khan
When Accenture first approached me about working here, I was not really interested. One of the main reasons was that I remembered several years ago a friend told me about the “Big Four” consulting firms’ dreaded “up or out” policy where you are stack-ranked each year against your peers: the top-ranked get promoted and the bottom-ranked get fired.
I asked about this policy during my interview process and, though it’s not quite that explicit anymore, Accenture definitely wants you to keep moving forward and not stagnate. But at least there are several career tracks you can select from now: technical, functional or industry expert; sales; administrative; operations; or the traditional “partner” track.
I have been thinking about this policy ever since I started with Accenture last June and I think I understand it better now and even agree with it, more or less. The way I see it, working at Accenture is like going to management boot camp or getting an MBA.
You are constantly challenged. You are constantly learning. You are regularly placed in impossible situations where you have to think your way out. And all of this happens at a much faster pace than at any job I’ve held in the past. You are given as much responsibility as you think you can handle…and then you will be challenged to take on even more.
To succeed, you have to network like crazy, build alliances, demonstrate loyalty and prove your worth everyday to a) your peers who may work for you someday, b) your executives who will stack-rank you at your annual review and, of course, c) your clients who are paying for your services.
And if you demonstrate that you can excel at this better than most of your peers, you may eventually get rewarded by being promoted to Senior Executive (what they used to refer to as “making Partner”). And if you don’t? Well, eventually you will get voted off the island.
I’m A Widget
Sound harsh? Think of it this way. Accenture is a consulting firm. They don’t sell widgets. They sell the services of highly qualified consultants who have been extensively trained to deliver consistent results. In other words, our consultants are our widgets. Companies that actually sell widgets would quickly go out of business if they sold the same widget model year after year. Customer needs evolve and widget manufacturers have to keep improving their product to keep their customers happy. Consulting is no different.
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