Working at Accenture: “Making Partner”

That’s not to say that anyone who doesn’t get promoted is a “bad widget.” Luck and timing play a major role in any promotion. And besides, some people simply do not want such a frenetic career track for themselves over the long term.
For example, My career has had so many unexpected twists and turns over the years that I never really gave much thought to long term career planning or especially about moving up within an organization. Fancy titles never meant that much to me and I always considered time to be a more valuable commodity than money (time with friends and family, time for vacation, etc). Instead, given my tendency to get easily distracted, I came up with my own simple career algorithm:
  1. Find work that interests me
  2. Get really good at it
  3. Apply what I learned and repeat
Accenture offers ample opportunity to indulge in this type of rapid development cycle for your career. A friend of mine who joined Accenture a mere two months ago is in Germany for two weeks proposing an engagement to develop an IT transformation strategy for a potential new client. How cool is that?
The Accenture Career Fast Track
Accenture’s consulting business has three non-executive job levels: Analyst, Consultant and Manager (there are also sub-levels, ie Sr Analyst, Sr Consultant and Sr Manager). A typical tenure is roughly anywhere from 3-5 years at each level. Once you complete this curriculum, you are eligible for promotion to Senior Executive.
Getting promoted to SE (ie “making Partner”) is a quantum career leap…equivalent to becoming a Vice President at a traditional organization. It means you have excelled to the top 2% (98th percentile) of the firm. You get all the perks: keys to the executive washroom, secret handshakes, flying first class on Southwest Airlines, etc! (I know I get a lot of international readers…this is a joke. Southwest Airlines doesn’t have first class and there are no secret handshakes, or so they tell me ;-).
In a couple months, Accenture will be having its “laddering calls.” This is the annual ritual where each associate is stack-ranked against his/her peers. Very few people get promoted by accident, especially to the SE level. You have to build a case to present to your career counselor (we don’t have managers) and then work with him/her to develop a long term campaign towards your desired goal.
So far, I’ve been very content treading my own career path (which I described earlier). I was able to keep growing professionally as I built my reputation within a highly specialized technology niche. It is why Accenture hired me as a Senior Manager in the first place. But I came to Accenture to take my career to the next level. Which now means developing a broader knowledge base of technical, financial, operational, management and leadership skills.
Whether I make it to Senior Executive or not, one thing I know for sure…I will definitely learn a lot and I will work my @$$ off along the way. I will work on some really interesting projects and meet some very ambitious, bright people on my journey. And if I’m lucky, I will be rewarded for it. And if I’m not so lucky? I get to apply what I learned here and REPEAT it somewhere else. Right?
Next time, I’ll write about Accenture Senior Manager Leadership School which I attended last month. Amazing experience! Stay tuned…