Rising Stars: Seán McCarthy, Consultant, Accenture Ireland
I was very interested in IT and web design throughout school and university, so a degree in Business IT seemed like a sensible move. I first heard of management consulting and Accenture at a careers fair I attended while at university. After researching the company everything seemed to fall into place: the skills I'd learned at college could certainly feed into a career in consultancy, and I could develop my interests in IT and business while working alongside industry leaders in Ireland.
The graduate induction I received at Accenture included two weeks' training in Chicago alongside 250 graduates from around the world. As well as receiving an in-depth introduction to the company, the training covered a wide range of topics – everything from technical skills to business acumen – all of which was quickly put into practice when I attended my first board meeting on a client site! This whole experience was an exciting kick-start to my professional life and gave me an idea of how my career could develop within the company.
A turning point
Promotion from Analyst to Consultant immediately changed how clients perceived me and opened up many new opportunities and responsibilities. Change is always a bit daunting at first, but I was surrounded by talented people who advised and mentored me through the transition.
A definite highlight for me is seeing the projects I work on go live. Due to the nature of consulting everything I work on is project-based – it's hard to narrow it down to just one project, but recently I have been working with a large insurance company client, helping their key partners deliver websites that sell home and car insurance to Irish customers. In this instance it’s great to have a tangible output but regardless, there’s always a real sense of achievement when we help clients deliver large projects and I can observe the impact we’ve made on their business.
I would say my main strengths lie in communication. Whenever I was set a group project at university I always challenged myself to pick an entirely new set of classmates to work with. This really gave me a feel for group dynamics in the workplace: I learned how to develop relationships and formulate ideas with a variety of characters and how to get the best out of a group with different opinions and skills.
The ability to be diplomatic and manage different personalities and opinions has proven to be invaluable in consultancy: it's my job to develop satisfactory solutions for all concerned.
Encountering the recession within the first few months of my career has without a doubt been one of the toughest challenges I've faced so far. I started at Accenture in 2007 and within a matter of months the entire global and local business environment changed completely. While the challenging economic climate has been difficult for everyone in both a personal and professional sense, I've gained insights and learned new skills that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life.
Advice for graduates
Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try out different things in a new job. When I first started at Accenture I didn’t have much experience of the business world, like most graduates. Let go of any apprehension or fears; by taking every opportunity to experiment and test yourself in something new you are developing your skills and furthering your professional experience.
Skills for future graduates
Flexibility is one of the most important skills by far. It's pretty rare nowadays that you will just have one role in the workplace; to be successful you need to offer a whole spectrum of skills and be willing and able to adapt continuously to an ever-changing business environment.
How to survive an economic downturn
Times may be tough economically speaking, but there are still opportunities out there. Aim to position yourself with an employer that will develop your abilities and surround you with experienced people you can learn from. You won't regret it.
Seán McCarthy was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2011/12.