P&Q: What kinds of skills does Accenture anticipate needing in the coming years that you may not possess enough of now (Languages, Technical Skills, etc.)?
Chanmugam: Number one is someone who started a business or worked in a small business or developed a new concept or idea. At that point in their career, that jumps off the page for us because it gives us a sense of the entrepreneurial instincts of the person. Also, it shows us that they are very practical about how to get things done because in a small business you typically have less people to do the work. Clients today do not want a folder with insights and recommendations. In today’s world you need to take the ideas to the next level, build prototypes, test your recommendations. We can leverage the broader Accenture network to build and launch products and services quickly on a trial and long term basis. No other strategy firm can take an idea to execution like we can. We provide strategic recommendations but also know “how the plumbing works” to make them viable and bring them to life.
Second, we are looking for people who’ve had to face some technological issues. For example, maybe they worked in a big company (or did a project for one) where they were attacked by an online company who were proficient with new technology. (As a result), they had to learn how to use it properly. So (we want) some experience — not directly in running the technology aspects of a company — but some first-hand experience in (applying) that technology.
And the third is a background in some industry that we’re focused on — banking, retail, energy, health care, consumer goods, insurance — where we’re really putting some extra effort behind it. If someone has some background or passion around that, it enhances their attractiveness to us.
One other thing that is a little less heralded but where we’ve had a lot of success is hiring people who have a military background within the MBA. We participate in the Military Veterans MBA Conference. We’ve found that this background fits very well with the cultural dimensions I described earlier: practical and collegial and able to put [their] ego aside for the good of the team. They’ve done really well in our practice so we have a special emphasis on trying to find more people with that background.
At Accenture Strategy, we’re going to hire 250 people globally who have an MBA [in 2016]. That’s about a 10% increase in North America. We also have 175 [MBA] interns globally, so some portion of those will come from military backgrounds.
P&Q: What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?
Chanmugam: The first thing we say is, ‘Try before you buy.’ Interview with us for an internship. It’s the best way to get to know what Accenture Strategy is like. As I mentioned before, we’re building a different kind of strategy consulting firm. We are separate from the rest of Accenture, so they may have a perception of Accenture being the big company that does a lot of technology and outsourcing. By coming to work with us, they can see we are a separate entity: one like a strategy consulting firm, yet connected with a larger and very powerful technology business that can help us with data and expertise.
Even if you don’t get an internship, come to the presentations in the following fall; learn about the projects we’re doing; and get a sense for the culture and collegiality. It’s very competitive interview process and you’ll learn a lot about us. Often, people who just miss out on an internship in year one, often come back to us in year two, and because they’re better informed and understand us better (and we understand them), they get a full time offer then. So if you don’t get an internship, stay in touch with us. Come to our presentations over the summer in many of the big cities. Meet our Accenture Strategy ambassadors who come to campus in the fall. Talk to alumni from your school.
And the last thing is, take a look at the publications that we’re putting forward. See if any of those are things you find intellectually interesting. Ask yourself: do you see things you want to work on? That just gives you another thing to talk about with us: ‘I saw your article on the future of remote monitoring of patients in healthcare and that’s something I’m very passionate about.’ Or, it could be, ‘I saw your article on the future of television and advertising. I have a background in media and this is how I can add to that.’ So bring something that connects to our intellectual capital and the positioning of our ideas.
[As far as extracurriculars and coursework], we like people who have done field projects. There are always traditional courses, but some schools have theme projects where students go out and help a company or a not-for-profit to solve a problem — very similar to our consulting engagement. That attracts us. Some schools have something more entrepreneurial where they have students go start a company or work on business ideas or a business plan for a company. That appeals to us from the entrepreneurial side.
P&Q: Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has Accenture done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates? (i.e. new initiatives being rolled out)
Chanmugam: I’ll pick up on some perks, which are a small part of it. We certainly offer very competitive compensation and benefits. However, there is a very strong focus on inclusion and diversity at in Accenture Strategy. It comes from our Board of Directors and CEO to all of the leaders in our various businesses. We’re extremely focused on it. We were one of the first consulting firms in the United States to publish our diversity statistics…Most consulting firms are fairly opaque about that. We publish the percentage of people we have in diverse categories. By exposing that, we are showing that we are committed to improving on this. We are doing well. Our industry typically doesn’t have a good track record in this area.
The result of that is we’ve said, ‘How do we change why people may be leaving?’ We’ve improved the maternity leave. We have a program for when you come back from being the primary care giver where you’re staffed locally for a year after that. We also have mentoring programs and unconscious bias training that everyone has to go through. And those benefits tend to change the culture within an industry that didn’t historically reach out to be more inclusive. And we’re trying to do that and lead the pack — and that make things better for everyone and it’s good for business.
The last thing is, because of our size, we have enormous ability to do training by being part of this bigger company — Accenture. We have our own physical training facility, a former college, in St. Charles, Illinois. And we run our strategy college there. [It’s] an intensive two week, in-person program that gives people what I call good core skills and capabilities for being a strategy consultant. We fly people from all over the world to be trained there. It’s not a hotel and it’s been in the company for 40 years. And it has its own culture, vibe and camaraderie.
We also have a special deal with INSEAD where you can get online training if you don’t have an MBA degree or you’re looking for a refresher or learn more about issues coming up. We are the only firm, to our knowledge, that has formed an exclusive relationship with a top-tier MBA school to do an online MBA or supplemental MBA training covering a wide variety of topics. The program taught by INSEAD faculty and coached by Accenture strategists.
And then we have specialized programs that you can do at your own pace. They’re basically computer-based training modules on specific topics that are very relevant like the impact of digital technology in a certain industry. Or, we’ll talk about our point of view: the trends; how does this impact the value chain of a company; how is this creating winners and losers in the industry. Also, people can take advantage of any other training that the rest of Accenture offers, such as big data and data science.
These are some of the things we can do because of our scale and our global reach.