Elaine Turville is a Managing Director of Accenture Federal Services. Her skillset includes data, design thinking, and cloud application technology and consulting with various federal agencies, foundations, and nonprofits across the United States. She also supports Accenture’s local corporate citizenship program, which brings the best commercial practices to help transform small, local, community nonprofits. Elaine was recognized as a top female leader in the technology industry by Women in Technology in 2014 and selected by Consulting magazine in 2010 with a Future Leader award. She serves on the Board of Regents for Leadership Arlington and was a proud inaugural 40 under 40 awardee in 2014.
In this interview, Ms. Turville talks about how to gain credibility in technology, build personal brands in collaborative work, translate technology for nontechnical audiences, and integrate technology and business process expertise.
Wei Zheng: Thank you for joining us. Just a very quick introduction of this interview series, it is part of our Stevens Leadership Portal, which is a new initiative at our school. Our purpose is to provide leader stories, cutting edge research, and hopefully build learning communities around leadership, technology, and inclusivity. Through this web-based knowledge portal, we are doing events to support and accumulate knowledge and leader stories for our web portal so it’s accessible by everyone and anytime.
We’re expecting to start sharing it with everyone later this month.
So this semester we’re doing this Women Leaders in Technology series, and we are featuring six top level women leaders. This is my fifth conversation with a fabulous women leader in technology and our guest today is Elaine Turville.
Today it’s my great pleasure to have a conversation with Elaine. Elaine, thank you so much for coming and sharing your time, experience, and stories with us. Elaine is a managing director at Accenture. She manages the Department of Agriculture client relationship for Accenture’s federal services. Her skill set includes data design thinking, cloud application technology, and consulting with various federal agencies foundations and nonprofits across the United States.
She also supports Accenture’s local corporate citizenship program which brings the best commercial practices to help transform small local community nonprofits. Elaine has also been recognized as a top female leader in the technology industry by various organizations so without further ado, welcome Elaine. Thank you so much for being here.
Elaine Turville: Thank you so much for having me, I am so excited. It seems like I have a bunch of really big shoes to fill with the other speakers that are behind you and my lifelong mentor on the screen behind you.
Wei Zheng: Could you start by sharing with us how you got interested in technology? I know you graduated with a degree in economics from the College of William and Mary, so how did you transition into this technology sector?
Elaine Turville: It’s a great question and it’s an interesting story. While I was at William and Mary which is heavily liberal arts, I actually did a lot of my liberal arts education in the first two years and decided when I wanted to go into economics that I really wanted to try more of the science side of it, and so my economics degree is actually in science and heavily focused in sort of research and data and some of the components that you can focus on in undergrad, so it wasn’t as intense as some other scientific degrees, but that really started getting me excited about the power of data and the power of knowledge and that sort of got me into technology, so when I was interviewing for potential opportunities I got really excited about consulting at the time, and so that is what turned into Accenture.
But it was the technology side of consulting versus there was more of an accounting and business side of what Accenture was Anderson Consulting at that point in time. I had always enjoyed solving logic problems. I’m not that great at math but I enjoy the conceptual idea of flow and how information flows. Once I joined Andersen Consulting and started engaging in a lot of the training and component areas, I got even more and more hooked. I joined in our process practice which was heavily focused on process mapping and understanding more of the deep supply operations, and as I went further and further into the company and understood the power of technology, I realized that I really wanted to grow into the technology space and push to be more engaged and be considered for technology projects.
So that’s how it started. It wasn’t an overnight thing; it was more of an interest and I kept getting more and more interested in that side of what we were doing and wanted to learn and grow more.
Wei Zheng: Interesting experience because some of our previous interviewees started in technology in school and they built up their career that way so your experience is slightly different and I’m sure it will be very informative to some of our audience members who probably are not in technology now but are very interested in getting in. So from that perspective, what helped you to gain credibility, reputation, and visibility at the earlier part of your career when you just got into technology? What helped you stand out and gain those recognitions as a leader in this space?
Elaine Turville: Yeah that’s a great question. When I think of technology, I think of it as a spectrum and I think there are a lot of people and I talk to our interviewees who are potentially coming into the firm who are sometimes intimidated by technology and I actually really challenge and push them, because I think about it truly as the spectrum factors on you. You were talking about those who sort of like grew up in technology and understanding it like my daughter, so I have her and she loves math and she loves coding, so I’m hoping that she will stick with it and not get discouraged, frustrated, or feel like it’s not the right place for her. But for someone like her, who may grow up actually being exposed to technology from an early age to someone like me who wasn’t and didn’t have those sort of benefits, I read a ton, I was interested in other things and I went through a more liberal arts degree, but when it came to a point in time, I was actually able to make the decision to use the resources inside the firm to further hone in and grow my skills, so some of the things I ended up doing in those early years was digging in and taking a lot of the training that was offered to me and leaning in instead of leaning out, seeking those harder things to try and figure out spending time tackling some of the technology areas that I was unfamiliar with and really exposing myself to a lot of things that I may not have done in the past.
Some of the ways I think I was able to advocate and promote myself was actually being pretty upfront about what my desires were and I shared a story about my past where I was about four years into working at Andersen Consulting at the time and I was presented with an opportunity to either take more of a process role or consider more technical role, and I was very excited about the technical role. I was going to be become a development lead and I left. When I thought about how hard I pushed for this role, and it was to lead a small team out in Colorado doing some pretty technical development for one of the large telecoms, I understood the functional process side like a glove. It was perfect for me and I really wanted to dig in and understand the technology side and at first, I was told that I wasn’t qualified for the role. That got me really stirred up and I wanted to understand why and so I was told that I didn’t have the skills, so I dug in, I bought a book, and taught myself how to code. I created a bunch of small little things that indicated that I understood how to code, and then I went and I actually talked to the team that was doing it, and then I asked for a discussion on it. I was told I had to formally interview for this job which surprised me because role reassignments inside the firm sometimes are more casual, but I came prepared with what I knew and what I understood about the technical problems, the types of environment that we were going to code in, the types of technical tools that the client was using, and how I really thought that I could bring a different perspective to the team.
Instead of being the hardcore technology person, I could actually bring a functional side to pair with their deep technology skills and make sure that the client was engaged to the process. So after pushing and pushing, I finally did get the role and I actually loved that role. It was great, I dug in and I learned so much about complex systems, how to break down development work into small bite sized chunks, and the technology. Members on the team taught me a ton and I learned. And I think they appreciated having someone who thought differently than they did and brought different ideas and took the perspective of the client to the table. So it took a lot of me advocating for myself to be able to take on that role, but it also took a lot of work for me to actually get those skills, dig in, and make sure I was prepared for what I was signing up for.
Wei Zheng: That’s a wonderful example of self-advocacy. Having done a lot of the interviews in my previous research with women executives from various industries, one of the challenges is always self-advocacy. I remember one woman, a top CEO, told me, “My women reports usually say I’m doing well in this and I’m happy in my role, but if you need me I can do bigger roles versus my male reports will say I want that role, I want that Director role and Vice President role.” So how do you balance being soft and assertive when advocating for yourself and your interest areas? Some people are worried about being seen as too aggressive or ambitious, so how do you balance that? How do you know where the line is?
Elaine Turville: It’s tough and I think the more senior you get that line becomes harder to see and understand. I think earlier in my career I was asking for a role that that wasn’t outside of the realm and so I think you have to be really authentic in what you’re asking for and really understand where your strengths are and be pretty open with yourself about where things would be a stretch, but I think also be confident. So you know we talked about Lisa Mascolo, she’s one of my mentors and I remember different points in my career with her and at one point I really wanted a very specific role and I remember talking to her about it and her advice was lay out what the role is, ask for it, and be unwavering. Really indicate what you bring to the table, even if it’s different than some of your male counterparts and put it out there that you want it.
I did it in a way where I was trying not to be overconfident. I was trying to be truly authentic to the person that I was and the things that I would bring to the table, and so I think you have to play to your strengths. When I ended up being able to get that role, it was earlier in my career and I was asking to help Accenture stand up our nonprofit practice at the time, so more of a non-technical role, but something that I was deeply passionate about and so that line is hard. I think you must know who you’re talking to, know yourself, and be really authentic about what you’re asking for.
Wei Zheng: Great insights, thank you for that. So you said you were asking for this new thing, but you are also framing it as how you can contribute to the project and not just something that you personally would benefit from alone, but something that can benefit the project.
Elaine Turville: Right like why I could help them, how would what I brought to the table be different than what someone else would bring to the table and how would I be special for it? So really focusing on the strengths that I bring versus me just wanting it. What would be good for that person who is looking to grow that area or complete that project?
Wei Zheng: I see, interesting. Some of my interviews talked about this personal branding and how to stand out. Is this how you approach it or have you had a different branding at the beginning that has evolved? How does your branding evolve?
Elaine Turville: I feel like you have to evolve your branding every few years. If I look back on my career, and I think it will continue to be this way, I find that every five years or so, I need to do something inherently different. I’ve been at Accenture for almost 25 years this summer, but I found it’s a big enough space for me to do a lot of different roles inside of it. I tend to be pretty risk averse and I really love the people I work with so I’ve always been able to find the kind of work I want to do inside, but I do make drastic changes inside the firm.
I’ve gone from being in telecom and moved into government where I was helping do technology transformation on the business side. Then I moved to Africa and then started a nonprofit practice and then tried to turn around like a client that we had which was really tough. I feel like with each one of those career changes you make, you have to think about the branding of you and sort of what you’re going to bring to the project, both to fulfill the requirements of that job and also to really to make yourself happy.
I did find that a few years ago, I really felt stuck. I felt like I could not figure out that branding and I actually took a step back and someone recommended a coach for me to start working through that, just taking a step back and understand at that point in my career what my strengths were and how I approached things in a way where I could rebrand myself and I needed to do that at the time.
I’m a pretty extroverted person; I love working with teams, I love working with clients, and one of the things that I felt like I did really well is I’m a deep connector. I connect with lots of different people and not for just the sake of connecting, but also to like help make connections to solve problems, and so one of the things that I had learned in this coaching was that Accenture has such a culture of delivery that I was trying to continually be that delivery person, checking off the list and making sure stuff got done that I didn’t think I could really drive out these other things that I felt were really important.
One of them was like, how do you help explain technology to clients and I feel that that’s something that I do really well, so I had sort of taken a backseat on doing that and this coaching helped me to understand that that’s a really valuable role. And it made me put it out in front and really step into that role with pride and do that a whole lot more, which has then made my personal engagement with work go up. It’s helped me to sort of empower and explain to several of my team members to find their same way.
So that idea of creating a branding I do think is important. You’ve got to think about where you are in your career and what you bring, but also be comfortable enough to pivot and know that it does change, so you’re not always going to have that same branding at every stage in your career.
Wei Zheng: So what are some personal brands you have used, for example, now you talk about translating or explaining technology to clients, which that’s our topic for today, how do we translate technology, I’ll pursue that line of question later, but before that, what kind of personal brands have you developed or have evolved? Maybe if you could give a few examples.
Elaine Turville: Sure, so when I first started out, I was that super dependable person who could be trusted to execute flawlessly and that was really my brand. I would be the person who got tossed into hard projects to go figure them out and organize them and execute them. That was the first part and that was like the first four or five years. I think I did that really well and I was relied on pretty heavily by leadership to always be that person that if there was something hard, I’d get it done.
Then as I moved more into it, I started my path towards translation. I took a role helping a federal agency really think about their future technology needs and I started being in more of the role of the technology translator while also deeply understanding the business processes that the clients were trying to help turn into technology pieces, so I took from my process side of where I was previously and I brought that to bear with helping them to see the future, so I became more of like a futurist, like the what if we could do these things, and I helped them to vision and inspire a number of their technology future projects.
And so that’s where I spent the next bit of my career and then I needed a really big break, and so I went that’s when I went and did a project overseas and I came back and started our nonprofit practice and the work I was doing continued on the reimagining process, but really helping to think about helping clients to understand how to use technology wisely. In most nonprofits, technology budgets are pretty small, so when they decide to invest in technology, it has to be really important to them and there has to be a real consensus driven decision for them to help resolve a number of problems, so I spent a bit of time really trying to figure out how I could be the link between the decision makers and those who are actually really using the technology on the ground to make sure it met both needs in both price and cost, as well as truly delivering on the benefits.
I spent a bunch of time with a lot of nonprofits really helping to think about technology in a new way and then when I finally made my last pivot to the project I’m in now, I became much more of this technology advocate, really starting to help clients think about technology, advocating for technology, explaining technology, and coaching on technology, because a lot of times senior leaders don’t want to ask, “What does that really mean?” and I lead by example in a lot of cases because when I don’t understand something, I have no qualms about asking people how things work. I have individuals on the team here who helped me in different technology platforms and I’ll be like, “Can you explain exactly how that works?” and so I need to understand so that I can then help to advocate for clients. So for me it’s been a gradual shifting of the sort of branding that I want to bring around technology. I am not the deep technology expert who understands everything. I definitely feel that I rely on those individuals who helped me and I act as sort of the translator to those who really need help and understanding what they can do with technology and in the role for all of us.
Wei Zheng: Thank you for sharing all the brands and involvement of your personal brands. That was very illuminating. Could you say more about that? Why is it difficult and what are the usual barriers for clients to understand or adopt technology? How do I take care or defuse them of the fear of related to new technologies?
Elaine Turville: I find that when I’m working with clients, they’re heavily focused on the areas that they do really well. Most of them are focused in the mission space, so they’re experts on food, they’re experts on housing, they’re experts on forestry, they’re experts in truly that mission, and when you start thinking about nonprofits you add a whole other dimension, so you know they’ve spent years training, understanding, and working with their clients in that space, so a lot of times I think there is a lot of willingness in clients to understand some of the new technology trends, but I think sometimes the way they get communicated or talked about when you read them in the press is super hyped up. I’m not sure that they’re easily consumable, so I have found that the work I tend to do with clients is being that translation person in explaining what is our PA, what is AI, is that someone who is going to take my job because that’s what your hear in the press, right, but no it’s not, here’s exactly what it does.
I found that if I can simply explain what those technologies do in a very simple way, using cases that make sense to them, you can see the light bulbs go off and people are like, “Oh my God, that makes so much sense. I would love to do something like that,” or “We need that help,” or “That would be super helpful in this space,” but it’s taking the time to put it in their world and explaining technology to reframe it in a way that makes a whole lot of sense for those who may not live it and breathe it every single day.
So when I actually dig into trying to understand, I do have the luxury of being able to spend a bunch of time with teams digging in. Accenture has amazing training and I actually find YouTube has a bunch of amazing training where I actually can go out and watch really quick videos of people explaining things and I use those to dig in and understand where I may not have the full technology set. And so I have found that that ability to translate or to put something in someone else’s understanding is really valuable to them because I think the clients I work with appreciate understanding technology in in a consumable way versus it being something that they may read about or hear that buzzword.
Wei Zheng: Interesting. I like that idea of presenting technology in more of a consumable way. Would you mind sharing with us just one or two examples of projects or clients from either the nonprofit or federal government setting so that our audience has some examples in mind when you talk about projects like that?
Elaine Turville: Yeah, so I’ve had the chance to work with large federal departments who spend a lot of time with farmers and producers out in the field and help those agricultural producers to get access to the benefits from the federal government. We’ve been working on a long term project for them and they had they had decided to buy a technology platform, and I think as soon as you say those words, individuals who are daily helping producers out in the field are like I don’t have a platform, what is the platform, versus right now, I have a piece of paper. I work with them, and we document it so I’m able to sort of enter this in and I get their benefit quickly.
I’ve been working on this effort for quite a bit of time, about the last three years, and it’s been an amazing journey for myself, but it’s also been an amazing journey for a number of the clients as well as those who are out in the field. I think what’s made it really special is the thought of introducing technology in bite sized chunks to individuals who have grown up in specific ways meaning like who have been out in the field not using technology or not even having broadband access, so when you think about during that individual’s lifetime or during their tenure as a farmer or producer, the concept of moving from paper to actually submitting something from my tractor seems pretty extreme, right?
When you think about someone who may not have exposure day to day to technology, but being able to work with those clients to help them understand the benefits of leveraging technology, explaining what these changes mean like instead of a piece of paper that goes into the office, you can log on from the same computer you do your taxes on, and you can submit it like your taxes, you can fill out a form that makes it easy, and you can submit, and you can get sort of the same sort of benefits.
I think by linking the kinds of activities that you’re trying to modernize to things that they may understand already like paying your taxes or registering your car helps to break down some of the barriers and so that’s been pretty incredible to see the change and then when you think about the impact on employees who no longer have to take a form or have to reenter something, they’re able to spend more time with that customer, it’s life changing and so that is one of the projects that I’ve been able to work on.
Another one for nonprofits that I did that was really incredibly cool was helping a really large organization that supports smaller nonprofits that work with the communities who are disabled and blind and helps them get jobs. There’s a pretty strong network built up around types of work that disabled individuals can qualify for and deliver, but the nonprofit foundation I was working for thought we should actually be creating more, and not more of the same jobs, but more new jobs and technology should enable us to create new jobs, so we spent a lot of time working with them on an innovation grant.
They knew their ideas out there and they knew in the world of nonprofits across the US doing this type of work that there were cool ideas that just needed seed investment to get going and create entirely new lines of businesses, but they didn’t know how to tap into it, and so we helped them set up a very simple innovation fund and granting program for them. This was not a technology effort; this was literally more of like a communication connection. We leveraged some simple technology to submit an idea to rank applications to grant, but what was really interesting was the amount of applications. They thought they may get like four or five, but they ended up getting like almost 100 ideas submitted. They did not even have enough money in their fund to do a number of these projects, so they were going to ask for more money for the next year already, but they were able to grant about four or five of them to start and they were able to do small grants to those innovative nonprofits who came up with amazing ideas. From that, they were able to start a whole new line of business around decomposing recyclable technology, and so it created this entire line of business which created a number of jobs for those who are blind or disabled and it was pretty amazing for me to be able to participate in that because it was this idea of a simple effort, meaning, it was not overly complex in terms of technology, which was able to connect these people out in the field who had great ideas with these individuals who had funds. So those are just two thoughts of things that are deeply emotional to me and I feel a ton of pride in being able to engage and really help different citizens’ lives change through technology.
Wei Zheng: Wonderful, thank you for sharing those two examples, very interesting and inspiring. So those two technological changes, do they usually stem from the organization recognizing there’s a need and then they come to you and you help them find a solution or do you have some ideas of technological solutions that might be useful to them? Where does the change initiate and how do you create momentum for it? So for example, let’s imagine that Stevens, our university, is thinking about some changes, how do you get started? How do you sort of try to help to generate change in the whole organization so it’s not just a few individuals saying we need this, but then, how do does the process work? How would you approach it?
Elaine Turville: It happens both ways I’ve been on projects and have helped clients who have had a very specific need in mind and I’ve also helped clients where I’ve taken the time to really understand what’s going on in a business problem and brought it to them with an idea.
So right now for the clients that I helped in the industries that I work in around agriculture and housing, I spend some time over on broadband and forestry and I actually spent a ton of time reading and listening to podcasts. My team will tease me because when I hear something really interesting, and it’s usually early in the morning when I’m walking or late in the night sometimes when I’m reading because I can’t sleep, I will send these podcasts to them or I’ll send this book idea to them with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do insert X?” to help to understand.
One of the things we’re thinking about right now is what if we could understand homelessness, so what are the factors that go into it? Is it a lack of access to housing, is it unsafe housing, is it housing versus jobs? Why are we having such a homelessness crisis in terms of available housing at specific price points? And we’re not we’re not a think tank, but we do really interesting sort of data research around big topics that are happening in the news right now and so I get super excited about reading a number of things from a number of different sources and putting things together a conceptual idea of like hey we understand that you have this problem, what if we could put technology to it and solve it, and so then we take those big ideas in to clients to see, you know, this something we read about it and we think that you’re having this problem, but we’re not 100% sure would this be of interest and we dig in and we try to figure out what the really difficult processes are, how we could apply technology if it makes sense, are they already using technology are they not, and in some cases it works and we move forward and we do a really interesting project and sometimes the clients are like hey that’s great, but that actually isn’t our biggest problem, this is our biggest problem, and we get pointed over to where they’re actually having some difficulties and we go over there and tackle it, and so I really think of my job right now as being very helpful in solving really difficult problems and bringing technology to solve those problems.
So it happens both ways. It happens with us generating things are coming up with things of like this, I will constantly go back to the like what if, or sometimes clients are like I cannot do this. I received a call the other day where a client said, “I’m having so many problems, my field based institutions have to send me these pdfs where they fill out the PDF on a computer, then print it, scan it, and send it to me, and I cannot get all that data aggregated back and I’m spending a bunch of time either re typing or X, Y and Z.” I said, “You know I’m not going to say that’s an easy problem to solve, because I think they’ve been tackling for a while, but I do think that there are things that could tackle a big chunk of it.” And I love those calls because I love digging in, figuring it out, offering some ideas, understanding what the real problem is, and figuring out how to solve the bigger process problem like why are they going to a website and downloading the form and then printing it out and then scanning it? That actually seems like the bigger problem you can solve with small tech, but you can actually solve a much bigger problem and so thinking about things in lots of different ways.
Wei Zheng: That’s so interesting. So you mentioned podcasts. I’m sure, a lot of our audience members are interested in what podcasts you are following and listening to because you’re identifying the big problem, the big trends and big problems to solve.
Elaine Turville: I love podcasts, so I do listen to a ton of Politico and The Daily, but I also listen to Kara Swisher’s Sway. That one helps me with a lot of the deep technology things, especially when you’re referencing technology as a controller. I love Freakonomics and I love NPR Planet Money. There are a ton of off technology ones that people will share with me and I will dig in and engage in a number of those, but I find myself I think more understanding and I get a number of subscription emails like Politico Technology, where I’m trying to understand the regulation environment around technology versus where my clients are struggling with technology, so the broadband issue right now is super fascinating when you think about the regulated environment plus the real need for citizens out in our rural communities who need access to high speed internet for school, for being able to drive jobs, for being able to do much of the things that we take for granted by being in urban centers and so that is one of the areas where I spend a lot of time trying to understand the intersection of those in my podcasts and in my daily email digest.
Wei Zheng: Wonderful, thank you for sharing that. Do you have groups you go to or a community that lift you up or keeps you informed in addition to the podcasts?
Elaine Turville: Yeah so I actually have a really amazing group. I have an amazing set of team members that I work with and I get to spend a ton of time with them. They are amazing and brilliant technologists and they helped me to understand and have spent a lot of time digging in and throwing a bunch of ideas at the table, so I have people who understand platforms and digital platforms and people who understand analytics and I get to spend a lot of time learning from them, but I also have this, and you’ll think it’s funny, we have a Accenture Alumni Women’s Network of course where Mascolo is in and there’s about 18 US women who are more women in technology and once worked together at Accenture, but now work across many different places like IBM or Maximus, so we actually spend a lot of time sharing thoughts and ideas together and also propping each other up.
One of the women in the group was named the CEO of a big company the other day and we ended up having these like all of these emails back and forth. Another woman used to work for the Governor of Maryland and when there were some of the upset and unrest, you could see her standing behind, and we would all send emails back about how amazing she was. We get together like once or twice a year to really prop each other up and talk about career advice, and I know each one of them is always there when I have different questions or concerns of how would you navigate that or how would you think about this and those are sort of my informal career mentors who are always there to help me with things.
Wei Zheng: Excellent we all need a community to lift us up.
Elaine Turville: I agree, and it wasn’t one that we planned on having, but we decided years ago and I can’t remember what it was, but we were all still at Accenture and we were like we need to go away for a weekend, so we took this bus out to this place and we had this amazingly fun weekend that it just stuck so we’ve done this year after year and have this pretty tight community of people who have always just been there for each other.
Wei Zheng: Wow that is amazing.
Elaine Turville: Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.
Wei Zheng: That’s great. Let’s transition just a little bit talk about being a woman working in technology, especially a woman leader. So have you experienced what we usually label as glass ceiling where we are made to feel that we are less credible because we don’t know us yet or feel unfairly treated or things like that? Have you experienced those situations? How do you navigate them?
Elaine Turville: I think everyone and myself included, has experienced less about hitting the ceiling per se and more about maybe not being in the room, and maybe not being thought of in the room, and so I think that’s what I feel like sometimes I end up in engaging or feeling concerned about more is how do you make sure people know and understand your career ambitions and what you want to do next, and I’m not sure I would tie it so much to being part of the technology realm as much as being a senior woman navigating a career and making sure that people really understand now the technology part does does add a number of aspects, because I think that it puts you in an environment where there’s even less women at the table most of the time.
And so going back to what we talked about earlier, a lot of it is advocating for yourself in an authentic way. There have been times where I have been passed for promotions. Sometimes I agreed with it and sometimes I actually was just hurt and frustrated by it, so I had to take a second and pause to ask a ton of questions and figure out a path to understand how I can advocate for myself and make sure people understand what I’m doing or to take on new roles and responsibilities to get those skills and capabilities to actually get to the next level.
So I do find having a strong network of people inside wherever you work or outside of wherever you work, who truly understand what you can do, who will tap you on the shoulder and ask you, you know, I was call it the like put me in coach like I want people who are going to tap me on the shoulder and say I can trust you with this really hard thing, so I’m going to put you and I’m going to ask you to take it on. And then there’s the counter side where I do think sometimes women tend to say, “Oh no I can’t do that,” or “I’m not ready for that,” and I have experienced it with some of my team members when I asked them to take on new roles. There’s sometimes a bit of hesitancy and so I spend a lot of time with future up and coming women trying to make sure like that they know they can do it and that I wouldn’t ask them to do something if I didn’t know they could do it, so by asking them to do something I also am giving them the space and help to make sure that they’re successful in doing it. So I feel it goes both ways that we as women have to advocate for self, we also have to look back or look across and advocate for those of us that are also trying to like make it through, at the same point in time.
And so I feel like I have a really strong peer set in Accenture where I work, and we all advocate for each other, there you know when people are going up for new roles. I find that I’m always like, “Hey I think that person would be great in this role for X, Y and Z” and making sure that my opinion is heard as well as constantly advocating for those individuals who work with me, so it’s not easy, but I think it’s getting easier and I do think some of the focus areas recently in corporate America about releasing inclusion and diversity data and making strong commitments have driven visibility and are making the problem more visible, making more people aware of it, and I think that we just have to use that in conjunction with continuing to advocate for ourselves, but also helping and pulling those others behind you.
Wei Zheng: Wonderful, thank you so self-advocacy plus allies.
Elaine Turville: Yes, lots of allies. Allyship is important.
Wei Zheng: I don’t want to monopolize all of our time today let’s open it up so everyone can unmute themselves and ask questions.
Elaine Henry: I wonder if you might be able to speak to the following: I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all of the technology that I feel that my accounting students need to know so they need to know Python, they need to know Excel of course, they’ve got their statistics and their statistics software, and then there’s all sorts of other different software like SQL and every time I talk to somebody they mention some new software and so to boil it down and just say yeah you can code in one language, you’ll be able to pick up another language pretty quickly so I don’t know if it’s just me, but I just wondered if you might be able to speak to how you would boil it down to the basics for a student right now.
Elaine Turville: Now that’s great Elaine, I was joking with Sarah who was on earlier and were joking about sometimes like even like the basic technology is super hard like using Zoom or using the connectivity, we have to use like Teams and otherwise, and so I think the way I would approach it is I do agree with your basic concepts that you were sharing that when you think about coding and technologies, it boils down to logic and each of the different programs that you use is sort of a different flavor or a different set of instructions on how to drive logic.
And so when we’re bringing new people in to the firm we try to give them a base understanding in Java or one of the core languages that sort of goes into most of the other areas that they may use and we teach them to break down the logical flow of code, the logical flow of how data passes through code, and how it engages, and then make sure they understand that it’s going to be slightly different with each new language but not to be overwhelmed because you don’t have to use each one. Actually take the time before you dig into a project to understand the specific language that’s being used, take some training, dig in, and make sure that you’re clear on what the differences are behind between that and what your base code is.
So I think sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but if you bring it back to the base logic and you keep it as a simple set of if you know these three things, you really you will really be able to figure out this vast area of other pieces. I know that’s not super easy it doesn’t give the easy button, but I do think it helps to take the pressure off of people who are trying to figure out like tons of different things, especially in school when you’re feel like you’re racing from subject to subject instead of just focusing on the basics, so hopefully that helps.
Elaine Henry: Yeah definitely. What are your thoughts specifically about the two visualization tools, Tableau and Power BI?
Elaine Turville: We use both. It’s so funny I was actually talking to my Microsoft partner last night and for one of our clients, we use a lot of Tableau which is more sleek and has a really strong user interface for the person who’s consuming the data and then Power BI which seems to be more of like a powerhouse in terms of like if you’re going to actually do manipulations on your own and he was trying to convince me to move all of my Tableau people over to Power BI, but we use Power BI inside Accenture quite a lot, so I think once you open them up under the hood, they’re both pretty similar in how you actually construct visualizations on top, or at least that’s what my team tells me who’s working on them, but I think both are here to stay and you’re going to continue to have clients or individuals who just had their preference based on what they’re using and are going to go forward with it, but if you know either one, that’s a hot area to get a job in if you know how to visualize in either one of those areas.
Wei Zheng: We have a related question from one of our audience members from the registration form:
With this growing mountain of upscaling and information, how do you keep up with all the technological trends and capabilities? How would you curate a mountain of info and upscaling?
Elaine Turville: That’s a great question and it’s hard. I think you have to you have to dig. There’s a mountain of stuff and you could spend all day dealing with all of it, but I think really focusing on the things that are super critical and creating a scope set, breaking things down, and then digging into those spaces. I do not try to be an expert in everything. I try to have a high-level understanding enough so that I can have a really intelligent conversation about something and at least be able to articulate what it is or how I could help them and then when my clients go in a bit deeper I say hey you know I would love to help you with this. And I have a person who’s like really the expert, so can we engage that individual to sort of be able to go down to the next level. I never am the person who knows everything, but I know a little bit of everything enough to be able to engage in a conversation and distill down what the real problem is and if you if you dig across and spend a bit of time sort of trying to read or get knowledgeable, that’s super helpful versus trying to go so deep in every single thing that’s out there.
Wei Zheng: That makes a lot of sense. So you mentioned chunks. What are some of your chunks?
Elaine Turville: Oh, so if I think about it, to me it’s the way I the way I sort of logically break up things. So analytics AI and analytics PA are the technologies that deal with data and then I think more of like the user experience sort of technologies, where you have digital platforms that are interface technology where I’m entering in information that’s going to go into a different kind of workflow and then I continue to think more in the cloud, right, so those specific technologies that are helping you to host or manage applications in the cloud, and then I think of security and how what am I using to protect and I know that cuts out a number of things, but if I think in terms of those big areas, and I think of them in sort of these chunks, and how can I think about a chunk, how can I know enough about these chunks and really understand more.
Accenture has these what we call technology areas. There are six core areas inside Accenture that we’re supposed to know about and we are supposed to have this high level knowledge in these areas to make sure that we are super knowledgeable and they’re delivered in these like bite sized chunks and that’s why I get into this bite sized chunks out on the web, you know, what are the most important things I need to know about and if you want to dig in you can go down into that specific area.
Wei Zheng: Excellent. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and what’s the worst? I guess it’s more than one question right, how do you sort through a good advice or bad advice?
Elaine Turville: The best I’ve been given is the one around confidence and being confident in you like you were smart enough to get a job here, you are smart enough to understand this and be confident what you know, and you can learn the rest of it. And so, I always keep that in the back of my when those little voices in your head sort of tell you that maybe you’re not good enough or maybe you don’t understand. So that was the best advice I’ve taken forward.
The worst advice I received was when I was interviewing early on. I was told to stop touching my hair so much because it made me seem less intelligent and I was like that that that is just hurtful because I’ve always had long hair and I always am very animated with my hands, and I realized that that was just someone projecting their own perspectives and so I’ve always just continued to be me and authentically me and that’s how I engage with people, and I feel a sense of connectedness when I use my hands to talk and do things.
The advice that I tend to give a lot of people is really that you know you’re only in this once so take the risks and choose your own adventure and really ask for what you want because you only have one shot at this and you may as well stick up your hand and put it out there and ask for the things you want to do so that people can help you find the way.
Wei Zheng: Wonderful. Thank you so much, that’s very helpful. I remember two interviews ago we had one person who received the advice that you’re laughing too much or laughing too loud or something like that, where we always receive those things about our personal work or how we express ourselves and sometimes not following advice takes courage.
Elaine Turville: Yeah, I have gotten the advice that sometimes I use too many exclamation points in email to which I promptly responded with a whole bunch of exclamation points.
Wei Zheng: Interesting, yeah so that’s about authenticity of who we are, how we express ourselves, and really finding the environment that accepts who we are so that we can be happier and more productive. Thank you so much, this is very, very helpful.
Elaine Turville: This was awesome. Thank you so much for inviting me.