Emma McGuigan has been with Accenture for 19 years, joining the organization shortly after obtaining her master’s degree in electronics from the University of Edinburgh. As managing director in Accenture’s technology practice, she says her career thus far has been “challenging, creative, and progressive.”
“It is challenging in that every day there are new hurdles to overcome and interesting problems to solve. It is creative, as I’ve learned to use my technology skills to find solutions to business issues as well as my people skills to build successful relationships and teams. It is progressive as I take on increasingly larger responsibilities and roles and make a larger impact,” McGuigan said.
McGuigan’s area of focus is working with clients in financial services and the public sector, drawing on her extensive experience in building IT architecture and large scale delivery of projects. This, she says, is her proudest achievement. Impressively, McGuigan was promoted while on maternity leave and prior to that, she’d been working part-time for Accenture for two-years.
“I realized that to be successful, you don’t necessarily have to work a traditional five-day week,” McGuigan said. “I’m proud that I’ve defined success in my own way. Fortunately, Accenture supports its people with a variety of flexible work and career options.”
In her new role, McGuigan is focusing on an internal project that grants her exposure to many people on Accenture’s global leadership team. “I’ve found this opportunity to be incredibly insightful, and a great learning opportunity,” McGuigan said.
Getting the Most Out of Professional Relationships
McGuigan says that to get the most out of a professional relationship, you need to take the time to get to know the individual. “Don’t drive straight to the transactional outcome,” she said. McGuigan asserts that how people grow professional relationships will be different for everyone, but taking the time to learn about how people operate makes for better collaboration.
Making the most of a relationship also extends to McGuigan’s views on mentoring. McGuigan says women need mentors and sponsors who will guide them in the next steps of their careers and coaches who can provide advice, but it’s up to the mentee to nurture these relationships.
“As a senior woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, it’s particularly important to help other women achieve their full potential and for this reason, I act as a career coach and mentor to several women at Accenture.”
Helping Women & Girls Succeed
McGuigan is passionate about helping other women succeed and serves as Accenture’s “Accent on Women” lead for technology, leading programs and events in the UK and across Europe to better drive decisive action and tangible results on retention, recruitment, and progression for Accenture women. Two years ago, she founded Accenture’s Career Management Program, a network for the highest female performers in Accenture’s technology practice. McGuigan says the group reviews the annual performance and objectives of its members and helps them prepare for and reach their next career level.
McGuigan is also the Accenture sponsor of STEMettes, an organization that raises the profile and visibility of STEM subjects amongst young girls. Recently, Accenture hosted a STEMettes event at its London offices where girls interested in STEM fields were taught how to build a mobile app.
“I feel strongly that we have an obligation to provide the next generation of women with the opportunity to discover a career in technology,” McGuigan said. “I’m very interested in both the shift in purchasing power of women in the consumer technology industry and the impact this will have on business-to-consumer and business-to-business strategies. I’m increasingly optimistic that if we work collaboratively as an industry this may be the catalyst that enables women to view tech as a great field to study and have a career.”
McGuigan is concerned about the “seemingly geeky” image of technology careers. Like everyone, young women rely on technology heavily, but she believes the unfair characterization of STEM fields might be scaring them off. “The image is often a barrier for women and masks the reality of what a career in technology will offer,” McGuigan said.
McGuigan says that the oft-repeated narrative surrounding women and challenging careers is also adversely affecting the influx of women in the industry, who worry that they won’t be able to have a family while maintaining a fulfilling career in a demanding field.
“Women and men can define success in their own way,” McGuigan said. “Today, we have many great role models of successful women in tech and we expect it to increase. Companies need to support that increase by encouraging girls and young women to study STEM and make a career in those industries.”