History Is Full of People Who Don’t Take No for an Answer
Infosys Portland believes in a healthy gender balance in our teams and leadership positions.
We also recognise that as our workforce becomes more diverse many of the workplace norms also need to change and so our leadership team is actively listening to the perspectives of a more diverse mix of people.
As well as listening, we also recognise the power of storytelling. Telling stories about how people have forged their careers not only inspires others, but these stories help to illustrate new models, and models play an important part in cultural change as they work as guideposts and give others confidence that they can achieve something similar.
Our firm is richer today because Nora Sheehan wouldn’t accept no for an answer. Even though many well-meaning people, including professional recruiters, encouraged Nora to stay within the boundaries of banking and finance, her instinct was to expand her horizon.
In this story, we learn how a slight change, a narrow opening of opportunity, can result in a wholesale career change.
My Flight From the Pigeonhole
A journey from banking & finance to procurement and supply chain consulting
I was at a point in my life where I knew I needed to make a career change. I didn’t want to continue in finance or banking, so I took the plunge by searching for procurement and supply chain roles. Despite making applications for only these roles, every recruiter that came back strongly discouraged a career change and continued to promote finance and banking roles that I hadn’t applied for.
Intuitively a transition from banking and finance to procurement and supply chain consulting seemed completely doable to me and I’ve never been one to be discouraged from what I want so easily.
I love numbers and mathematics, but in previous roles, I was predominantly just in a state of analysis paralysis. I had to move on somehow, to at least explore other possibilities.
Things changed on a trip back to Ireland to spend time with my family. A friend steered me to a contract role within the supply chain team of a global computer hardware vendor. We were responsible for demand planning. It gave me a taste of what procurement and supply chain roles might be like and my mind was fully engaged.
The demand planning role confirmed and rekindled my intuitive interests, and I decided the recruiters had made the wrong call. Or, at the very least, they should rethink the boundaries of the catchment they use to recruit procurement and supply chain professionals.
Many firms are rethinking what skills are transferable
Once back in Australia, I pursued work with a procurement and supply chain firm. Thankfully Portland Infosys was open to considering people from more diverse professional backgrounds.
Today, maths is a more meaningful part of my work. Yes, I’m still using a lot of numbers. But rather than simply analysing data, I’m working out what the data means to an organisation. I’m identifying the insights in the numbers. And that is infinitely more rewarding work.
My work now is much more geared toward the outcomes we are trying to achieve. At Portland, there is a clear focus on the strategy we agree with clients and the need to develop insights that will guide sound decision-making.
During my time in banking, I had plenty of opportunities to present analysis. Now, not only do I present analysis, but I also provide advice as to what it means, especially in terms of the next steps that a client should take. It is challenging work. Yet, on a personal level, I find it a lot more satisfying, which makes for a win/win. The reward motivates me to put in greater effort and in turn, I feel that I am more valued for it.
Feeling valued comes from knowing that people have sufficient confidence in me to act on my advice. Equally, I am fully confident in the advice I provide, given the time and learnings that are passed on to me by Portland experts.
A collaborative culture is enhanced when the very nature of the work demands collaboration
And that brings me to another interesting aspect of consulting, collaboration. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much genuine collaboration takes place in Portland. There is an army of subject matter experts I can seek detailed support from. The managers and leaders I work with are genuinely invested in my growth and development and spend a lot of time teaching me, not only expert concepts but also life lessons in achieving work-life balance.
There is also a good measure of collaboration with clients. For the most part, we tend to work as a team of professional peers, coming together to solve problems. Typically, there is a great mix of expertise and people readily share their experience and know-how.
Another contrast to banking is that I have had several engagements where the key client contact is another woman. It is great to work with senior women in different industries. When it comes to the field of procurement it seems to me that women can have a more natural series of discussions around driving value and savings.
When my friends from banking and finance ask how my career change is going, I say that my only regret is that I wish I’d realised earlier how transferable the skills are. And it’s not just being an Excel whiz. It is also strong analytical skills, the application of logic and discipline, as well as strong communication and project management skills.
Consulting challenges me to think, and that is what I really want at this stage in my career.
Nora’s story is an excellent example of how change can be pursued, and goals achieved, once a person decides on a particular course. The barriers that were presented at the start of Nora’s journey were not real. They existed in people’s minds and were simply part of well-worn perspectives. They could be overcome, and Nora’s story has shown us how.