Not All Careers Are Straight Lines
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.
One of the most interesting points in Alex’s story is how transferable a person’s skills and mindset can be. On the face of it, the early years of her career seem so different from consulting. Yet, as she tells her story, it becomes crystal clear how her expertise and interests are such a natural fit with so many of the engagements we undertake here at Infosys Portland. It takes courage to make changes. Hopefully, Alex’s story inspires others to make similar changes.
In a Big Pool, I Want to Swim at the Deep End
One woman’s career change without regret
At 24, I threw myself into business ownership, founding and managing an import and distribution business that focused on specialist surgical equipment. It was a big play, and not without its challenges, but I was passionate about it. I loved the idea of creating something from the ground up, and the rapid innovation you find in the medical industry, especially in the field of minimally invasive surgery.
During the early stages of the pandemic, I stopped and reflected on what I was doing. I realised that the thing I loved most about my business was finding the seemingly impossible thing to find and designing custom solutions with clients. For me, it comes down to problem-solving. Invariably, there is an optimal way to achieve a particular result, and my job was to identify and realise that pathway with my clients and peers. I wanted to do more of that, on a bigger scale.
In consulting, I often find myself in the deep end again. I love diving into businesses across industries and navigating a myriad of technical and commercial factors. In the last 12 months, my projects have seen me involved in the purchase and manufacturing of large and highly complex machinery, including military equipment, arguably the furthest I could get from minimally invasive surgery.
My expertise is applied with real purpose
While I didn’t exactly have a long-standing plan to be a consultant, the move into procurement and supply chain was not a huge leap. My formal qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s degree in International Business. In both, my focus was strongly on international trade. This equipped me for my business and has served as a strong foundation for consulting too.
My work now provides real-world applications for much of that study. International trade environments are more complex than ever, which makes it an interesting environment to navigate. Many organisations are rethinking their supply chains, their supplier relationships, and their approach to risk mitigation, and this is happening with one of my current projects.
I continue to be passionate about small business, and perhaps it’s related to my background and upbringing in Germany. The German word Mittelstand’ refers to small and medium-sized enterprises, but also captures the ethos of mainly family-owned and run companies that prize quality and are driven by more than shareholder value. The Mittelstand is made up of many enduring companies, often with deep, generational engineering or technical expertise, and many are highly competitive in global markets.
Australia has a huge concentration of small and medium-sized businesses. In several of my projects, I have been involved in the development of these family businesses and building pathways for them into new markets, and it’s one of my favourite things about the work I do.
Women are still under-represented in consulting, but there is a sure and steady change
I’m yet to second-guess my career change. I really enjoy being able to come in and analyse complex problems, come up with solutions, and be able to see implementations through for clients. I’m passionate about innovation and growth, no matter what industry, and there is boundless opportunity for that experience at Portland. I was drawn to Portland because of the wide range of project types and industries that were on offer, and the role has really delivered the broad exposure I was looking for. Alongside that, the structured mentorship makes sure I am always supported in setting and achieving goals for my personal and professional development both within my projects and through additional training.
To women considering a change to a consulting career, I have one piece of advice: do not underestimate your skillset. One of my colleagues sent me a study that found that women tend to be far more self-critical of their skillset than men. If a job lists 10 qualifications, we ladies will be reluctant to apply if we don’t have all 10 of them. Our male counterparts will apply if they only have 6 of them. This has been reflected in my journey. I had initially written off the job posting, it was my partner who pushed me to apply and argued the transferability of my skills across industries.
So, to the women considering a change to consulting – apply with your 6 out of 10. You might find you really have 12.
A story well told. The more women enter consulting, the better the workplace environment will be for all of us. And it is good to see how well-recognised the value of diversity is to corporate culture today. And, while there is always more to do, the simple act of sharing stories is proving to be one of the best ways to cultivate diversity.