Allan King originally started with Accenture on a six-month contract in the local Newcastle office with circa 50 people. 22 years later, Allan is the managing director of the UK Advanced Technology Centre based in Newcastle upon Tyne, with over 1200 people serving 70-plus clients both in the UK and abroad. Here, he reflects on his business journey and investing in the future of the workforce at Accenture

What was your first break in business?

My first actual break was when I joined Accenture (then Andersen Consulting). A friend of mine told me that they were hiring in the North East. I submitted an open letter to the HR department and was duly invited for an interview which, in reality, was a 30-minute chat with the interviewer about cars. 22 years later and the rest (as they say) is history.

What has been your career highlight?

Being appointed the lead for the UK Advanced Technology Centre has probably been the highlight thus far. Having started on a short-term temporary contact, I used to imagine what it would be like to be ‘in charge’ of Newcastle. Having achieved that dream, I can honestly say it is the best job that I have had by some way. Although we are part of a very large global IT organisation, there is an acute sense of autonomy that comes with overseeing the Newcastle office. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities, and the chance to work with some amazing people, both within Accenture and the local community.

And the biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge presented itself several years ago, not long after I had been promoted to managing director. I found myself responsible for a large client delivery, which did not go that well. The key reason why that was a challenge was not the delivery itself but the overwhelming realisation that I was accountable for everything that we did, and in particular the well-being of our people. In one respect, I had earned my reputation by being able to deliver hard projects, but it was the transition from being responsible to having complete accountability that was very challenging.

Who or what inspires you?

Inspiration comes from a variety of places and can present itself when you least expect it. For example, I was recently inspired by our latest cohort of new apprentices. I attended their ‘end of bootcamp’ presentations and was nothing short of astounded by their enthusiasm, engagement, and outright fearlessness. I don’t ever remember being that confident when I was their age – it was very impressive and inspiring.

What is Accenture’s mission?

Accenture’s purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. We do this by embracing change to help clients accelerate their digital journeys and create lasting, 360-degree value for all stakeholders across their enterprises—as well as our own. We also strive, where possible,
to partner with our clients to achieve greater progress on inclusion and diversity, reskilling employees, and to help with achieving sustainability goals.

How do you get the best out of your staff?

As a leader, getting the best out of your staff is one of the biggest challenges and something that we pursue relentlessly. I really don’t think we have found the ultimate secret, as the answer is as varied as the people whom we employ. We work incredibly hard at trying to provide the best engagement model for our people, which stretches across many dimensions including our charity and local community work, training and skills development, focus on inclusion and diversity, flexible working, company perks and total rewards package. Ultimately, we have to continue to listen to our people, adapt our model and try to cater for as many of our staff as possible. It’s exceptionally tough, but also rewarding when you get it right!

What are your short and long-term goals at Accenture?

At this point, my short and long-term goals are almost the same thing. Ultimately, I want to grow our business in the North East to be (not just) the biggest but the best at everything we do. I want to continue to cultivate a loyal and engaged workforce, whilst giving back to the local community and improving the lives of our employees, their families and friends in the North East. The aim is to establish Accenture as the key employer in the North East with an enduring legacy and bright future.

How are you investing in developing your workforce?

Our people are our business. We spend considerable time and effort in the continual training, cross-skilling and development of our people. We have an on-site training suite and globally connected learning classroom that is used to deliver content via our globally connected technology centres. Beyond our in-house training facilities, each of our employees is given access to a vast range of self-paced and instructor-led training courses and learning boards. Access to training is, of course, only one part of workforce development. As a technology centre, we serve a wide range of global clients and we frequently offer opportunities for our people to rotate between clients, industry sectors and roles.

How does Accenture support alternative pathways to a career in tech?

We have a well-established outreach and engagement programme that brings talent into Accenture from a number of sources. Firstly, our apprenticeship programme has been running for about five years. Via that programme we bring about 30-40 apprentices into the Accenture regional centres each year. Our Movement to Work programme consists of multi-week placements that provide employability  skills and vocational training to young unemployed people. We also have an industrial placement programme for undergraduates, a healthy graduate programme and we also have a programme that brings military personnel into our business.

And finally, how do you encourage a good work/life balance?

I tend to find that most people have a slightly different interpretation of what is an acceptable work/life balance. In other words, what’s right for me might not be acceptable for someone else. So, I don’t really focus on what you might traditionally refer to as work/life balance. Instead, I try and encourage people to focus on setting boundaries and exercising control. Everyone has boundaries and even the most junior member of the team has a surprising amount of control. If you focus on enforcing those boundaries and maintaining a level of control that suits you, then that’s the right balance.