I’ve always tried to find ways to learn in every opportunity, and below are some of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way.
Engineering gives you skills for life
After getting a Masters in Entrepreneurship, I got my first job with Capgemini as a consultant. It may seem like a big leap going from an engineering degree into consultancy, but the skills you learn in engineering are essential in a business like Capgemini: skills such as identifying problems, applying logic, devising solutions, and finding ways to do things better.
They are skills I naturally apply to my life outside of work too. My logical problem-solving abilities are currently being directed towards planning my wedding later this year. My fiancé is an engineer too, so we’re pretty good at identifying and fixing problems together. It’s funny how often engineering disciplines can be applied to everyday life, whether it’s working out how the plumbing in your apartment works, or solving the myriad other problems life throws your way.
When I discovered I had a lactose allergy, for example, I was disappointed at the limited choice of non-dairy ice cream flavors available – so I started working on developing some new flavors in my spare time. It’s a problem-solving exercise I’m enjoying a lot! Another challenge that’s proving more of a struggle is training for my first half marathon. I’m not a natural long-distance runner, but I was challenged by a friend to enter a half marathon, so I have to see it through. I’m eager to learn how you do it.
Be curious, and never stop learning
I think an eagerness to learn is something I developed from a young age. I can probably trace it back to my grandmother, who was a teacher. She always said that once you have knowledge, you can’t have that taken away from you.
When I was growing up, I was always encouraged to find my own solutions. If I had a problem or question, I was told to find the answer for myself – and if I couldn’t, to go back and ask. I’ve never lost that drive to find answers and work out solutions.
My quest for new challenges continued once I was at Capgemini. After a year in the consultant role, I moved to Cloud Infrastructure Services as a Proposals Manager. After a year in that role, I was promoted to Project Management Officer (PMO) for the bid managers. After another year, I became a bid manager myself. I now work as the PMO to Baru Rao, Head of Cloud Infrastructure Services in North America.
Never be afraid to ask
For someone who enjoys learning and new challenges, working in five different roles in just over three years has been a thrilling experience. I’ve often found myself working alongside people who have been in the business for many years, and with people who are a couple of grades more senior than me. You really have to up your game and learn fast in those situations. For me, that doesn’t mean trying to look like you know everything, it means asking lots of questions. It means showing you have the right capabilities, but speaking up when you don’t understand.
I’ve never been afraid to speak up and ask questions. I don’t think you should ever let fear control what you do. As an African-American woman growing up in the US, you get used to having to prove yourself. For me, you do that by welcoming new challenges, seeking out people who can help and support you, and always being willing to learn. Throughout my time at Capgemini I’ve found that colleagues and managers really value this approach, and support anyone with the desire to learn and grow.
Try to understand the bigger picture
When I started out here I had quite a fixed idea about where I wanted my career to go. But now, having experienced so many different roles in a short time, my aspirations are much more flexible. I’m happy to see where my career takes me, where opportunities lead, and how I can continue to challenge myself.
I think one of the big benefits of having moved around the company as much as I have is that I’ve gained a much clearer understanding of how different parts of this complex business interact; how different roles fit together and influence each other. It’s a perspective that’s really proving invaluable now I am PMO for the head of CIS North America. I can see how decisions made in one area affect others, and how the work of different people feeds in to our overall goals.
Get to know the right people
Networking has been important in gaining this wider perspective too. It’s something I’m naturally good at – and really enjoy. You could even say it’s something I ace. I think surrounding yourself with supportive people, and getting to know people who share your interests and ambitions, is essential for success in any area of life. At Capgemini, you can always talk to anyone, at any level, as a peer, and there are numerous employee resource groups (ERGs) where people with common interests can get together. Getting involved in the African-American and African employee resource group (A3), and becoming its national co-lead, has been instrumental in my development and happiness at Capgemini. I’ve gotten to know so many people I would never otherwise have met. When I first joined Capgemini, it really helped me build my professional network and develop my leadership skills.
My fiancé and I recently moved to Houston, which is a new city to both of us. My passion for networking is really helping us get to know people, to meet our neighbors and to get out and explore the city. It’s an exciting time. We’re members of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and we’ve been busy getting to know the Houston chapter of this organization, making contact with lots of people who share our interests.
Always be ready for new challenges
I’ve had so many new experiences and faced so many new challenges over the past few years – in both my personal and professional life – that my natural drive to keep learning has been thoroughly tested. But it has left me with a stronger desire than ever to continue pursuing new challenges. It has been such a positive time, full of fascinating people and rewarding experiences, that I can’t wait to see what the next few years has in store.
For anyone looking for a role that allows you to play to your strengths, meet a diverse network of supportive people, and challenge yourself every day, Capgemini has the lot. Why not take a look at the current opportunities available?