Sometimes, a career journey is as much about finding balance as finding the right fit for you. Paul Pierotti, Accenture’s head of analytics, tells us how he got to that position.
Being a maths-mad people person, it seems the perfect fit for Paul Pierotti to be leading Accenture Analytics here in Ireland. However, he didn’t know that himself until a former colleague pointed him toward a career in analytics, allowing him to “embrace [his] inner geek”.
Since then, he has learned to find work-life balance and how best to lead teams, all with the support of his colleagues along the way.
‘My career gives me the opportunity to do what I enjoyed in university: use mathematics to solve business problems. I love the variety and the opportunity to learn’
– PAUL PIEROTTI
What first stirred your interest in a career in analytics?
I have enjoyed mathematics for as long as I can remember and have a natural aptitude for the subject. It was therefore a straightforward decision to choose this for my degree.
As the degree concluded, however, I didn’t really understand the opportunities this opened up to me and so I delayed any decision by doing an MSc in industrial mathematics. This was a very practical course where we used maths and stats to solve real-world problems. For example, one of my projects used mathematical techniques to simulate helicopter flight.
It was like a light went on for me – the opportunity to solve real complex problems – and that ultimately guided me towards a career in analytics.
What other jobs led you to the role you now have?
My first job was building credit scorecards for Barclays Bank. Barclays also gave me a project to complete for my MSc thesis, which ended up being used by a consulting organisation working for the bank. I therefore started to investigate consulting as a career option and, before long, I joined PA Consulting Group as part of its management sciences (analytics) group.
I have worked in consulting ever since and love the opportunities it provides to work with clients, to use data and to solve important business problems.
I applied to Accenture in 2010 for a role as head of strategy. Halfway through the first interview, the managing director at the time, Marian Corcoran, said: “This is not the right fit for you, you’re more an analytics person.” Shortly after, I joined Accenture to help establish Dublin as a global hub for analytics.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered?
I was 27 years old when I led my first major project. This was a huge step up. I didn’t really understand the implications nor the requirements at the time. In particular, I got the balance wrong between enabling and directing the team. Fortunately, I had a good project group who helped me learn and adjust during this 12-month engagement.
It was a hard, but incredibly important, lesson: you don’t lead from the front, you lead from the back.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential?
Tony Lewins. Tony gave me my first job in consulting. He has also been there for me on numerous occasions to both back me for new responsibilities and support me when needed.
This includes the most difficult moment in my career. We had three kids under two years old at home and I hadn’t adjusted my workload accordingly. This had a knock-on impact and Tony was there to help me get the balance. Critically, his first concern was my welfare, something I have not forgotten. In fact, I’m not sure he knows this. I must give him a call and say thank you.
Luckily, with Accenture, the company understands the importance of family and supporting all our people in getting the right balance.
What do you enjoy about your job?
It is a privilege to work with clients and help them solve their most important problems. That is something you should never forget.
My career also gives me the opportunity to do what I enjoyed in university: use mathematics to solve business problems. I love the variety and the opportunity to learn.
Accenture is a good fit for me as we help our clients implement the insights and so, deliver a better outcome. Some of my previous work involved helping clients to use analytics to create reports. But it is now about changing how a client engages with their customers or how a client runs their enterprise, which I find very motivating.
I am also blessed to work with a superb team and genuinely believe that Accenture Analytics has the best analytics talent in Ireland. Working with these individuals on a daily basis is a real privilege and it is wonderful to see each team member grow and take on more responsibility.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
I get excited by the new, and I love to learn. Analytics is evolving at such a fast pace and we can do things now – such as leveraging artificial intelligence and augmented reality – that simply weren’t possible a few years ago. Working in analytics allows me to embrace my inner geek.
I think I am also quite good at seeing the bigger picture while worrying about the detail. Having the ability to work at multiple levels is essential when you are responsible for many different client engagements. I would call it having a ‘helicopter view’ but my wife Moya would laugh, calling this terrible consulting speak!
In consulting, you also work with and meet many people. I am an extrovert and so, often get my energy from others. You also need to be a bit of a show-person and I do enjoy giving presentations and running workshops.
How did Accenture support you on your career path?
Accenture has always been very supportive and agreed to every new role and set of responsibilities I have asked for. This includes working across Europe and the Middle East for a number of years. In fact, my role has changed again since December to lead our work with Irish-based clients and grow this locally focused team.
We are fortunate to also have The Dock in Dublin. The Dock is our multidisciplinary research and incubation hub, and there is plenty of opportunity for structured and on-the-job training to make sure your skills remain up to date. This is very important with the scale of change going on in analytics right now.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in analytics, or just starting out in one?
If you are numerically minded, then I would encourage you to choose a career in analytics. Analytics as a profession is maturing and there are many interesting career paths to select. We are also only at the start of this journey so there are plenty of opportunities and new specialist areas developing.
There is a lot of value in combining analytics with the rigour and delivery management you learn in consulting. You get to work across many projects and industries while working beside real experts. This provides a strong opportunity to accelerate your own professional development.