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Voice of Experience: Pamela J. Craig, Chief Financial Officer, Accenture

PamCraigBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

According to Pamela J. Craig, Chief Financial Officer at Accenture, the best piece of advice she has to offer is: “Just go for it.”

“It sounds so simple,” she said. “That was particularly the case with my job as CFO… it just came up. And, my husband and co-workers were supportive and gave me the confidence that made a very big difference. It’s easy to lack confidence. It’s harder to have it. Go for it and make it all it can be. This a big deal for me.”

She continued, “Be open to stretch roles and go out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to say, ‘I’m not sure I can do that.’ You should say, ‘I bet I can do that.’”

Moving Up and Giving Back

“I graduated [from Smith College] in 1979 with a liberal arts degree – and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. So I entered an MBA program at NYU in Accounting,” Craig began. “After a couple of years, I realized I didn’t want to be an auditor all my life. I switched to consulting.”

Craig joined Accenture in 1979, and became partner in 1991. “Then something very serendipitous happened,” she said, “My husband was transferred to Japan.” Craig credited Accenture with helping her move across the globe, enabling her to stay with the company, and said her time working abroad provided valuable career skills.

In 2001, the company went public, and Craig continued working as a financial and operational consultant.

She continued, “I worked for the COO for a couple of years, and then I was asked to go into finance. I had a lot to learn! In 2006, I became CFO. [My career] was not planned out – there were different twists and turns along the way.”

Craig said she is currently working on several interesting issues. “The SEC invited me to testify about making sure the market remains sound in the time of crisis, for example the incident last May. I do think we have amazing technology in financial markets, and regulators need to be able to keep up.”

Looking forward, she said, “I’m one of longest serving people at the company. And I’m not going anywhere, but I am 53, and I’m thinking about the next chapter.” Craig explained that she’s passionate about mentoring and guiding younger generations. She said, “I hope I’ve been able to help other people, and I’m happy to do that – to help build confidence, think through options, come up with ideas.”

She continued, “A lot of women give back. I see myself in that kind of role.”

In fact, she said, one of the most exciting things about her current role is her participation in mentoring and development programs. She said, “One of the great things about Accenture is that there are so many things you can get involved in, like mentoring or emerging business. I was just down in Brazil working on a program called Developing Client-Centric Women. Then, we had another session in Asia.”

She continued, “Now we’re doing another program focused on young adults in high school. We work with students, talking about what skills they want to develop.” Recently, Craig participated in the Junior Achievement – New Jersey Women’s Future Leadership Forum, which provided one-on-one mentoring sessions with 50 high school girls.

Working with others on their personal and professional development is a priority for Craig. She explained, whether working on programs in South America, Asia/Pacific, North America, or Europe, “Every country is different, every culture is different. But there’s always the same thing – [people say,] I want to be all that I can be.’”

Still, Craig said, “The most important thing is my family. Even though it wasn’t always easy – I had to learn to juggle. I had my children in the late 80s, and as my kids grew up, I had the support I needed. I’m always constantly focused on that, and still staying excited about my career.”

Regarding work/life balance, she continued, “I think balance is a concept – you’re never in balance. If you are, it’s only for five seconds. I never feel a balance. What I try to do instead is look enough ahead and stay covered – family, kids, parents, just be sure you’re paying enough attention. It requires time.”

Advice for Women

What challenges do women face in the workforce? Craig replied, “I’d like to think there are none. I do think that talented women can get pigeonholed. They do their jobs so well, their boss doesn’t want to give them up when it’s time to think about [promotion].”

She continued, “One other thing – women also are often perfectionists. One of the things I had to learn is that, really, it’s okay if not everything’s perfect. Mentally, it’s okay not to be a perfectionist. And other successful women have told me the same thing.”

This is something Craig wishes she had learned earlier. She explained, “You’re never quite sure things are going to be okay – trust your instincts always. If you know something’s possible to do, but it might seem crazy today, stick to your instinct.”

She encouraged young women to be open to learning new things. She said, “Learning comes in different flavors – it’s not always about the perfect assignment. Be curious, make your role more.”

She continued, “I’ve had a few lateral moves in my career, and it’s not concerning [to have them on your resume]. Be open to it.”

And, she said, “Find a mentor – someone to be there to hash things out with, and offer a different perspective or ideas, or just to listen. That helps too. There’s always a lot to figure out.” In fact, Craig encourages women at the mid or senior level of their careers to be mentors. She said, “It can’t hurt – and chances are it will help.”

Craig said she admired both the current and former CEOs of Accenture, William D. Green and Joe W. Forehand, for supporting her career, as well as for their smarts. She said, “I look for characteristics in people who are able to influence and not just wield their power.”

In her spare time, Craig, whose children are now 21 and 24, sits on a number of boards of organizations dedicated to education and development. She said, “My real interest is in the high school age group – how to help people get started and get on their way.”

0 Response

  1. Avatar
    Anil Kumar Chitral

    Hello,

    I am really exicited that she had very big journal in her life. And inspired me lot.

    Thanks for sharing this kind of important & valuable story.

    Thanks once again.

    Anil Chitral

  2. Avatar
    Aparna More

    Thanks Craig for sharing your views, they really are useful.
    Especially the one where you mentioned, balance is the concept, when I thought about it, it really seemed that way.
    Thanks for the inspiration and all the best to you for your
    activities in high school age group.

  3. Avatar
    Arun Kumar

    Hi There,
    Interesting profile. In a career it not always that a MBA fetches a CFO post. Do believe important decisions on when to accept a change in role / geography does matter in the long run. No doubt hard work and dedication pays. Achievers do make sacrifices.

    Regards,
    Arun Kumar