By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“Make sure that you understand what you want and also understand other’s expectations of you ,” advised Shelley Hurley, Executive Director of Risk Management and Global Resources lead at Accenture.
She explained, “Sometimes you’re asked to take on a role that you’re not comfortable with. But stretching yourself is important. Others may see strength in you that they need elsewhere in the organization.”
She added, “Flexibility will help you a great deal in the long run.”
From Commodities Trading to Risk Management
“I had grown up in the cattle industry,” Hurley said. “And I was encouraged to look into trading commodities for my career.” In fact, Hurley spent the bulk of her career in trading, serving as vice president of trading at ProMark Energy, VP of energy risk management at Equitable Resources, president of ERI Trading Inc., and Director of Risk Management at ERI Inc. She also became a seat holder on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).
While working in trading, Hurley developed a keen understanding of the importance of managing risk. Having been a client of Accenture in one of her previous roles, she was hired by the company to help build the Trading and Risk Practice, particularly focusing on energy, utilities, and natural resources. After becoming partner, Hurley worked as Chief Risk Officer at Entergy Corp. and went on to found the Committee of Chief Risk Officers.
Still, despite her successful career in trading and risk, Hurley explained that her efforts in developing the next generation of talent has been most meaningful to her. She said, “At Accenture, we measure success in three ways – business operations, value creation, and people development. At the end of last year, I won the people developer award. It meant a great deal to me, to be recognized by the people who work for me, my peers, and senior management.”
Currently, Hurley is working on a number of thought leadership initiatives within the energy industry. For example, she recently co-authored a white paper on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. She explained, “It connects us with our clients, and it’s meaningful to people in my group to develop thought leadership based on client experiences.”
LGBT at Accenture
Hurley is also the senior executive who leads the Austin office’s LGBT community. “I can honestly say coming out professionally has been a real journey,” she said. “Being one of the first female traders in the industry was not an easy path.”
She continued, “But over time, the world has changed. And I’ve changed – I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin.” Hurley is an active supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations.
She said, “One of the things I’m proudest of is the tone from the top at Accenture. It has been well set and well established. This is a great environment to work in.”
Hurley said Accenture is a strong supporter of Out and Equal.
Challenges and Changes for Professional Women
“When I first started in commodities trading, in the ‘Ag’ area, it was difficult for women. But once you establish your credibility, very quickly that changes. Once you show your competence, knowledge, and skills, you can be competitive in your career.”
“And over time, I’ve seen changes. Particularly when I moved into energy, there were a number of women in trading. Women were recognized and respected.”
She continued, “I’ve seen a lot of change in the world – if you’re able to deliver on your abilities and skills and be recognized for them, and make an impact, you’ll do well.”
Hurley had three pieces of advice for women beginning a career in consulting. “Understand that the client comes first. Second, recognize that for what we do, our people are the most important asset we have.”
And third, “Understand you have to work together with a team – your peers, the people who report to you, and also your leadership.”
Hurley is a member of Accenture’s Women’s Leadership Development Board. “It’s an organization that works to mentor women and attract women to the workplace.”
In Her Personal Time
In her spare time, Hurley is actively involved in charity work for PAWS, a no-kill shelter. “The shelter takes care of animals until a home can be found for them.”
An animal lover, Hurley also adopts retired racing greyhounds. “They’re a handful!” she said with a laugh. Luckily, she said, “I’m also an avid fitness person.”