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Voice of Experience: Marla Arbiv, Managing Director, Accenture

Marla ArbivMarla Arbiv, a working mom of three, has led a nearly 30 year career at Accenture.

She spent the first two-thirds serving clients, traveling around the world and living across three continents. She’s worked in multiple cities across the U.S. and spent two years working at Accenture in Tel Aviv and later, in Sydney, for an additional two.

Currently living in Atlanta, Marla helped build the company’s Oracle capability in its North America Global Delivery Network and now focuses on the company’s Oracle Outsourcing business. As part of her role, Marla managed a pipeline for delivery center-based work and has invested a significant amount of time helping Accenture teams and clients adopt delivery models that enable more people to work locally, and remotely.

In fact, numerous women (and men) come to Marla for coaching on how to raise a family while advancing careers. Navigating this balance can be tricky when travel is extensive, and Marla has a personal desire to see people achieve a work life balance that works for them. She states, “I’ve personally promoted many of the Accenture programs for flexible work and tried to lead by example for my peers and colleagues. I think for many people, regardless of company or level, finding a balance can be difficult – but it is possible.”

Marla strongly believes she has proven that as a career woman, you can progress professionally while effectively managing family and other personal commitments. In this way, Marla has been a direct and indirect mentor for multiple people, at various points in their careers. She comments, “I’ve worked to develop longstanding relationships with people, even if they move to other parts of the business or away to other locations. I greatly enjoy being a mentor to others, and I hope that people perceive me that way. I work with people to understand their situations so that I can help them be successful.” Interestingly for Marla, most of her early mentors were men. She reflects, “I’ve always been a self-driver, so there were times when I didn’t have an active mentor, but I’ve always encouraged people to find support through mentors, male or female.” Marla attributes her lack of women mentors to the lower number of women in tech at the time.

Now, however, interest in technology among young women is on the rise, thanks in part to organizations like Girls Who Code (GWC), with which Accenture partners across the U.S., helping the organization inspire, educate, and equip young women with computing and professional skills that enable them to pursue technology careers. The company has hosted multiple GWC clubs across the U.S. including NYC and Chicago and, this year, has extended the program to Atlanta, where Marla served as the executive sponsor. She says, “The girls in the program spent seven weeks learning new skills and were exposed to real-world business expertise and mentorship opportunities. While GWC provided the curriculum and wonderful instructors, we scheduled field trips and guest speakers and coordinated a mentorship program with our people who met with the girls on a weekly basis.”

As a leading technology company with a commitment to gender equality, Accenture has a vested interest in supporting organizations like GWC and fostering the next generation of women tech talent. Labor force statistics show anticipated shortages of technology majors in the near future. As for the gender gap, there is a significant decline in graduation rates for young women with technology degrees.

For Marla, it’s also personal. “It really started with Accenture’s involvement with organizations like GWC and Code.org to open my eyes. My three children are in high school and I began to ask myself, what are we doing to promote careers in tech for these kids? Are my children being taught computer skills in school? On college tours I heard prospective students speak about what they’re interested in and very few indicated computer science. Technology education needs to happen before college.”

According to Marla, early education about career possibility in the field is imperative, as “technology is going to drive everything we do– regardless of job or industry.” Every field has a piece of technology. Everyone needs to understand the influence of tech, even if they don’t want to be a technologist. “Concepts that we were talking about when I first started at Accenture, that at the time seemed esoteric and impossible, are now the reality. Technology is expanding and fast moving – there’s opportunity for young women to really make a mark. It’s a great field to look forward to.”

Advice for young women? Pace yourself to be able to sustain the changes that happen both in your career and personal life. She offers, “A career in tech is not an easy one –change is rapid and expectations are high. But by seeking out opportunities to grow, and taking chances when you are not always comfortable, it provides for a rewarding career in an exciting field.”

Her admission about change being uncomfortable at times is balanced by Accenture’s encouragement and support in her pursuing new and challenging opportunities, which she says mirrors the changing pace of technology. “Throughout my career, I have balanced the times when I could be flexible and take chances, with opportunities that aligned to my personal needs raising three children. I now see how my career choices have positively impacted my kids. No doubt they picked up on my constant drive to ‘get things done’ and do my best to succeed in both my professional and personal life. They’re self-starters, and I like to believe that they saw me be a self-starter.”

Outside of Work, Marla enjoys traveling and hiking and has a knack for running long distances “when she finds time!” With three very active teenagers, 15, 16 and 17, Marla spends most of her personal time watching (and driving to) her children’s sports events – track & field/pole vaulting, basketball and soccer.

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