I got laid off from Accenture. Here’s what I need from you.
I was laid off on August 14, 2020, and here’s how it went down. This is the text of my farewell email to my colleagues at Accenture. I’ve been requested to share it publicly by numerous friends and co-workers. Also, I’m doing great, I’m going full-time on Soapbox Project after my last day at Accenture, and I’d love your support. I feel unburdened and genuinely excited for the journey to come!
8/20/20 edit after seeing some Fishbowl comments: Didn’t expect this to blow up (after all, it was originally my internal farewell letter and I did not post it on Fishbowl myself) so to clarify: I did not turn 10 projects down all at once! This was not during COVID!
To the people who have inspired me, challenged me, laughed with me, and vented with me over the last three years,
Last Friday, August 14th, I was laid off from Accenture. August 28th will be my last day.
This may come as a shock to many of you. It certainly was to me.
Over the past three years, my number one goal at Accenture, my shiny North Star 🌟, was to figure out how to use this company — and all its power — as an instrument for good.
I don’t know if I’ve succeeded or failed.
If you’re receiving this email, you probably know about some, if not all, of the successes. I was only a year out of college, and a year into my career, in November 2018 when I got Accenture Leadership to let me take on the Camp Fire, California’s most destructive wildfire, that raged through Butte County in November.
You may have seen me speak about it at our Town Hall a few months later in the Salesforce Tower. Or you may have seen my segment with CEO Julie Sweet, where I was the youngest person by far to share the stage with her on our North America broadcast in 2019. In both my speeches, I talked about the importance of empathetic leadership.
We need more of it.
The wins ✨ between 2018 and 2020, for me, were that people in power at this company were — and are — willing to listen.
In 2019, I hosted an Impact-a-Thon for people on the bench to use their time to positively impact California wildfire management. We brought in leaders from Red Cross and the SF Department of Emergency Management to speak during that week. I hear that the participants were inspired. I certainly was.
All those wildfire-related efforts reached a culmination point in 2020. In June, I hosted a workshop with social impact and tech leaders from places like California Office of Emergency Services, Splunk, AirBnB, and more. It took months of interviews and prep, and I doubt any of the senior leaders knew I was only 2+ years into my professional career.
It went better than my wildest hopes. 🥂
After a few follow-ups with startups who reached out to me after seeing my LinkedIn post, we came up with a solution so simple and powerful that, if the submitted proposal is funded, will save hundreds (if not more) of Californians’ lives, specifically people with access and functional needs.
I gave up a lot to make this happen. Maybe I failed.
I gambled with my chargeability, the single most important (and I guess, only) metric Accenture cares about.* There were times, like earlier this fiscal year, I stayed on the bench** longer than I should have, to find projects that would actually build my skills instead of making me a SQL puppet. (I have the evidence — I turned down at least TEN projects that were just data crunching on a [REDACTED] account.)
*chargeability = billable hours; the amount of time spent doing client work vs. business development, internal projects, etc.
**bench = between projects
I knew this was risky. But Accenture does not offer a path for you to build a purposeful career unless that purpose is truly perpetual service to clients. My perpetual service happens to be to leverage power for impact, not profit. I thought I could squeeze into the middle of the Venn Diagram where impact and profit overlap.
I actually didn’t know I failed until Friday. In February, I FINALLY got on an ADP (Accenture Development Partnerships) project with the [REDACTED] Foundation, helping all their investors create gender equality through their investments. What a dream!
🤑 I ignored the fact that my salary took a hit of more than $10,000*** for the six months I would be there. I ignored the mundane tasks that came with my work, because I could clearly see a direct line between my work and real, tangible impact for people of all genders — but especially women and girls — in developing countries.
***Accenture makes employees take a pay cut if you work on ADP because the company makes a loss from the projects. My understanding is also that ADP employees usually work in developing nations and have lower costs of living. I’m in SF.
I worked with a wonderful, lively team and for the best manager ever — [REDACTED]— who in so many ways has shaped the way I think about the world in only six months.
Finally, purpose and profit coexisted.
I forgot about the additional hits I took when fighting for this role. My alignment (the practice within Accenture I work in) was not happy with my decision. I had to go back and forth with Managing Directors on how I would be “building skills that benefited the practice”. The role was more characteristic of one of our other alignments. But I had to prioritize my North Star ⭐ over Accenture’s chess game. Anyways, I got laid off, because of low chargeability.
Some days I feel I won, and some days I feel I’ve lost. Some days I feel numb and a little used, especially on projects where I know that anyone who lives and breathes can do the work I’m doing. Some days — many days since February — I feel inspired and powerful to have the weight of a 500,000 person machine behind me.
And that feeling is what I wish for all of you. 💌
We need to find work that nourishes our souls. We have to have more open discussions on what we’re going through and what we’ve given up. We have to constantly remind ourselves about what we value, and what we will never compromise for.
Accenture has been designed in and for a capitalistic world, where people are seen as the number of dollars they can bring in. On a positive note, I really do think this troubles our leadership, at least in the West, which gives me a lot of hope for the future of this company. Maybe it’s naive, but I really, truly think that people in power here care. 😷
It’s just that it’s really hard to care when incentives aren’t aligned properly.
I know so many of you want to “make the world a better place”, whether that’s clean tech, racial justice, education, or something else. I know you dedicate hours to run for charity, serve on boards of non-profits, lead ERGs, and more. I also know, like me, you feel burnt out and a little hopeless when it’s not formally recognized.
If at any point in the last three years, I’ve touched you in some way, made you see things a little differently, or inspired you, I want to ask you to do one teeny tiny thing. Fight — just a little harder — to make the structures that rule your life the structures you actually want to see in this world.
I can’t tell you what your perfect world looks like, but here’s a start for me:
- 🗳 Civic engagement, especially from the tech community. Let me speak directly to my fellow San Franciscans. Cities — this city — is not meant for your consumption. It’s where you live and where you work. Thanks to COVID, you no longer have the excuse of not being here 4 days a week. If you have a problem with SF — if you hate how many homeless people there are, or how expensive rent is, or how the trashcans are overflowing, DO SOMETHING about it. VOTE, certainly in the upcoming election, but also in local elections. We have so much to offer, as many of us are privileged, well-off-enough tech people. Let’s actually offer it.
- ⚖ Racial justice, gender equality, and basically living in a society where we lift up those who need it. We know now more than ever how important these things are. What we have to remind ourselves is that we have to keep fighting for them. Every win in history comes with someone determined to tear it down for their own power. We might not be able to change the world, but we can change this company. We can even just start with the West.
- 🎉 More happy people! I said this earlier, but we need to find work that nourishes our souls. We have to create the socioeconomic structures that allow us to thrive — don’t we all want that? Whether it’s advocating for mental health at Accenture and getting buy-in on company-sponsored therapy, asking our leaders how to get our lives outside of work formally recognized, or developing a culture where everyone feels safe and cared for, there is a LOT we can do, even in these COVID times, for more happy people. So ask yourself: are you happy? If not, what’s blocking you? What will you do about it?
5 ways you can help:
In 2017, months after I joined the company, I realized I was already Not a Happy Person. So a few weeks later, I started Soapbox Project to “find my purpose.” That purpose, now, is to make social impact easy for busy people like you and help you achieve points 1–3 above. I believe the all-or-nothing mindset we approach social impact with is flawed. EVERYONE has their part to play, and I’ve created Soapbox Project so that it only takes you 5 minutes to do your part. No more excuses!
On that note, 5 ways you can help me out:
- 📰 Become a paid subscriber to Action Abridged by Soapbox Project, which provides 5-minute summaries of 10 books on racial justice for $5 each, along with an action plan on how you can implement these findings at your company. PROFITS ARE DONATED to Color of Change. I published the first summary yesterday for free and you can read it/sign up here. There will be two more free editions in August you can sign up for before paying to see if this is for you.
Just to reiterate, I’m summarizing ten books in 5-minute reads each AND your money supports Color of Change, so I’m serious about making social impact easy for you. Share it with your friends, sign up, and make a difference!
2. 📊 Make the right metrics count. [REDACTED] is taking over something else I’ve been fighting for: incorporating social impact into our chargeability metrics. In our opinion, promotions and career progression should reward those doing good, not just well. Please reach out to her if you want to help on the proposal she’s putting together.
Another key metric that should be optimized for: manager competency. Every single person I’ve ever had a >5-minute conversation with has talked about a bad manager. If we hope for that to change, we have to see that this company reflects it as a business priority, not just a career nice-to-have. And please, if you’re a manager, spend some time on how to be a good one.
[REDACTED] is also working on trauma-informed diversity training for managers, so reach out to her and help her out.
3. ✅ VOTE! Nationally and locally. It’s a tempting time to argue with people on the internet about your candidate or beliefs, and although I believe strongly in using your voice, I urge you to focus on helping people who already want to vote to actually do so. The best use of your time is to help folks get registered and actually make their ballots count. You can help register voters with Rock the Vote, volunteer through the NAACP Civic Engagement Program, or more.
4. 📢Think about, voice, and act on your values. I’ve felt my moral compass tugged on at many client sites. There have been times when I couldn’t tell if it was “right” to speak up. In January, I had to tell my manager at [REDACTED] that the SF ↔ San Jose commute was unreasonable and I wanted to work from SF more often. He was great about it, but I had so much anxiety before that conversation. My mental and physical health were at stake, but so many people here just “go with the flow” at the expense of their health, that I felt weird going against the grain on something so clearly unreasonable. That small step helped me advocate for others who asked how I did it.
I also asked to roll off of a project at [REDACTED] last year because of bro culture. I felt constantly disrespected and almost didn’t say anything because I knew my Accenture lead was good friends with the client. (To my surprise, he backed me up — again, this is why I’m optimistic that things can change for the better.)
In both these situations, despite having a strong sense of my values, I felt silenced by the general feeling of my values being misaligned with Accenture’s. I felt deeply in conflict between my personal and professional self. I strongly believed that if all of us spoke up more — and acted in accordance with — our values, this company, and the tech world, would be better for it.
(P.S. This applies the MOST when you work for a client that is in diametric opposition to your values. Don’t do it. Saying no to projects and clients that are ethically murky shows the company they are also not profitable or easily staffable.)
5. ✉️ Send me an email (to my personal, cc’d) if I’ve impacted you in any way, personally or professional, or if you need help with an idea, want to share your own contributions to Accenture/your community, have any investors or connections you want to introduce me to, or have any feedback you want to give me. If you just want to stay in touch, I’m on all the social medias, most active/noisy on Twitter, where I tweet about social impact and tech.
I plan on using the next few months to go full-time on Soapbox Project and welcome your support. I know we can build the world we want to live in if each of us just tries a little harder, so I’m doing my part to make the struggle easier for you.
Thank you for sticking with me through this email and the beginning of my career. I’ve had opportunities here that I never would have dreamed of. I had the time of my life in St. Charles with my friends. I looked forward to happy hour basically every Friday at the Salesforce Tower. It’s been incredible, unpredictable, and really difficult at times.
I’m glad to have experienced it with you.
In gratitude and optimism,