Zach speaks with Tamara Fields, the Austin Office Managing Director at Accenture. She details her career journey to this point and offers her perspective on how organizations can make conversations and examinations around gender more intersectional and inclusive.
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate. Now, look, I’ve got some good news, I’ve got some great news, then I’ve got some sad news, okay? So if you didn’t know, Living Corporate has been partnering with Accenture to present to y’all a leadership series, okay? These are the most experienced North American black and brown managing directors, okay? This is what I’m saying. If you look at North America for Accenture, and you were to say “Hm, where are all the executive leaders who are black and brown and, like, who is the most senior in that group, and what are their stories?” Living Corporate would be able to say, “Oh, you mean these people right here? We got ’em.” So that’s the good news. That’s the great news. The sad news is this is the last entry for now of this leadership series, okay? And my hope is that you–first of all of course you listen to this one, but [that] you’ll listen to all of them, because we’ve been honored to have some amazing guests, and our last guest is no less amazing – Tamara Fields. Tamara Fields is the Austin Office Managing Director at Accenture, where she is responsible for bringing innovation to clients, recruiting and retaining top talent, and strengthening Accenture’s relationship with the community. She has over 20 years of experience in the health and public service sector, driving creative, strategic, and transformative solutions for federal and state government clients via multilateral project management, contract management and HR and financial transformation. My goodness, gracious. Sound Man, give me the Flex bomb. Just give it to me right here. [Flex bomb gets dropped] My goodness, gracious. An advocate for inclusion and diversity, Tamara serves as the U.S. co-lead for Accenture’s women’s employee resource group and the inclusion and diversity lead for the Accenture office in Austin. Tamara also serves as a coach and mentor in and outside of Accenture, helping people find their voice and preparing them for career advancement. She speaks at conferences and summits, like Culturati and Texas Conference for Women, and was recognized with the 2018 Central Texas DiversityFIRST award for her commitment to I&D. She is Accenture’s executive recruiting sponsor for her alma mater, the University of Texas, and sits on the Red McCombs School of Business Advisory Council as well as the boards for the Texas Conference for Women and Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas. So shout-out to our historically black colleges in Dallas. So I’ma go ahead and put the air horns right here [they drop], and I’ma give you that Cardi B “ow” right here as well [Cardi B “ow”], because shout-out to y’all. Love y’all. Now, look, with that being said, the next thing you’re gonna be hearing is the interview that I had with Tamara Fields.
Zach: Tamara, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Tamara: I’m doing great. Thanks very much. I appreciate being on.
Zach: Oh, yeah. No, no problem. Look, for those of us who don’t know you, would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself?
Tamara: Of course. I’m just a Texas girl. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, which I feel like [?] is a unicorn–[both laugh]–with how Austin has grown, but yeah, I’m from Austin, Texas, and I currently work for Accenture. I am our Austin office managing director, so I’m responsible for our Austin office, and I’m also a key executive and managing director in our health and public service practice. So that means I spend quite a lot of work working with non-profits and higher education and with states. I went to the University of Texas at Austin, so I am a Longhorn – to all those proud Longhorns out there. And I think that’s probably my quick summary on myself.
Zach: Well, you know I gotta go ahead and give you some air horns for all of that, ’cause that’s an amazing profile. [I drop ’em]
Tamara: Ooh, I like the air horns. Can we have more?
Zach: Oh, yeah.
Zach: Oh, I got way more sound effects. I was trying to say–’cause this is what I’m trying to do. So as a side-note, Tamara–so, you know, Living Corporate has been around for a little over a year, and we add sound effects on the backend, but what I’m trying to do–we’ve got a soundboard now, so I’m over here trying to, you know, mix it up, add a little pizzazz. I was telling Rah that the last interview [that I was], you know, just trying a few different things out. So, you know, you may hear a few different things as they are appropriate in this conversation, okay?
Tamara: Well, appropriate is always very important, so I appreciate that.
Zach: Timing is everything.
Tamara: And I will not be alarmed by your sounds, all right? Because I believe in disruptive innovation, so let’s see what we can do.
Zach: Oh, look at you. Look at you flexing. I see you now. Okay, all right. All right, now I’m activated. I appreciate that. [both laugh] So you’ve been with Accenture for over 20 years. Two sets of 10. Two.
Tamara: Yeah. Are you trying to make me feel old? What exactly–[laughs] Yes, yes. Two sets of 10. Thank you, Zach. [both laugh]
Zach: No. Well, the reason I bring it up–not to make you feel old. Can we talk a little bit about your journey and what it’s looked like for you not just to survive but thrive in consulting, right? Because I’ve seen–in my experience in consulting and outside of consulting, black professionals–black and brown professionals, a lot of times they will get right up to either that manager or senior manager level and just kind of stay there for a while, and so it’s rare–that I’ve seen, in my experience–many of us break into, like, the true executive-level leadership, and so–you know, it just seems like such a hyper-political space. I’d love just to hear about what your path has been.
Tamara: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it’s very interesting. I mean, I think one of the very first reasons why I came to work for Accenture, which at the time was interested in consulting when I graduated, was because I saw people who looked like me. It’s really that simple. I initially had a marketing background, so I wasn’t even in the technology space at all, or the consulting space. I wasn’t focused on that. And one of my friends signed me up, and I went to an interview, and as I was going through the interview process, I started to run into individuals and greeters that they had there, and a couple of people who were friends of mine, who had graduated a couple of years before, were like, “Come on, Tamara. Come try this out.” So I did, and it’s been interesting to me, because I think that that aspect is what’s really helped my career. I think that consulting can be intimidating. There’s a lot of work associated with it. You’re always having to spend time to stay up on trends and skills and capabilities and technology, and you’re always in learning mode at the same time as you’re guiding your clients, but what I found most intriguing about it is the fact that it’s not a product, it’s about people, and it’s a team-based activity, and I think, for me, that was important, because I like connection with people. And so I think what’s really helped me navigate my career, to be honest with you, has been relationships, right? It’s a diverse world, and I think you have a lot of opportunity to own your path and own your career, but you have to do that with having the right people with the right opportunities with your right skill set, and those three things have to match up, and early in my career I didn’t really understand that. I thought if you just worked hard, surely you’re gonna get patted on the back and get promoted. [laughs] So very quickly you realize that’s not the case, and so I really had to learn a couple of key points that I’ll share. One is advocacy. It is important, right? And understanding your contribution and what you bring to the table and being able to articulate that, not in a boastful way, but in a way that helps everybody understand the work that you’re performing and how you’re contributing. That’s important, and that was [anti?] to my culture and my world, right? I was raised in a very–in a background that believed in servant leadership. You know, if you do a good job, that’s good enough, right? And so it was really hard for me to advocate and really to tell my story and be able to represent my story. And the second thing that was important is you need relationships at all levels – those that work for you and above you, and understanding the ecosystem that you work in, the organization structure that you work in and understanding the key players in that are important, and you need to take the time to understand where you work, how you work, who you’re working with. You need to understand how they contribute and leverage that network, and I know people utilize “network” very freely, but it’s exceptionally important. Like, you have to have sponsors or a key sponsor, and that sponsor is only a sponsor if they are well-positioned in the company to be able to advocate on your behalf. So that goes back to that first statement of advocacy, and so I had to learn how to navigate that, and I had to learn how to navigate that with individuals who didn’t look like me, right? Because when I first came into the company there were a lot of African-American females, and even now, right, that’s something that we’re committed to, and I’m really thankful to work for a company that’s committed to inclusion and diversity, but overall in the technology space, the percentages of African-Americans or Hispanics or women, right, that’s still a number that has to grow, right? And so the reality of that means I have to have mentors and sponsors who may not be my makeup, but they’re still committed to my success, and I had to learn how to get past my own unconscious bias to reach out and to leverage them and leverage those relationships in telling my story to navigate my career to success. And that was hard for me on multiple levels, one because we all suffer from impostor syndrome at some time. We all doubt ourselves. I wasn’t used to talking about myself in that way. Learning how to establish relationships differently, at different levels and in different ways, and so I really had to embrace that in order for me to see, you know, my career path grow.
Zach: Wow. So look, you know, it’s been a theme, right? I’ve been talking to y’all, and when I say y’all I’m talking about y’all Accenture MDs. And so I keep on dropping this Flex bomb, but I gotta do it again. [Flex bomb sfx] You know what I’m saying? ‘Cause golly. You’re dropping real stuff. But, you know, jokes aside, it all boils down to vulnerability, and that’s hard, right?
Tamara: So hard. [both laugh]
Zach: It’s hard to practice vulnerability with folks that look like you, let alone folks that don’t look like you, especially if you’ve been burned a couple times by some of those folks who don’t look like you. Then it’s like, “Well, dang, okay. Not only are my feelings kind of hurt, I also need to figure out a way to preserve myself. So what does it look like for me to just exist here,” you know what I mean? So I definitely understand, 100% agree, with every point you made, and I just–[coin sfx]–you know, I just want to–I really do appreciate you sharing those points, because it is true that a lot of times, like, we–I’ll speak for myself, ’cause your point around servant leadership resonated with me. That’s definitely, like, my background as well. It’s, like, the whole just “Okay, look, lead with humility. Look out for those before you look out for yourself,” and that framework, while I’m not saying it isn’t–I still believe in it, but it creates challenges in spaces where everyone is so very much so looking out for themselves. So what does it look like to practice servant leadership, but at the same time tactfully, professionally, honestly advocate for yourself? Like, those are–that’s a hard balance to find, you know what I mean?
Tamara: It is, and I think what we think is sometimes they have to be mutually exclusive, and that’s not the case, right? What I had to learn was–and I was actually coached on this. And this was hard, right? I was very used to always saying “we did this,” and “we did this,” and “we did that.” What they really want to understand [is] “What did you do, Tamara, as part of this collective,” you know, success or project that you’re talking about. Because they understand that you didn’t deliver the project by yourself. [both laugh] [?] leadership, right? What they’re trying to understand is what piece of the pie did you have, and how did you influence that? What ingredients did you add into that pay to help that pie taste wonderful, right? And so I had to learn how to use the word “I,” which was hard, and at the same time use the word “team.” So I would have to say things like, you know, “I directed the team to do this, and this is how the team executed this.” You know, “We set up this collaboration method or this design session,” you know, and “I facilitated that, and the team came up with some really innovative ideas. I helped the team work through how to deliver that.” You know, “I delivered these pieces of the effort, and I honed this client relationship, and I helped the client interact with these team members in this way.” But it was really about making sure that we clarified how I personally contribute, and then at the same time also talk to the team objective. So you can do both, and I don’t–and I think that’s where people miss, right? It’s not to negate what the team does, but that team is working for you. [coin sfx] They’re helping you be high-performing. Absolutely give them credit for that, and you need to definitely talk about that, but you’re a part of that team. You’re directing that team. You’re providing leadership to that team. Those aspects of what you’re doing shouldn’t be ignored, and you can share that and still share in that team’s success, because your success is the team’s success and vice versa. And so recognizing that fact I think was key in my ability to start understanding how to speak to how I contributed and how the team contributed and how we did it together.
Zach: Amen. Come on, now. You know what? And something else can we talk about for a second is–’cause you talked about using the word “I” and, like, what it is you did. Can we talk a little bit about–in terms of looking to progress and thrive in these corporate spaces as a leader, as a person of color, as a–let me be more specific, because sidenote–and we’re gonna get to this later in the questions–Tamara, does it ever annoy you when people use, like, the term “person of color,” like, as a catch-all as opposed to being more explicit and saying, like, “black and brown?” And it’s okay if–I’m just curious.
Tamara: That doesn’t bother me so much. I just think that what–what probably bothers me even more than that is I think that people should not be afraid to use terms, right? I am an African-American, and if you’re concerned about what to ask, then ask me what my preferred term is and I’ll share it, right? Because I think it’s important to put out. It’s just in the same way that when people say “I don’t see color.” I don’t understand what that means, right? Because the reality is I am a person of color. I am an African-American, I am a woman, and I don’t want to ignore these facts. They bring uniqueness to my personality, being a female, being an African-American, being a Texan, being a UT grad. They’re all just aspects and characteristics that I bring to the table that I think is unique, and that’s what brings that innovation to the conversation. So you don’t need to ignore it, and a lot of times, if I’m presenting at an I&D conference or any type of meeting, I will say that just right off the bat, because sometimes you just need to take out the concern, the tension, the fear around these conversation points. I think it goes back to being authentic. You know, early in my career, it was hard for me to fully embrace some of these topics courageously, right? And I had to come to my own place of “This is who I am at 100%,” and I had to represent me, and if I’m going to be an authentic leader–and I really think when I made that shift is when I actually started to see a lot more success a lot faster in my career, because I fully embraced who I was. And that doesn’t mean everybody has to like it, but they need to respect it and understand what I bring to the table. And so I thin kit’s really about the fact that you need to know who you are, fully accept who you are, bring that fully all-in from an authentic point of view, and you’re gonna have success when you do that.
Zach: I love it. So I paused and asked you a side question before I got to my real question. So my real question is can we talk a little bit about, as a leader, why it’s important to make sure you’re doing the right kind of work, and I share that because for me–I’m a newer manager. I’ve been a manager, like, maybe two years or so. I think this will be my second year just being a manager. I was coming from another firm. Now I’m at a new firm as a manager, and coming into this new firm, I’ve been–I’ve got the feedback that, like, “Look, Zach, as a manager–as a leader, your job is not to quote-unquote get things done. Your job is to actually lead the team.” And so I know for me, I think just the way that I–maybe just my background, how I’ve been coached, I’ve felt like there’s always been a pressure to prove myself and show that I’m actually doing something, as opposed to what does it look like to actually facilitate the team and drive results through the team that I’m leading. Can you talk a little bit about, like, your journey in pivoting from being, like, a person who just got a lot of tasks done very well to really influencing and driving results for a group of people?
Tamara: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think I’ve had– I think I’ve had two major what I would call crossroad points where that occurred, right? So just like you, when you, you know, made that point, from consultant to manager, you’re–you know, and those are terms we utilize in my Accenture consulting world. It’s that difference of you’re part of the team and you’re doing the work to you need to direct what the work and strategic vision needs to be, and you need to own that and direct the team and manage that, and manage the deadlines, the deliverables, et cetera. And I think really what that is about is understanding that you can’t do all things and you need to prioritize your time and be effective, and it’s hard for you to provide proper oversight to the team and manage the quality deliverables they’re generating if you don’t do that. What really helped me is, you know, we have various trainings, right? And we talk about what it really means–what are the expectations of a manager versus a team member, right? And I think that a lot of times we get these promotions, we don’t always spend the time to understand what are the requirements and the new expectations for that new role. And so the first thing I would tell people is you need to just be straight up with your boss. “Help me understand what you expect.” [laughs] “What do you expect me to do?” And when you start to write that down, then you’ve got to th ink about how you’re gonna deliver that, and if you start to deliver that and you’re at 80 hours a week, then you know somewhere there’s a problem.
Zach: You’re absolutely right.
Tamara: It’s that practical at times, right? The other thing I would say is you–I believe in this mentorship concept and having people above you who can see how you’re working and what you’re doing, because sometimes we don’t see, and you need to constantly be getting the 360 feedback, right? I believe in the 30/30, right? 30 days and 30 minutes, right? And you need to ask your leadership, right, “Am I operating at the level you expect? Where do you see those changes? What do you want me to do less of and more of,” right? And you need to be asking those questions on a regular basis so that you’re learning through that, and then you need to observe those above you, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how they’re working, right? It’s a natural inflection point that when you switch to leadership you’ve got to delegate more. You’ve got to trust your team, and you’ve got to be able to balance when you dig in and when you don’t, and you need to have the time available to dig in on the real issues and ignore the rest, and you can’t do that if you’re not at that right level of ownership, oversight, and digging in, right? But if you’re always in the weeds you can never see–you know, if you’re always in the trees you can never see the forest, right? And so you have to work on that strategic view. The second inflection point, which was really a bigger one for me, was really when I switched to becoming a managing director, and what was interesting about that was not so much about the work, because as a senior manager at Accenture, you’re already managing pretty large teams and pretty large efforts, and they did a good job in giving us trainings. We even have special inclusion and diversity trainings for African-Americans and Hispanics. You know, we’re very committed to that, and so, you know, I felt like I had plenty of exposure and understanding and coaching and development and leadership training, right? What I hadn’t always understood is that [soft?] skill change that has to happen as you move up that ladder, right? [laughs] By nature I’m very direct, and, you know, how you have conversations at one level versus how you have to the conversation when you are truly in charge, leading an entire portfolio or a set of work or a set of people’s shifts, and sometimes you do need to be more sensitive about how you share and communicate information and how you interact with individuals, because there’s an expectation there of leadership that comes with that. And so, you know, when I first kind of made that transition, I was still somewhat operating in my previous, you know, method of operation. And I had a sponsor come set up a meeting with me, and I didn’t know what–I thought we were gonna talk about this one thing and he was like, “Hey, Tamara, I’ve noticed something,” and what was good about that is we already had the relationship. We already had the relationship, so he already knew he could setup the meeting. And because we had the relationship and because he was one of my sponsors, he just really wants me to be successful, and he knew–and because we had that established relationship, he knew he could have a direct conversation and say, “Hey, I don’t think you handled this meeting correctly. You’re now X. This is how I would expect you to handle the meeting. You need to think about that.” And it was really hard, it was really impacting, but it was right, and so it really helped me to make that soft skill adjustment that I didn’t even realize needed to happen. And when you have the right people in your world, and the right relationship with them, they’re gonna help you be successful in that way.
Zach: No, I love it. And it goes right back to what you were saying at the top, right, about relationships and trust and vulnerability, right? Like, if there wasn’t a focus–if there wasn’t that time spent in the beginning building those and practicing vulnerability and building those relationships, then you may not have had that conversation.
Tamara: That’s exactly right, and I think that hurts a lot of people because vulnerability is important, and you have to be willing to be humble. You have to be willing to be [?], to receive constructive feedback, and you have to have the kind of relationships where you are allowed and able to do that exchange. You know, I think that what people would say about me is honesty and authenticity matters to me 100%, and I tell them from the get-go, like, “I want to know. I can take it. I want to hear. Help me to understand, help me to grow, help me to be better,” because the reality is I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know how to execute always and always in all positions, and I don’t [?]. I need to still–you should always be in learning mode, and you should always recognize there’s someone to learn from and something to learn about.
Zach: Absolutely. So I think this is actually a really good transition point to my next question. You know, in your Essence Magazine feature–[Cardi B “ow” sfx]–you share a bit about how you’ve made it a part of your role to champion diversity.
Tamara: Oh, yeah.
Zach: Okay. So now, Tamara, so–you know, you don’t know me, I don’t really know you like that, but I’ma tell you – I’m a pretty gregarious person, and in a part of that gregariousness comes an ability to build relationships and have a lot of real talk sessions with black and brown senior leaders, right? So I’ve spoken to quite a few of them, and they’re nervous about championing diversity because they don’t want to be pegged as the “black person whisperer,” or pigeon-holed in a space that is like, you know, away from business. So what are your thoughts on that, and how do you combat that perception?
Tamara: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a fair concern, and I think you always have to [?] for the company you’re in. You know, for myself–let me just tell you straight up that I am passionate about inclusion and diversity period, and it doesn’t matter what everybody thinks about it or how they–you know, if there’s gonna be a negative or positive perception. I think that you have to do what is right for you and what is your moral code, and I believe that I have that responsibility, right? I was the, you know, first African-American female to be an OMD, right? The first female to be an OMD in the Austin office, right? I was one of the first black females to be promoted in Texas even, into a managing director role. I absolutely have a responsibility to represent and push I&D so that other people can see me, and if I’m not out there, you know, present for them to see, then they may not believe that that’s an opportunity in this company, and I want them to know that it is, right? Because if I can get there, so can you. And so I just feel like–I feel very passionate about that. I’m not blind to that concern, right? And so I think the difference for me is I am in the business, right? I’m still managing a large portion of our business. I have a responsibility for a large, you know, P&L revenue responsibility, profitability responsibility, and I feel like I can do that job and still manage my career success and be committed to inclusion and diversity. Now, I will say that it’s easier for me because I work at a company that is committed to I&D period, right? We were the first company to publish our numbers out there in the market in our space, and that was a pretty big deal. So we believe in it. We have accountability around it. You know, I have a CEO for North America who is female who has made a commitment to, you know, gender parity across our industry groups, right? I work in an industry group where we’ve already hit gender parity, in health and public service within the U.S., and that’s a big deal. So this is not something they shy away from. It’s a part of our responsibilities as managing directors, right? We have accountability for it, and so I feel that. So I feel like I am in a position to champion something that’s important to me and at the same time deliver on the business, but I think you’ve got to do both. In the same token, right, I have an I&D role in my public service entity group, because I want people to know that this is important to me and I feel I need to represent that conversation. Equally however, I have just as many conversations about the business, my skill areas, around my clients, around technology trends. So people know me for an expert in so many different ways that I’m not just I&D. That’s never going to be the conversation for Tamara, because Tamara has put herself out there around innovation and back office and front office and public service and–do you know what I mean? So my thing is you need to have more than just that dialogue. You need to have multiple dialogues absolutely, but you can do that. Incidentally though, there was a role that was offered to me that I chose to not take that was a +1 role in I&D, because I said, “You know what? We need to give back to someone else, ’cause I’m going to be doing I&D no matter what,” right? I’m going [?]–I used to be the [?] sponsor of special, you know, trainings and learnings. I’m gonna show up at the conferences I think I need to show up. I will do that. I will make the extra time in my schedule to do that ’cause I’m passionate about it. Let’s make sure other people are going down that path. I wasn’t interested in being an I&D practitioner, ’cause that’s not that I believe my role was. I wanted to be a managing director in the business, and I did that. [laughs] And so now that I’ve done that, I see it as an opportunity to be a strong influencer about where we move in that space, how we move in that space, how we’re successful in that space, and I can influence that on my teams and in every way and be courageous enough to have those conversations. And I believe we have to be courageous about what’s important, because the reality is we don’t have enough brown and black people, so to speak, in this space, in technology. I want to change that, right? And so, you know, that’s a decision I made. I think you have to make personal decisions. But what I would challenge people is, you know, “Why would you want someone else’s path to be harder or more difficult than your own path? You should want it to be better and easier.”
Zach: Right. No, you’re absolutely right, and, you know, I love your point around the fact that having multiple specialties–you know, not that you’re gonna be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing, but if you have a handful of things that you’re very, very skilled at–because let’s say if you are passionate about I&D, and then you also have these other specialties, well, then you can then weave I&D into your domain, because I&D is ultimately focused on making sure that everyone feels involved, included, and empowered, and whatever you’re talking about, especially in the tech space, is gonna involve people. So it’s–I&D really isn’t, like, sequestered over to something on the side. If you have a specialty, some type of depth of knowledge in something else, it’s easy to then infuse that with I&D.
Tamara: That’s correct. I think that’s right, and I think that you can have a huge impact on this space by just getting to a place of leadership, right? You can have a huge impact on the conversations that are being had and making sure that, you know, the right decisions are being made and the right opportunities are being offered for all people. At the end of the day, what we believe in is inclusion, right? We have this “Inclusion Starts With I” video that I absolutely love, ’cause it’s not just about gender and ethnicity. It’s about so many different aspects. It’s about everyone having a voice at the table, and I think that’s what’s most important.
Zach: Absolutely, and that’s, again, a really good segue. So last year you were featured on The Daily Texan, where you gave your perspective on gender equality. Now, taking a step back, what I often see is when we look at–we really do look at gender in, like, binary terms, right? We don’t really consider race as an intersect between gender, and we don’t often include trans identities in these discussions. What is your perspective on how organizations can make conversations and examinations around gender more intersectional and inclusive?
Tamara: Oh, absolutely. So I’m a huge fan of employee resource groups. [laughs] So we have a–so it’s interesting that you say that, right? So again, it’s about your personal choice to get involved, but I’m the co-lead for our United States Women employee resource group for all of the United States, and it’s an awesome opportunity, right? ‘Cause it really gives me a landscape to do so many different, interesting things, and I have a full team underneath me as the executive sponsor. And it’s so interesting that you bring this up, because this year we talked about “What are the topics out there that we want to have,” right? And one of them was around this concept of intersectionality with various groups and topics that don’t come up, and interestingly, like, we just scheduled a Women of Color Voices of Leadership call in July, right? And I’m gonna sit down with our North American inclusion and diversity lead, and we’re gonna talk about some of the metrics that we see women of color in corporate America and what does that mean. What does that mean, and how do we address some of the gaps that we see in corporate America? What are the key concerns that are impacting them that might be different from other groups? And what can we do about it? How do we help everybody be successful? And so I think it’s really about leveraging your employee resource groups to bring the conversation to the table, whether you’re doing that through a national kind of Voices of Leadership call or whether you’re doing that individually in your cities, ’cause we’re fortunate in that we also have employee resource groups at every city location. And so we have them dial into the sessions. Sometimes they host their own sessions. We do leadership panels around these topics, and we’ve done them around all of these dimensions that you’re talking about. And, you know, we have LGBTQ employee resource groups. We have men’s. We have military. And people are really active in them, and they’re very important. We do cross-pollination across our employee resource groups, with our African-American one and our Women one, because we think that’s important, to have this dialogue and talk about what it means. You know, there was some really interesting national-scale stories going on last year that were impacting people, and we will do calls on them. And they’re voluntary. People don’t have to join in. And we can talk about “How are people feeling about that? What did it mean to come to work when that news story broke last night? How are you feeling?” Right? We think it’s important to have courageous conversations and put that dialogue out there, and we do that through the employee resource groups so that 1. you recognize there’s legal and HR concerns and you want to do that appropriately–excuse me–but it’s the right forum, because that’s where the people are and that’s where the conversation should occur.
Zach: No, 100%. And to your point around–I believe you’re talking about some stories–you’re alluding to death by police of black people and other, like, stories around–just tragedy and loss regarding black and brown folk in the media?
Tamara: Yeah. Like Black Lives Matter or things around immigration, right? These are things that impact certain cultures in a very strong way and impact, you know, how they feel about–because we can act like we can completely ignore that, but we bring our whole selves to work, right? And we don’t know what people are dealing with in relation to that, no different than when we talk about those who are having to provide elderly care, right? Or they’re the main provider for their children, or, you know, they’re dealing with sickness or illness, right? All of these matter–all of these things matter, and so we think it’s important that those conversations be out there to deal with, because that helps people cope, and that’s important.
Zach: It is. It’s really important, and I think one thing I’m really curious about–I’m certain that some organization is going to do some research and make it, like, a formal report, but there’s a certain level of just emotional labor that goes into being a non–a member of the non-majority, right, in the workplace. Like, there’s–you know, we’ve [seen], you know, on The Root and other articles in the past. We’ve called it, like, “Calling In Black,” and we’ve kind it made it, like, a joke, but also there’s a lot of realness behind that in that just existing in some of these spaces, existing as you are, seeing some of the things on the news, interacting in these spaces where you’re one of few can be exhausting. And so I 100% agree that ERGs are a really strong help, and then also having leadership that looks like you is a help, but I’m also really just–I’m personally curious, like, just from a health perspective, what the mental toll is for black and brown folks in the workplace, because it’s a–when you see some of these things in the media, folks that look like you or that remind you of a family member or remind you of yourself, that has to have some type of impact on you, you know what I mean?
Tamara: Yeah. I mean, I think that all of us have these additional +1 emotional labor situations, emotional things, but I think that for myself, right–I feel like this has been our world before I even came into corporate America. So I feel like, right or wrong, people can think what they think about it. I believe this additional layer that you’re speaking to, this additional burden, however you want to call it–that extra understanding that comes when you are the non-majority in a world. And I especially feel that in Austin, because–you know, African-Americans in Austin right now is, like, 6%, right? [laughs] So it’s a very small percentage, and so, you know, I always went to, you know, schools that did not look like me, and I was the only one. And so, you know, and then the conflicts of that versus my weekend world with my family and my church that might be all-majority African-American, for example. I think that we always have that emotional toll, and, you know, just like anything, I leverage my family and my friends to manage against that, right? And what I have to be careful with is to make sure I’m reading situations correctly and not putting something in there that isn’t, and then sometimes it really is what I think it is and how to best navigate that with either courageous conversations or raising it up through the chain, right? And we have to do that, and we can’t be afraid to do that.
Zach: 100%. No, 100%. Okay, so I’ve got a couple more questions for you. This has actually gone really well. I appreciate you. This is one of our longer conversations in this series, and this has been great. A large part of your role involves talent recruitment. Can you share your predictions about what organizations will need to do to attract talent in the next 10 to 15 years?
Tamara: Oh, my goodness. Absolutely. I mean, I think–for one thing, if they haven’t already, they should be spending time–there’s a lot of new companies out there that consult around the new generations and what’s important to them, so the millennial generation, Generation Z, Generation Y, and what’s important to them and how they operate and how they make decisions around company culture, and we’ve already done a lot of adjustments, and we’re still doing that. I mean, we’re pretty fortunate in that we’re a consulting firm, so it’s our nature to disrupt and understand trends for the future, right? We do that with [?] trends and our technology vision, but what we have found–and we’ve already gotten–I’ve gotten a lot of training around this already, but some of the ideologies, for example, for the millennial generation is very different than a baby boomer generation or even a Generation X, and so people need to spend time in understanding that. So for example, millennials are very civic-oriented, right? The percentage that they give, whether in time or money, is a lot higher, right? Sometimes they’re more concerned with short-term versus long-term benefits. So example, in the past, right, if you were talking to a baby boomer generation, you would have spent a lot of time talking about pensions or talking about retirement and profit sharing or matching and all those things. Those same type of conversations don’t immediately appeal to millennials. They really want to understand how they’re gonna be valued, how they’re going to move through the organization. They also want to know how the organization is giving back. They want to understand the corporate culture of the organization. And that’s new, right? In the past, you didn’t really spend so much time talking about corporate culture, culture fit or culture add, right, but these are terminologies that are gonna be utilized today, and so, you know, that organization has to spend time figuring out what is their culture, and what is the key messaging that they’re presenting in that, so that people can make an interpretation of whether or not that’s a good fit for them. You know, they’re gonna want to see that that company is moving and changing with the world, you know? I think–when we presented as part of–a couple of years back, our technology vision that every company was a digital company, people were like, “What? What are you talking about?” Right? But the reality of today, I think everybody understands every company–it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing, from oil and gas to higher education, you’re digital, right? Because people interact today from a digital point of view in every regard, from payroll to, you know, those who are in the service industry to those who are not, right? And so you have to have a presence socially. You have to have a presence from a web perspective. You have to have an internal presence for how you communicate, chat, with individuals. So every aspect matters, so companies have to understand that. They’re gonna have to take a strong perspective on their work schedule and their flex schedules, you know? We have fully embraced truly human at Accenture, and I think that that’s important, right? It’s important for us to have flex schedules. It’s important for us to have paternity leave. It’s important that we have, you know, extended [?] maternity leave considerations. These things matter to the millennial generation, and they ask. They want to know, as a company, what are we sponsoring at a national level from a corporate perspective? What are we doing on the local level from a corporate perspective? They want to understand how you’re going to train them and keep them up to date on skills, and so what are you offering around that? So I think, like, companies today have to be exceptionally dynamic. They’re gonna have to spend time leveraging profiles, and again, what’s gonna be a good profile that would fit and learn and do well in their environment. You’re already seeing that with artificial intelligence. You’re already seeing people trying to leverage AI as a way to do screenings initially on what is the right candidate pool for a company. So they have to adapt digitally, right? Because it’s already starting, and that’s going to be the path longer-term, right? So just–and having a really strong, you know, recruitment cycle from where they’re pulling in and how it goes through that automated process. The time frames by which people get through the cycle has to be faster, because people aren’t gonna wait, and the market is really demanding right now. What are they gonna concentrate on from a higher institution? What’s the type of profile? So, you know, I think today companies really have to be on it. It’s really competitive, and it’s really hard, but my recommendation is they need to spend some time at first just studying who it is they’re hiring. The largest work generation today is the millennial generation already, right? And so they need to understand that profile.
Zach: All right, now, companies. Y’all hearing Tamara talking to y’all, okay? And we gave this to y’all for free. Y’all gonna be over there trying to get everything–y’all gonna be out here thinking y’all’s company is all set up, you know, that y’all got everything going on, y’all got the latest and greatest, you know, DOS computer, and us millennials, we’re looking at you like [haha sfx]. You know, you need to pay attention. That’s all I’m trying to say. Tamara, this has been great. This has been great. My heartfelt thanks goes to you for just being here.
Tamara: Oh, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to have my voice out there on stuff that I’m really passionate about. I really appreciate that.
Zach: Oh, no, no. This is dope, and I know the people, they’re gonna love this. Before we go–and you’ve been dropping jewels this entire conversation, but I want to just give you one more spot to wax poetic if you need to. Any parting words or shout-outs?
Tamara: Yeah. You know, what I would tell y’all out there is to be you and fully accept who you are, and spend some time knowing who you are. You know, early in my career I spent so much time on my insecurities, and I allowed that to direct my actions, my communication, my lack of communication with people. If people didn’t invite me to lunch, I just sat there being depressed versus being like, “Hey, do you want to go to lunch with me?” Right? And a lot of that centered around impostor syndrome and being uncomfortable in a space because it didn’t look like me and with people who didn’t look like me. When I really embraced who I was and that I was proud of who I am and what I represent and really understood what I brought to the table, then I recognized I can control that dialogue. I can control the stories that are out there about me, and I want to own those stories, and that, you know, fully embrace you. Be your authentic self and be all of you, from your hair to your clothes into the environment into the story, into the conversation, and do that unapologetically, at the same time with a spirit of humility and respect.
Zach: [straight up sfx] Tamara, this has been incredible. We consider you a friend of the show. Again, we thank you for your time, and we hope to have you back.
Tamara: I would love to come back, absolutely.
Zach: All right, we’ll talk soon.
Tamara: Thank you.