Women in Leadership: Interview with Paula Neary, Accenture Ireland

Morgan McKinley is pleased to welcome Paula Neary to our Women in Leadership series. Paula is currently Managing Director within Accenture’s Health and Public Service practice and a member of Accenture's Irish Leadership team.

She previously led  the company’s award winning ‘Accent on Women Programme’ in Ireland which supports the retention and progression of high performing women in Accenture and currently sponsors the programmes work in the area of promoting STEM careers for women. A board member of the DCU Enterprise Advisory Board Paula is also a member of the steering committee for the 30% Club in Ireland. 

paula 4Who is your role model as a leader?  

I have to say in general I admire aspects of lots of people rather than have one specific role model……….. the courage and purpose of Malala Yousafzai, the charisma and intelligence of Mary McAleese, the success of Sheryl Sandberg to name but a few.

If you had advice for your 18 year old self what would it be ?

Change your hairstyle  :)  ……Believe in yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff!
 
What is the most valuable advice you have been given ?

Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before passing judgement……… always being able to understand the perspective of the other person is so important, once you understand where they are coming from you can work through any situation – both personally and professionally

 What accomplishments are you most proud of ? 

From a personal perspective, my two girls Rachel and Laura, career wise it has to be some of projects I have worked on with Accenture. A consulting career gives me the privilege of working with clients at their most exciting and/or challenging times, so going on that journey with a client and supporting them achieve their vision is hugely rewarding.

I generally work in Health and Public Service, so a lot of my projects are delivering outcomes for citizens in areas like health, policing, social welfare, so you feel very proud of doing work that makes a real difference to people.
 
What has been the greatest challenge/s in your career and how did you overcome it/them?

Realising I had made a wrong career decision and correcting it. We had a family business and I left Accenture to run it for a while and soon worked out it wasn’t for me, so we sold it and I returned to my consulting career with Accenture.

I'm really happy I did try it but even happier that I had the courage to call out I had made a mistake and correct it sooner rather than later. I learned a lot about myself and what I want in a career in the process which was very valuable.
 

What are the challenges to female leadership?

Self belief – I think we second guess ourselves too much and are very self critical.
 
Can you give us 3 things on your 'bucket list'

·         Tour Canada
·         Run the New York Marathon
·         Learn a new language

 Your definition of success ? And/or your Mantra?

My definition of success is happiness.  My most used mantra is ‘We are where we are’ …….. I don’t believe in dwelling in the past or chastising yourself on what you could have/should have done, while you should learn from past experience, you have to live in the present and put all your energy into the situation in hand and just deal with it.
 
3 key words to describe yourself ?

Optimistic, Driven, Calm (most of the time anyway!)
 
What would you like to achieve next ? 

Accenture Ireland are moving into a very exciting phase, we have just launched our new Centre for Innovation which will have 200 people working there within its first year and we continue to grow across all our business units – Consulting, Digital, Operations, Technology & Strategy,  its an exciting time to be part of the Ireland Leadership team and I look forward to seeing our Centre go into full operation.

I'm also very involved in getting more young girls and women involved in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM), as an engineer myself I want to help change the ratio of girls studying and having careers in STEM. I am also a member of the Steering Committee for the 30% Club in Ireland which is focused on achieving better gender balance at Board/Senior level in Irish business, so I hope to be able to say in the next couple of years I have help changed the ratio of women’s participation in these 2 areas.  

Gerald FitzGerald's picture
Chief Operations Officer Ireland
gfitzgerald@premiergp.com

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