My Tech Life on the Road

An analyst job at Accenture can mean many days out of town working with clients. James Madison grad Kyle Hawke describes a typical day

I am an analyst at Accenture (ACN), an information technology consulting company focused on helping companies meet their business, technology, and outsourcing needs. The culture here is driven by our ability to meet clients' needs. Employees work on client priorities to resolve issues, answer questions, and help with initiatives (see, "Always on the Run at Accenture").

I work on a project-by-project basis in the Communications and High Tech Operating Group. Currently, I am helping a global telecom provider. My role evolves along the cycle that accompanies any technology project. Over the past year, I have worked through requirements, design, development support, and test phases of the project.

Joining Accenture after graduating from James Madison University's College of Business in 2004, I was attracted by the potential to see different industries, businesses, and client issues. My largest misconception was around what happens to the mobility of a new analyst within the firm.

The reality of the business is that when you have built a specific skill set and achieved an understanding of a client's business, your mobility drops because your value to the client increases. Yet even on long-term engagements, nothing gets stale because we are flexible in the work we can tackle. That makes it hard to describe a typical work day, but I'll give it a shot:

6 a.m.—I wake up in an unfamiliar hotel room to the sound of a call from the front desk. Though I am based in Arlington, Va., I travel each week for my project to a client site in Colorado Springs. I put on my running shoes, shorts, and shirt and head outside for a three-mile run. While I know running is good for your health, the main thing that drives my workouts is how good I feel for the rest of the morning.

7:15 a.m.—I'm out the front door and in a rental car to the office—often with a co-worker to minimize expenses for our client. Since I didn't find a large cup of coffee at the hotel, I have to stop on my way to work. Starbucks (SBUX) has the best coffee, but Einstein has the best bagels, so it's always a toss-up.

8 a.m.—After booting up and scanning e-mails from the night before, I start my day with a conference call. This meeting will be critical to ensure that nothing impedes development progress. Coming out of this call, I usually end up with a few additional "to-dos" for the day.

9:30 a.m.—Another daily conference call, this time with the billing organization to ensure it is getting the right information from order entry to bill customers. Over time, I have achieved a fundamental understanding of telecom ordering, billing, and networking.

10:30 a.m.—I navigate through a crowded inbox from the morning. As things get busier, I see which e-mails I need to read and which I can delete or put off until later. I know it's a bad day when I delete or ignore messages that I should have replied to yesterday.

11:30 a.m.—I grab an early lunch because of my small breakfast. I head back to my desk to eat and read the news online.

Noon—I bounce between e-mail and conference calls with various client IT groups to discuss the approach and details of our ordering and billing system designs. On average, I spend 40% of my day on the phone. On some conference calls, I don't say a word while on others, I lead discussion.

4 p.m.—This is our daily meeting/conference call with teammates across time zones to discuss our progress on system interface designs from the day.

By this point in the day, I have been unable to make much progress on my "day job" but have spent most of my time handling issues as they arise and dealing with discussions outside of the scope of my primary work.

4:30 p.m.—Now that the client is leaving, I can focus on my "day job" deliverable. This consists of several Excel documents that outline data required to enable the ordering and billing systems to communicate over Web service interfaces. When complete, these documents are handed over to development and test teams. They eventually result in systems that allow our client to take orders and bill customers for every product in the product suite.

8 p.m.—It's time for dinner, typically by myself at a restaurant close to the hotel. When you eat every meal at a restaurant, it takes the fun out of going out to eat. Usually, I just want to get in and get out with as little hassle as possible.

9 p.m.—I watch TV and write e-mails.

10:30 p.m.—Good night.

James Madison's on-campus interview program does an incredible job of pairing employers and students coming out of college. I was fortunate enough to interview and get job offers from several consulting firms in the Washington area. I would not do anything differently if I went back in time six years to relive my undergraduate education. I would pick the same majors, the same courses, and the same professors. Every one of them had a hand in my success.

My advice to anyone and everyone who asks about getting a position at Accenture is to take advantage of the automatic "foot in the door" you have through your on-campus interview programs (see, 4/27/06, "Cruising Around Kelley").

But more importantly, focus your college years on building analytical and problem-solving skills and "learning to learn." After a few months on the job you are going to learn more than you did in four years of college, but you have to be prepared to soak it all up and do so in a way that is valuable for your business and the client's business.

Kyle can be reached at