Graduate Rehman Abdul chats to Accenture’s head of HR Aisling Campbell in the second of our ‘Meet the Mentor’ series, which takes a closer look at the myriad career paths within the organisation
Human resources may have evolved significantly in the last decade or so, but for Aisling Campbell, her interest in what makes people tick has been a constant throughout her career. Psychology graduate Campbell is the first to admit she took a non-traditional route to her current role as human resources director at Accenture in Ireland but says she always knew she would find her niche helping people.
“I have always been really interested in human behaviour, that’s why I ended up in human resources,” Campbell explains. But choosing to study psychology for her undergraduate degree was a random choice, she admits – one that was inspired by a TV show.
“During the first year of Big Brother, they had a psychologist who would comment on the behaviour of the contestants, and it made me fascinated about this field… I didn’t know anyone who had studied it or anyone who was a psychologist, this was brand new to me,” she says.
Luckily, Campbell fell in love with psychology, and also with Belfast, after three years at Queen’s University. “I consider myself really lucky to have loved what I studied,” she says. “I also loved the years spent in Belfast. It was a brilliant city, it still is and is one of my favourite places in the world. I made friends for life there and loved that time in my life.”
After a couple of years working as a research executive, Campbell began the transition to human resources by taking on a master’s degree in occupational psychology, studying part-time in the evenings and the weekends. While working with other organisations, Campbell had some exposure to Accenture, dealing with some people who worked there.
“I could tell I loved the values of the organisation and I also loved getting to work with people from Accenture,” she says. “I was looking for a new role and one happened to come up.” Having joined Accenture seven years ago, her first role was as HR lead at The Dock, Accenture’s global innovation hub. Campbell says she immediately felt at home.
“Accenture is a place that really values individual skills and strengths and it’s really a place that you can grow,” she says. “I didn’t have the traditional HR career path and I felt that Accenture embraced that and welcomed me and I feel really lucky to have had that opportunity.”
“It’s a job that I absolutely love and that I feel really privileged to have,” she says about her role, which sees her ultimately responsible for all human resources activity across Accenture’s workforce in Ireland.
“If someone were to say to me, how would I describe Accenture and my time here, I would say that it’s really been a time where I can be myself and I have grown each year and learned and constantly am getting new experiences.”
Campbell acknowledges the changes the field of HR has undergone in the past number of years, becoming far more people-centric. “I first joined HR in 2011 and back then what we were focused on as a profession is quite different to what we are focused on now. The people I see that really set themselves apart are continuously learning and adapting and looking at the external trends but also staying close to and really understanding the people in an organisation.”
It is clear Campbell remains motivated by making that personal connection. “I love seeing people grow and reach their potential and tap into their strengths,” she says. “When you see people grow and develop you see teams grow and develop and then you see organisations grow and develop. That’s what drives me and is my purpose. If I can play a small role in that, either from a HR perspective or through conversations we might have with people, then that for me is what we are here to do.”
Campbell points out that not only has her career undergone a shift, her personal life has too, having started a family while working in Accenture. “Two years after I joined, I had my little boy and I felt the support that I had and the people around me that helped me adjust to that new time in my life were really so important and so critical,” she says. “As I have gone through different stages of my life, my career has too, and it’s been a great place to learn and grow.”
Even with such a busy role and breadth of responsibilities, work/life balance is a non-negotiable for Campbell, who says that it is achievable, at least most of the time. “Every day I have to be quite intentional about where I spend my time,” she explains. “The biggest thing for me is that when I am at work, I am at work but when I am at home with my husband and my son, I am there, and I try to be as present as I can be – I try not to be on my phone or be distracted. So, I try to be really intentional, but I also try not to be too rigid because different times need different things.”
Exercise is an important way in which she de stresses, and while squeezing it in can be challenging, she tries to prioritise it. “I try and make it work for me each day and each week as best as I can, especially now I am working in a more hybrid way where I spend some of the time in the office and some at home. I try to find the right balance that works best for me and I encourage everyone on my team to do the same thing – make it work for you and design the life you want.”
The up and comer
Rehman Abdul has been working in Accenture’s corporate finance department for six months now, working on the organisation’s deal structuring and pricing. Having studied accountancy and finance as an undergraduate in Griffith College Dublin, he worked in the area of taxation for four years before joining Accenture in autumn of 2022.
Having researched Accenture before applying for a role, Abdul says he was attracted by the organisation’s commitment to innovation. “I wanted to learn more about technology and how the world is changing so I wanted to be part of a company involved in that.”
He was also enticed by the myriad opportunities that working for such a large global company offered. “Accenture has invested a lot in training and they want to invest in their people so they can learn and obviously contribute to the company but to society as well,” he says. “I see the company growing and I would like to be part of that growth.”
It’s a busy time, as Abdul is also studying for the hugely demanding chartered accountancy exams. “Accenture is covering the cost of the exams and also provides study leave so they have been very supportive,” he says.