Karl Dedolph

Senior Manager, Accenture, Washington, DC, 2011-present

Career Trajectory

Accenture, Washington, DC Manager, 2009-11 Consultant, 2007-9 Analyst, 2006-7

US Department of State, Foreign Affairs Intern/Presidential Management Fellow, Washington, DC, 2005

Peace Corps, Small Business Development Volunteer, Togo, West Africa, 2001-3

Academic Background

American University, School of International Service, MA (International Affairs), 2005

Gustavus Adolphus College , BA (Economics and Communication Studies), 2001

How do you define your cause?

One of my causes has been finding work that challenges me. I've always viewed my career path as building a foundation for the future. I'm getting comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing what the future necessarily is, but knowing what I'm doing right now is building toward something bigger and better. I have to believe many people are, like me, thinking "I have no idea what I want to do."

The way I've made decisions is to focus on what I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about travel, about cultures, about having a purpose. About doing something of purpose.

After the Peace Corps, grad school, and a PMF (Presidential Management Fellowship; see chapter 10), which allowed me to explore the federal sector, I still didn't know what I wanted to do, but I came back to this idea of building a foundation for the future. I thought: "There are great consulting firms out there, and they can teach me project management skills that are transferable to any job."

When I joined Accenture, I never anticipated that I'd still be there seven years later. I thought of it as another stepping stone—continuing my education. But it has really turned into my cause because I live and breathe it. I don't have a hard time getting up in the morning.

How would you describe your field?

Especially in the federal space, being a consultant might mean being a contractor: you provide a certain service for the government. Accenture is a little different, although it does provide specific services—for instance, "standing up" and operating a help desk for a client. But my work in management consulting is focused on understanding what a client's issues are and working toward tangible outcomes. Part of being a consultant is finding ways to continually provide value for your client. And your client's needs and concerns change on a daily basis. That creates challenges in how we support them. Working to meet these challenges is very rewarding.

When I first got into consulting, I worried that I was abandoning my passion for international affairs. But whether it was luck or determination, I was assigned to a larger project with a US federal agency with an international presence, where we've worked on implementing and deploying logistics systems globally. I've gone to Moscow, I've gone to Baghdad, all as a part of this project. By working with this client, which I've done now for the past six and a half years, I've been able to draw upon that foundation and feed my passion for international affairs.

But that's not always the case in consulting, right? The clients really determine the work. If your company has work at the Social Security Administration, and you don't have a current client . . . you're probably going to work for the Social Security Administration. You have to be open to doing lots of different things over a period of time for lots of different organizations.

Where did you start, and how did it help you get to where you are today?

In high school I was voted most likely to be the first to make a million dollars. In college I thought I was going to go into business. I majored in economics and communication. I thought I was going to do what everyone else in my peer group did: pursue a business track and get the country club membership. I lived in such a limited box. And then things changed financially for my family. I realized nothing was guaranteed, nor did it have to be prescribed. It opened my eyes to the fact that I didn't have to have this narrow view of the world. At that point I decided I was going to take risks. I was going to stop living in that box.

One of those risks was going abroad: a mission trip to Mexico for three weeks. Then I studied in England, then Australia. All of a sudden in these new cultures, my world was so much bigger. It was instantly addictive. I wanted to go from that guy who was voted most likely to make a million dollars to confusing the heck out of everyone. I wanted to do something that had more significance and meaning.

What are the major day-to-day activities of your current position?

On a day-to-day basis, it's a lot of networking and meetings—both internal and with clients—to determine how to deliver the work. A benefit of working for a larger consulting firm is the opportunity to do many different things. For example, now I'm in our federal practice. We want to know what our strategy is on comprehensive immigration reform. I've been tasked with trying to figure that out. I don't know much about immigration reform, so I've got to form a team with the right skill set. Then we have two weeks to figure it out before we present to the CEO of our Accenture federal practice. That's just cool, right?

Also, I'm now at a place in my career where business development is important, while continuing to provide and deliver value to clients. Identifying new accounts and new opportunities for existing clients is a priority. I'm at a level where I'm expected to be a part of that, whether it's writing proposals, executing a call plan, or nurturing relationships with clients. That's an evolving skill I'm excited to learn and develop.

What is your best advice for developing effective networking skills?

The world does not work on the internet or on paper. It works on relationships. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. That's how businesses operate on so many levels. That's how getting a job often happens. And don't think that it's not rewarding for others to share their experiences with you or to want to help. When you're in the day-to-day grind of your job, there is satisfaction in trying to help someone else.

Don't think, in networking, that you can't ask someone else who knows someone else to speak on your behalf. You just have to be connected somehow by a network. You know someone, you form a relationship with that person, and they know someone else. It's how I got my job at Accenture.

Social media is a certain form of networking, but to me, you network in person. You might set up a networking opportunity virtually, but if success is based on relationships, the only effective way to have relationships is in person. That's a piece of advice that I give to people in any kind of work, but certainly in consulting. If the opportunity is there to do it in person, then you do it in person.

Do you have a mentor? How has he or she affected your life and career?

As you network, try to find people that you can learn from. People want to be mentors, to be asked for advice, or even, when the opportunity is right, to form a more formal mentor/mentee relationship.

It's all part of people development. When you have a team of people that work for you, being their supervisor and their mentor at the same time has amazing results both for their work and careers. By mentoring your team, your colleagues feel like they are learning, that you're sharing current challenges with them. They get to be a part of the decision-making process. You enter into this trusted relationship where you can share things without fear of judgment. When you need to assemble a team quickly or need trusted people to help you, the first people that come are those you've been mentoring.

After seven years at Accenture, I have mentors who have helped me in this way. I seek their guidance on a consistent basis.

Do you consider yourself a mentor to others?

There's always hierarchy to some degree—you wouldn't necessarily seek someone who is at your same peer level to be your mentor, so you have to get to a certain level before people start asking you to be their mentor. But then again, working in a collaborative environment like I do, there are opportunities to work and lead within your own peer group. At the end of the day, if you can create a team that is collaborative in nature, as opposed to competitive in nature, everyone wins. Everyone learns.

How have you maintained a healthy balance between your work and personal life?

It's such a cliché question. It's different for every person—you have to strike the balance that's right for you. For me, my family comes first. Period. What I've found as I've progressed in my career is that I have subtracted those other life components that aren't my family or my work.

So do I have a good work-life balance? Yes. But do I get to do everything that I want to? No. I haven't played tennis in three years; I wish I could golf every week; I wish I could go to more sporting events; but those are not priorities. My number one priority is my family; part of my motivation to work is driven by the need to support my family.

Priorities change over time. When I started in consulting, my priorities were totally different than they are now, seven years later. But this line of work has allowed me to evolve and change those priorities, and that's part of the reason that I've stayed—the flexibility that allows me to be home with my family almost every night. I also have a great support network in my personal life that enables me to do my work effectively, to keep a good work-life balance.

What awards and honors have meant the most to you?

I would change it to what rewards mean the most to you. In the work that you do, how are you rewarded? And for me, it's on the people development side, where I am able to help colleagues grow their careers and skill sets and watch them evolve, as I evolved over the last seven years.

What lessons have you learned as your career has evolved?

Perception is so critical in the workplace. Differentiating yourself from your peers and advancing in your career often comes down to the perceptions people have of you.

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