Victoria Place

Inspirational Woman: Victoria Place | Global Consulting Lead, REPL Group, Part of Accenture

Meet Victoria Place, Global Consulting Lead at REPL Group, Part of Accenture

Victoria Place

Victoria Place is Global Consulting Lead for REPL Group, Part of Accenture. Victoria has over a decade of experience delivering change programmes and organisational transformation at Accenture and John Lewis and Partners. In this piece, we talk to Victoria about her career journey, the challenges she has faced and her biggest achievement to date.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Victoria Place and I’m currently the Global Consulting Lead at REPL Group, part of Accenture. The past few years have shown just how important it is to be able to quickly adapt and deliver, and my passion lies in making this happen by driving organisational change programmes that embed a culture of continuous learning, empowerment, honest feedback and creativity.

I’ve always worked in technology delivery within the Retail sector; starting as a management consultant at Accenture, moving onto the John Lewis Partnership and coming full circle back to Accenture when my company, REPL, was acquired shortly after I joined. Having started out delivering large-scale technology programmes, I always felt most passionate about the people side of change. I moved into a people leadership role 5 years ago and have never looked back as driving community and morale, and setting people up for success is what keeps me loving my work.

I’m currently the Global Consulting Lead at REPL, leading a team of 600 consultants in four countries (UK, SA, US and Germany) through an unsettled time following acquisition, ensuring they’ve been able to thrive in their roles through considered and collaborative organisational change, celebrating our successes, continuous learning and enabling an inclusive and supportive workplace.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, no. The first time I was asked about my 5-10 year career plan was in a formal performance review, where I told my Line Manager I thought I’d have left work by then to have babies. I now cringe at the naivety of my 23-year-old self, but it is an interesting reflection on how different my career is to what I originally set out to do. I’ve never planned more than a year or two ahead and still don’t have a grand master plan, but my career has grown through always being offered bigger and better opportunities by the network of fantastic people I’ve met along the way. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge and an open mind has definitely helped.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

One of the most challenging times of my career was returning from my first mat leave. Returning to work after a prolonged absence is difficult at the best of times as it takes a while for the brain to click back in, during which time it’s all too easy for your confidence to be knocked and for you to start believing that you’ll never get back to being the professional you once were. For me at this particular time, it was even harder as I was stepping up into a big new role that was completely different to anything I’d ever done before and I was suffering from Post-Natal Depression.

My usual approach of throwing everything into it didn’t work that well as I had more limited capacity whilst learning how to juggle work with looking after a baby. My resilience was down due to the PND and I didn’t have my usual support network on account of the new role and a few key people leaving whilst I was off. I remember during this time feeling incredibly isolated, like all my previous successes were a complete fluke and that I was seriously letting people down.

Although it took me a few months to even be able to say the words out loud, eventually it was being open and honest about what I was going through to a small, trusted group of supportive people that enabled me to overcome it. It was the small hinge that swung a big door, as they say. Outside of work, therapy helped me get my mental health to a more stable state, which made a huge difference to my interpreting what was going on around me in a healthier way. At work, by opening up to a few amazing people they helped me see that I’d set incredibly unrealistic expectations on myself, that others’ opinions of me were far more positive than my opinion of myself, and to believe that I had the potential to make a huge difference to a lot of people through leveraging my experience and strengths.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Although lots spring to mind, the one I’m personally most proud of is being promoted whilst on maternity leave. Although many told me this couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be done, I set myself the target of progressing to the next level to ensure I was recognised for my recent development and achievements. It wasn’t easy but I worked with my fantastic mentor to take on some particularly difficult challenges to showcase what I could do in the final months before going on mat leave.

I felt a huge sense of pride in proving that career progression is still possible alongside having a baby. However, the best part was the impact it had on younger women in the team who were uncertain if a successful career in tech and family were even possible. The promotion amplified my image as a strong female role model, and it was fantastic to be able to pay forward the support I’d got from my mentor when I returned to work.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My colleagues would (hopefully) tell you that I’m known for bringing a lot of positive energy, being adaptable and resilient, plus my ability to persuade and motivate others to action and caring about morale.

I genuinely believe that people need to care about what they are doing and have fun at work in order to achieve their full potential – and I’ve tried my best to create that environment. I believe the most successful people do their best to bring everyone along with them.

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What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Believe you deserve a place! It’s unfortunately all too easy to look at the industry and not see a great deal of people who represent you – self-belief and reinforcement is key and goes a great deal to combating imposter syndrome.

It’s also so important to learn from every experience – good or bad! Have a growth mindset and try to see the positive in everything.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, I do. Society tells girls from an early age that it’s our responsibility to have children and maintain a good home life for our families. So, it’s not surprising that when/if we find ourselves in the workplace alongside our male counterparts, who’ve been told from an early age it’s their responsibility to excel at work, we struggle to believe we belong.

Dare to be yourself. Building the confidence to believe you belong can be tricky and is rarely a linear process. However, it’s only through making your own decisions in a way that suits you that teaches you your thoughts matter and add loads of value to your team.

There is also a huge responsibility on modern leaders to create collaborative, empowered and inclusive workplaces where every voice can be heard.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Flexible working is definitely a big part of this. Flexibility goes both ways and by building a trust-based, empowered workforce we can enable employees to set boundaries that suit their professional and personal circumstances.

Active mentoring is another important part to give women the confidence and support they need to progress their careers in a male-dominated environment.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d create more gender-balanced senior leadership teams to support more diverse and inclusive thinking at the most influential level of organisations, create more female role models and bring about more experimenting on what actually works when juggling a successful career and full-on home life.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It’s all about your network. Seek out positive roles models and mentors, allies and friends.