We are thrilled to feature Ellyn Shook, Chief Human Resources Officer at Accenture. Ellyn has been with Accenture since 1988, and became partner in 2003. She serves on several professional boards, including serving as advisor of Women in Business at Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
Professionally, I am the Chief Human Resources Officer at Accenture, one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology, and outsourcing services. We have with approximately 319,000 employees and offices in more than 200 cities in 56 countries. Our people are our greatest asset…so I strive to enthusiastically build and deliver a talent strategy that aligns with our business strategy, provide our clients’ with the specialized skills they demand, and motivate our people with an exceptional employee experience. I have spent my career in Human Resources, having lead several large transformation change programs during my tenure at Accenture.
I’m passionate about the empowerment of women and am actively involved with Girls Who Code and Women in America. I also serve on the executive committee of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, on the advisory board of Women in Business at Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and am a member of the HR50.
Personally, I am inspired by my close-knit family. I am a voracious reader --you’ll usually find biographies, historical novels, business books and the latest issue of Vogue and People Magazine on my nightstand. Travel is another favorite past-time…both for work and pleasure. Meeting new people and experiencing their culture is something that I really enjoy.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
An ongoing challenge for me is patience. As a high energy person, I expect people to move at the same fast pace (sometimes unfairly). But, as a leader, I need to be very focused on communicating and bringing people along with my vision – allowing them time to internalize, discuss and contribute. Practicing patience is something I continue to work on.
What was your biggest career breakthrough moment?
On September 11, 2001, I was an ex pat living in Paris working on a large scale organization change program. The events of that day and the aftermath impacted me deeply – as a woman, an American, and a native New Yorker. This time of reflection was pivotal. What emerged was a strong sense of self – who I am and the unwavering principles that guide my work and personal life. I also developed the conviction and passion to really grow as a leader… building bridges both professionally and personally.
Finish this sentence, "I knew I had "made it" when…"
I don’t think there is an “arrival”. Life is a constant journey of learning, growing and setting that next goal. Personally, I like to have one foot in today (enjoying and maximizing the present) and the other in tomorrow (with an eye to the future and my next challenge).
If you could go back and talk to your younger self (before your career really began), what professional advice would you give her?
Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. Reflecting back when I was a young professional, I used to think that I needed to have all the answers, which simply isn’t true. I’ve learned that having the right questions is as, if not more, important. Now I remind myself and my teams that if you’re doing it alone, you’re probably doing it wrong. So, take the pressure off -- don’t be afraid to raise the question, seek feedback and ask for help.
Share your two cents about money. What lessons have you learned about money along the way?
While cliché, it’s very true – money doesn’t buy you happiness. The greatest joy money brings to me personally is being able to care for my family and give back. At the end of the day though, money does matter. And, women in particular need to understand their worth and self-advocate to be rewarded for their skills, contribution and potential.
What is your secret to success?
Remaining strongly grounded in my family and unwavering in my principles is crucial to my own personal success.
Sometimes in my role I need to make difficult and unpopular decisions. My principles guide me through those decisions. And, being transparent about my principles helps me to clearly communicate and bring others along.
Why are you a member of Ellevate?
I believe that women working together can create more harmony and better outcomes for the world. Ellevate’s value proposition is compelling and in my opinion, it is one of the best-positioned organizations to deliver on the promise of empowering women in the workplace and in life. Even though gender diversity is a global issue, Ellevate’s approach for making it extraordinarily local really is important to make a positive impact.
Accenture has an aggressive agenda to advance gender diversity. It’s the right thing for our people, our clients and our bottom line. I want to learn from the other Ellevate members and help move the dial for women, not only at Accenture but across all the organizations that I serve.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer
As Chief Leadership and Human Resources for a company that is 130,000+ women strong, one of my top priorities is increasing gender equality and making Accenture a top employer of choice for women around the world. Transparency and breaking new ground is essential and I'm proud that Accenture is the first consulting company to publish gender and ethnicity diversity statistics in the US. And, we are working hard to achieve our public commitment of 40%... Continue Reading
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