Mentor of the Year Award for Accenture technology lead
April 7, 2019
To whom much is given, much is expected.
In the last semester of her Master of Business Administration program at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, Caroline Gayle was matched with a mentor/coach who had completed the graduate degree program and was in the workplace.
For the mentee, the guidance and advice she received were priceless.
“My mentor told me that if I wanted to see the world and experience the breadth of what the information technology industry can give me, the best place to go would be into consulting,” Gayle, who graduated with an MBA in Computer Information Systems, recounted. “Of all the consulting firms, she said the place I would learn the most the fastest is Andersen Consulting.”
Highly profitable, it was one of the world’s largest IT consulting and professional service firms.
“My mentor told me that they are going to work you very hard, but if you want to learn a lot and get broad exposure so you can have an idea of what you want to get into, do that,” Gayle said
Gayle found the company had an opening in its Toronto office and, after four interviews, was hired in 1998 by Andersen which, three years later, adopted a new name – Accenture – and brand identity.
Just over two decades later, she is flourishing with the Fortune Global 500 Company that provides strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations services.
The technology lead in Accenture’s Financial Services practice in Canada overseeing a team of almost 800 mainly in Canada, the United States, India, Mexico, Argentina and the Philippines and the company’s managing director sponsor for corporate citizenship in Canada is the 2019 recipient of the Women in Communications & Technology (WCT) Mentor of the Year Award.
With less than 27 per cent of women represented in Canada’s knowledge-based economy, WCT recognizes that celebrating the contributions and achievements of women is a critical element in closing the gender gap.
Accenture is aiming to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025.
“We are extremely proud of Caroline and the recognition of her ability to foster a positive mentoring work environment,” said Accenture Canada senior managing director & president Jeffrey Russell. “She is a strong role model at Accenture and her energy and focus have helped our technology practice in Canada accelerate its growth as we further help our clients thrive and innovate.”
The award is significant for Gayle who is the Women’s Initiative Lead for 1,900 Accenture Technology team members in Canada and the Inclusion & Diversity Lead for the company’s Canadian practice.
“Very good and engaged mentors led to my career turnaround,” she pointed out. “I have seen the changes mentoring has made in my life and in the lives of those that I have mentored along with their broader network of families and friends. People have gone out of their way to help me and I have an obligation to do the same for others. For me, it’s a natural service opportunity.”
It was mentors who helped Gayle crack the glass ceiling in her company.
“I was often called upon to fix complicated and complex problems and I was told by senior people in the organization that I was doing outstanding work and what I was doing was truly amazing,” she said. “Yet, my career was not advancing the same way that others were. I was progressing, but it seemed to be taking longer for me to get to where I wanted to go.”
Things changed when she sought out mentors.
“It was not just people with a good brand at Accenture that I identified, but also people outside of the company who understood me and resonated with me,” said Gayle who is a member of the Project Management Institute and the WCT and Holy Trinity School boards. “I felt a connection with them. Once you get to a certain level in your career, there are very few people that wouldn’t give you five minutes of their time. The honest actionable feedback I got was that I needed to work on some areas of development. They told me that I sometimes can be too direct in giving feedback to team members without providing context. I realized that it was no longer about how I was raised and saying ‘this is who I am’. I had to make the adjustment because I was a leader in a team environment.”
One of Gayle’s best mentors was a team member who was her most vocal critic.
“After I learnt I had been named the WCT Mentor of the Year, I thanked that individual for the part they played in helping to make a difference in my career,” she said. “I had to be open to check myself and then learn and grow. I am continuing to get mentored as I mentor.”
Gayle was turned on to technology during her first-year at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus.
“I went there to focus on a degree in medicine, but in the first few months, I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “At the time, Computer Science was the tech buzzword and I decided to look into it. I had the entrance requirements, so I made the switch.”
Changing her major along with getting married are the best decisions Gayle has made in her life.
“It enabled me to pick and choose the type of company I want to work for, the type of job I want to work in and it’s a career that is always evolving,” she said.
High school and university often prime students for life in the real world.
Gayle said Campion College, which is Jamaica’s top-ranked high school in the last two years, prepared her for the future.
“From the moment I entered to the point when I left, I felt I was among students who are the best of the best,” she said. “I knew I would be able to succeed anywhere in the world because of the foundation laid there.”
High school mate Kathryn Crooks isn’t surprised by Gayle’s success.
“Like most Campion students, Caroline was driven from Day One with a wonderful balance of humor and style,” said the Mohawk College part-time Mathematics professor and 1995 UWI graduate. “Campion has been our backbone, the foundation that made us what we are. The school prepared us for the paths that we are on. We forever see ourselves as Campionites and understand that we each play a role in maintaining the collective legacy of the school. As such, we seem to naturally gravitate into positions of leadership and influence, both at work and in our communities.”
Having university-educated parents inspired Gayle to thrive for higher education.
Her father is deceased while her mom has five degrees.
“They were the first in their families to obtain university degrees,” she said. “They saw the value of education and taught me that each generation should do more than the previous one.”
Outside of technology, Gayle’s other interests are cooking, travelling and taking an active role in her children’s development.
She and her husband have two daughters.