The Importance of Passion

by Greg Langley

Nicole Steinmetz, senior principal at Accenture, about the advantage of lifelong learning

What Nicole Steinmetz brings to the aid of clients embarking on a digital transformation is exhilarating insight. One moment she is outlining the needs of the company from a helicopter perspective then she suddenly swoops down to explain the implications on even the smallest parts of the firm before ascending with vertigo-inducing speed back to a high-level overview.

“In my years on the other side of the table dealing with consultants,” she explains, “I found many were too tied up with processes but lacked substance when it came to actually discussing the business. I pride myself on being able to do both.”

Although she now works as the Senior Principal of Digital Transformation at dgroup, now part of Accenture Consulting, Nicole acquired more than 20 years of experience with Quelle, a German mail order business, and at the RTL Group of television and radio stations. During those years she led marketing units, then later was the manager of e-commerce at Quelle and head of purchasing at the RTL Shop.

“That varied background enables me to speak with authority and conviction,” she says, “and I believe my clients value that.”

Never stop learning

Now working part-time while raising two small children under the age of five, she juggles a tight schedule of locations. She lives with her family in Hannover, in northern Germany, is with her current client in Cologne up to four days a week and drops into the dgroup office in Hamburg regularly.

“It is a lot of travel, but it works because both my husband and I are flexible and have a great support network, so the distances become irrelevant,” she says.

When she reflects on her career, Nicole attributes her success to the hunger to acquire knowledge about all aspects of business. She attributes that passion to her parents, who emphasized that “it is not important what you are, but it is rather how you do it.”

“That ‘how’ stayed with me and I think it is a large part of my motivation in always trying to learn about the business in-depth,” she says. “It is only when you have deep knowledge, when you really understand it, that you can touch the substance of something and change it in a way that brings extra value.”

For women starting careers today, she recommends seeking an environment with passionate, inspiring people. “These are usually the best places to gain a sense of purpose and deliver an impact, which is what I like to do, make change to create a better future.”

She also says the importance of coaching and a mentor cannot be overestimated. The ability to learn from someone in a senior position, to exchange ideas, ask questions, gain tips, and tap into their network is invaluable.

“Their recommendation can be critical to your progress; however, that will not be the key determinant,” she explains. “It is the operational knowledge and excellence that you acquire that will earn you their trust in the first place and justify any recommendations they provide.”

The other tip she offers is simple: learn, learn, learn. Learning is an endless process of acquiring and growing, so you have to keep at it. “You’ll find learning is far easier to do when you are involved in a field that inspires you,” she says. “So, my other piece of advice is, as my parents would say: be passionate about what it is you do.”

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