The Unusual career Path

by Greg Langley

Germany, India, Argentina and back. Svenja Falk, Managing Director Accenture Research, about her unusual career path

As Svenja Falk reflects back on her fast-paced career, she admits she must give a shout-out to writer Hermann Hesse. As a teenager living in the quiet city of Flensburg, she picked up Siddhartha to read one summer.

Hesse’s tale, set in India, concerns a spiritual journey of self-discovery and Svenja fell under its charms. “For a young girl living in a small city on the edge of Germany, it was so exotic and awoke in me a passion for India, for Sanskrit, and for the entire culture,” she says, recalling the impact of the novel on her.

Svenja worked as a flight attendant for Lufthansa while studying in parallel. She graduated from university with a doctoral degree in political science and worked as a freelance journalist before joining Accenture. As she rose through the ranks, she never forgot the spell that Siddhartha had cast.

“I made it clear to my then boss, a very British gentleman, that if an opportunity ever arose to work in India, I was the one going. Luckily, he was very supportive,” she says.

Times of BRIC-mania

In 2006, and with her 4-year-old child by her side, she finally landed in India, a “warm country both in temperature and in its welcome.” Svenja expected to be there for six months but ended up staying four years. In the middle of her time there, she was appointed managing director. It had taken her nine-and-a-half years to attain the position.

“It was a career model of ‘right place at the right time,’” she says modestly. “BRIC-mania was in full swing and everyone was hoping to get onboard. I was right in the thick of it working with the chairman of Accenture India to determine our strategy for the market. It was an exhilarating time,” Svenja says.

After India, Svenja was seconded for two years to Accenture in Argentina before returning to the “very open, vibrant, fabulous” city of Berlin where she is now the global lead for Accenture in several areas, including on “Digital Business Models in Industrie 4.0” for the Platform Industrie 4.0.

Svenja explains the difference between information technology and traditional industries is starkly obvious when she attends trade fairs at Hannover.

“When you go into halls where the traditional industries are represented, the only women you see are wearing short skirts and serving as hostesses,” she explains. “Go into the halls where the digital industry is, and women and men will greet you at the booths and explain the products and developments.”

“There still is a long way to go but information technology is more inclusive and there, for the first time in history, men and women are now using the same tools.”

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