Finding my professional niche
Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Marissa Jaggan and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Mark Ruiter's life, career, ambitions, and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Javier Leonor made in his life? Through a series of portraits, we answer these questions and introduce you to our people: those who make Accenture the thriving company that it is.
Introducing Sara Parra Aguirre, Agile Project Manager and Scrum Master at Accenture Interactive
Why only study one degree when you can study towards three at the same time? Sara Parra Aguirre was definitely not one to take the easy road. Her search for interesting work opportunities and desire for an occasional change of scenery led her to Scotland, and then on to the Netherlands in early 2019. ‘When I discovered the field of Service Design, all the pieces of the puzzle just slotted together.’
‘Ever since I saw this famous Spanish war correspondent reporting from the front line, I decided I was going to become a correspondent one day. Perhaps I have idealized the story over the years, but I think it’s a good one, so I’ll stick to it. I wanted to travel the world and write about what I saw, so studying journalism felt like the logical choice. The trouble was, that wasn’t the only field that piqued my interest: I was passionate about cinema and films, too. And when I discovered that studying advertising was also an option, my confusion couldn’t have been greater. What was I going to choose? And would I even get the necessary grades to be accepted into one of these programs? When I found out I got the marks I needed to enroll in all three of the study streams I liked, I decided not to pick just one, but to register for them all – all of them at the same time. What can I say? I enjoy studying. Although the years I spent at university were definitely intense, I am still very happy I made that decision – it has broadened my horizons significantly and given me a better perspective of my professional options.’
‘So, how did I go from wanting to become a war correspondent to ultimately winding up in the role of Project Manager? Good question. Truth be told, I never actually consciously decided to become a Project Manager; I stumbled across it through my first job in Edinburgh, Scotland. I moved there in 2013, after a series of enjoyable, but underpaid editorial jobs and internships in Spain. A friend of mine had moved to Edinburgh and landed a good job there, so I figured I could, too.’
A surge of confidence
‘It’s odd: for somebody who naturally worries quite a lot, I left for Scotland uncharacteristically confident – I knew I was going to find a position eventually. I worked as a cashier at Zara for nearly a year, followed by a stint at a call center. Of course, those weren’t my dream jobs, but at that point, my English wasn’t good enough for me to secure other work. While in these positions, I kept applying for other jobs and even got invited to interviews every now and then, but to no avail. After I’d been in Edinburgh for nearly two years, I was offered a job at Wyoming Interactive, a small digital agency, as a junior Project Manager. I was over the moon – finally, I had realized the dream of landing a “real” job in Edinburgh.’
‘Working at Wyoming was amazing for tons of reasons: it opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me and I learned so many new things there. My time at the company equipped me with an incredible professional toolbox and helped me to get comfortable with so many different methodologies and technologies. However, after three-and-a-half years, I felt I had reached a ceiling and it was time for a new adventure and a change of scenery.’
It was decided: we were going to Amsterdam
‘This time, though, I wasn’t making a move on my own – I was accompanied by Gavin, my now-fiancé, and Morty, our dog. Luckily, Scottish-born Gavin, who I met in Edinburgh, was also keen to explore new avenues. He is a sound engineer and guitar teacher, and we both started applying for jobs all over Europe. After a little while, Accenture Interactive in the Netherlands offered me a position. And so it was decided: we were going to Amsterdam. Gavin, who was used to being self-employed in Scotland, first worked at both Albert Heijn and a burger restaurant, before he found his dream job at a guitar manufacturer – few things make him happier than being surrounded by guitars all day. Now that we have lived in the Netherlands for one-and-a-half years, we can confidently say we got the change of scenery and breath of fresh air we wanted.’
‘Once I got my foot in the door, I soon realized that things were going to get even better than I had anticipated. I was hired by Accenture Interactive in a Project Manager role, but when I later discovered the field of Service Design through my work here, I immediately knew I had found my professional niche. This is mainly because Service Design combines all the things I enjoy: it has an affinity with journalism and the social realm, for instance. It’s journalistic in the sense that it requires research and investigation, and it’s inherently social because practitioners need to empathize and put themselves in other people’s shoes. Essentially, Service Design relies on learning from others and how they experience certain things.’
Nothing but smiles and open doors
‘Every day, I learn more about the details of Service Design. I am so excited about making this professional shift and I am incredibly grateful that Accenture is giving me the opportunity to do so. Can you imagine going up to your employer and saying, “I know you hired me to be a Project Manager, but I have now decided I want to change careers and move into a different department”? I don’t think most employers would have been as supportive and enthusiastic as Accenture has been. The company has been wonderfully understanding and helpful and has provided me with all the tools I need to switch between business units and step into the world of Service Design. I have been given the chance to get involved in various projects in the Service Design department and have received nothing but smiles and open doors from everyone along the way.’
"Accenture has been wonderfully understanding and helpful and has provided me with all the tools I need to switch between business units and step into the world of Service Design."
‘When I’m not working, my ideal day definitely involves going for a walk with Gavin and Morty, preferably on Zandvoort beach (we live in Haarlem) or in a forest. Gavin and I recently bought a car so we can more easily explore the Netherlands and surrounding countries further. Cooking is something else that brings me a lot of joy. During the week, I’ll just cook up something quick and easy for Gavin and myself, but the weekends are a time for more elaborate meal preparations. I got that from my father; he is the most wonderful cook – his paella is legendary. He is a chemist, which is what we believe makes him such a great cook: Like chemistry, cooking is all about mixing elements, combining the right amounts and finding a good balance. I typically ask Gavin what he feels like for dinner – meat, fish, vegetables, anything – and then over the course of the day, I brainstorm a meal I can create around that. Ideally, we have friends come over for dinner; good food is best enjoyed with good company, after all. Sometimes, I’ll make paella too – mine is pretty good, but it still doesn’t come close to rivaling my dad’s.’
What I do
In my division at Accenture Interactive, we create digital products – apps and websites, mainly – from start to end. We do everything from conceptualize products and consider how they’ll be used, to actual development and continuous improvement of outputs.
A day in my life
A typical day involves a lot of communication with clients and colleagues, and a lot of project management to ensure everything goes to plan and there are no (major) fires to put out. Before corona, all meetings would be held face to face, but now everything happens online.
Advice to fellow and future colleagues
Don’t be afraid to fail!
Sara Parra Aguirre (1989)
Studied: BA Journalism; BA Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication; BA Communication and Media Studies, Universidad Europea de Madrid (2012)
Started working at Accenture: February 2019
Relationship status: Engaged to Gavin
Gets annoyed by: Arrogant people
Favorite food: My dad’s paella
On my nightstand: My e-book and knitting kit
Listens to: Indie rock
Last purchase: A running armband – I started running a few months ago
Would like to sit next to in the plane: My sister; I miss seeing her and traveling with her
Life-changing event: Moving to Scotland
The best lesson life has taught me: That you can plan all you want, but life happens the way it happens, regardless of your plans
What I learned recently: If you can’t explain something, draw it. I was recently on a conference call with colleagues and one of us was trying to explain a complex concept that the rest of us were struggling to grasp. At some point, my colleague said, “Wait!” and she started to draw it. When she showed us all the drawing on camera, we all immediately understood
Most beautiful place on earth: Darjeeling, India
Hobbies/passions: Cooking, hiking, reading, watching movies and listening to music
What my colleagues don’t know about me: That I’m currently learning how to tattoo. I have one tattoo myself, and my sister has a similar version that’s just decorated slightly differently. When I’ve mastered the art of tattooing, my sister really wants to be my guinea pig (Gavin doesn’t trust me enough)
Life motto: I don’t have a life motto
- Would you be confident enough in your knowledge to advise a company to follow a full digital transformation? Maybe Strategy & Consulting could be a good fit for you
- Do you think you would enjoy finding effective solutions for complex technology implementation problems? Then maybe you would be great in Operations or Technology
- Would you want to explore the possibilities that come with new technologies or develop fantastic user experiences? Try Interactive or Technology
Our recruiters are happy to help you navigate the application process, so get in touch!