Dr Paul Dewen
Paul Dewen has travelled around the world in numerous posts with Accenture. Now, he is in a leadership role in Accenture's technology delivery organisation in North America.
Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?
“I was accepted to Imperial on a “thick sandwich” programme that integrated a three-year engineering degree course into the middle of a two-year undergraduate apprenticeship in industry.
My undergraduate apprenticeship was at Rolls-Royce in Derby. The main focus at that time was on the engines for the newly launched Boeing 757 and the still-in-development Airbus A320. I like to think that I played my own small part in the success of those programmes. My time at Rolls-Royce helped to place my academic studies in a business context – no matter how elegant or advanced the engineering in a product, it won’t be a success unless it delivers value to its customers.
The undergraduate programme at Imperial was very rigorous. The programme helped to develop my numerical and writing skills, but perhaps the biggest lesson was how to organise myself to achieve my goals.
Shortly before I completed my undergraduate studies, I was offered the chance to apply for an industry-funded PhD program, which kept me at Imperial for a further three years. I was part of a research group focused on non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques and my own research was on the ultrasonic inspection of adhesively bonded aircraft structures. Apart from the science and engineering aspects of my project, I also got to write ‘real‘ software for the first time and I realized that I was interested in a career that involved software.
Completing my PhD, despite the distractions of living one of the world’s great cities, remains one of my greatest accomplishments. I should also mention that I met my wife while we were both working at Imperial, so clearly that’s the single most important thing that happened during my time there.”
What jobs have you done since graduation?
“I applied to Accenture because a good friend from my class at Imperial had started there after graduation. I soon discovered that there are many Imperial alumni at Accenture, so it wasn’t difficult to build a network of contacts.
I have had a broad range of roles in my 20+ years at Accenture. I started by writing and testing custom software (which was what originally attracted me to the company), but soon found myself gathering requirements and working with clients to design complex systems. I moved into project and programme management, and worked with clients across all five of Accenture’s operating groups (communications media & technology, financial services, health & public service, products, and resources). I started to specialize in the mobilisation of large, complex technology solutions, bringing together Accenture’s global delivery capabilities and technology assets to deliver business outcomes to our clients. I moved into the business process space, designing for our clients Accenture-delivered services for their back-office processes (HR, finance, procurement, learning, etc.).
I am currently in a leadership role in Accenture’s technology delivery organization in North America. It is my responsibility to bring to bear Accenture’s global technology delivery capabilities to support the needs of our clients in the financial services and communications, media, and technology industries in North America. I work with teams from across our delivery centre locations in North America, and collaborate extensively with teams in Mexico, India, and the Philippines.
It has been a career that has required a fair amount of travel. Although I have worked mainly for clients based in the UK or USA, I have also worked at client or Accenture locations in Germany, France, Czech Republic, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, India, and China. I have accumulated more than one million frequent flier miles on one airline alone. And every time I board a plane – especially a Boeing 757 or an Airbus A320 – I take a look at the engines to see if they’re the Rolls-Royce products that I helped to develop all those years ago.”
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
“Even though I don’t get to solve partial differential equations or evaluate the mechanical properties of adhesively bonded aircraft structures any more, there are plenty of things that I learned at Imperial that have helped me in my career:
- Be disciplined, and prioritise the important things over the trivial.
- Collaborate effectively with your colleagues and clients.
- Be accountable. Take ownership of outcomes and deliver to deadlines.
- Let the data tell the story. You can’t manage a process if you can’t measure it.
- Communicate at an appropriate level for your audience, and use bullet points (actually, that’s something I learned at Accenture)!
- Always leave time to have some fun.”
What would be your advice for current students?
“First and foremost, enjoy living in London! I lived there for twelve years, and it is still a favourite holiday destination. It shouldn’t be difficult to find something that interests you, or that you are passionate about (I spent plenty of time at football matches), but take the time to expand your horizons. The London theatre scene is unrivalled, for both quality and value, by any city I have visited.
Second, take advantage of being at one of the world’s leading research universities. There are people doing cutting-edge research in the same buildings you visit every day. Some of them are just along the corridor. Seek them out and learn about what they’re working on – it could change your life.
Finally, I’ll pass on a piece of advice that a neighbour gave to me before I left for Imperial – you read for a degree, so read broadly. I must confess that I didn’t take this advice to heart at the time, but reading across a broad range of topics will really help to enrich your education.”