Former Accenture Executive Tells Business Students to 'Build Your Soft Skills'
November 17, 2014
|Pictured: Jorge L. Benitez, former Accenture chief executive of the United States and senior managing director of North America.|
Jorge L. Benitez, former Accenture chief executive of the United States and senior managing director of North America, believes "soft skills" are essential for success in a management consulting career.
"You need interact socially with clients, stand up and make a case for your recommendations, and learn how to disagree with others without turning things into a combat," Benitez told School of Business graduate and undergraduate students in a November "Management Consulting Fireside Chat." "The School is making 'soft skills' a priority and you should do the same. I have met many smart managers who failed to advance because they couldn't express themselves."
David Jaramillo, president of the School's Management Consulting Club, which hosted the talk, introduced Benitez, who recently retired from Accenture after a 33-year career. A native of Cuba, Benitez was named to Hispanic Business Magazine's “2011 Top 25 Corporate Elite” list, and was named as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States in 2004.
Anuj Mehrotra, vice dean of graduate business programs and Leslie O. Barnes Scholar and professor of management science, moderated the discussion. "We feel it's important to give our students an opportunity to meet senior executives, ask questions, and learn from their real-world experiences," said Mehrotra.
In his talk, Benitez explained how the consulting field has evolved through the decades from being a localized profession to regional, national and global business models. "For Accenture, management consulting, large-scale technology implementations, and providing outsourced services to clients are the three main aspects of our business," he said. "They have different value propositions for clients and require different skills sets from our team members."
Asked about why he joined Arthur Andersen (Accenture's predecessor company), Benitez said a key reason was the training program. "I had a background in accounting and finance, but not technology," he said. "So I spent much of my first few years learning about coding and testing programs. Having those skills was essential to building my career."
In response to another question, Benitez said consulting experience is not a prerequisite for joining Accenture. "But you do need to know something about business, and be able to related to clients," he added. "If you are interested in getting started in consulting or in management, you should leverage your personal strengths, be willing to work long hours, and strive to keep learning throughout your career."