Following your career ambitions and goals has led Emma Pitfield, A/NZ vice president of transformation (consumer goods, retail, life sciences and healthcare) for US-based professional services firm and digital transformation specialist Genpact, into the role she leads today. From humble beginnings as a McDonald's crew member to finance and finally leaping into the technology space, Pitfield takes us through her first 12 months in the role and what lies ahead.
Where did your career journey start and how did you get to where you are today?
I am a big believer in transforming your career to follow your ambitions and goals. I have always tried to steer my career opportunities to match where I wanted to travel, which allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and grow as a person. I have had very diverse roles, from humble beginnings as a McDonald’s crew member, to transitioning into finance and becoming a chartered accountant, and then taking the step into the technology and innovation space.
I think reinventing yourself is crucial so you’re able to do this holistically to understand and solve new problems and opportunities. It requires new thinking. Out of all the functions and areas that I’ve worked in, I found that working in the technology and digital area provided such a unique viewpoint in terms of understanding a business holistically and building deep knowledge and expertise across all functions of an organisation.
From a career perspective, it is also great to have the opportunities to work with different cultures and learn from them. I have worked in the Middle East, Asia and the US, and those different cultural experiences have helped shape who I am as a leader at Genpact.
Did you ever envision working in the tech sector?
I’ve always been curious, and this probably started from my constant questioning of my parents as a child with always wanting to know ‘why’. The standard answer was not enough for me. I wanted to dig deeper and get to know how things really worked and how they could be made better.
This curiosity has continued throughout my career and as I became more exposed to different projects and roles that were technology enabled, I became more interested in the role that technology can play to find ways to make things easier for people, whether it be that an experience be better for the customer, save time to perform a process, or improve accuracy or controls.
What inspired you to pursue this direction?
When I reflect upon the roles and experiences, I could really think about how much of a role technology played in re-imaging outcomes and driving a better experience, it was a no brainer to continue on this path. I love the fact that we are in such a fortunate position with more tools and technologies than ever at our disposal. For example, early in my career there were constraints – whether it be that we had the data, but didn’t have the ability to store and analyse it sufficiently, the limit is now our imagination.
As a technology leader, I feel that this also comes with several responsibilities - to ensure that we truly understand the problem that we need to solve for, to apply the right solution, coupled with effective resourcing and change management plan to ensure successful adoption and the real unlock of value. Success is not about deploying a particular technology, but it is the outcomes that are achieved.
We also have an advocacy responsibility whether it be educating and upskilling others who haven’t had the same opportunity in accessing technology education or supporting those that may fear technology. We can also encourage others to pursue a career in technology. We need to continue to lift others as we climb.
What is your leadership style?
I believe in being a relationship partner. From my experience working in different countries with vastly different cultures, it became clear to me that you would live or die by the effort you put into your connections. I used to deliberately ask to go to lunch with peers and customers in their usual preferred spot, not necessarily the restaurants that they may think they needed to take me to. This allowed me to increase my cultural understanding and find ways to continue to build rapport and hear their story. I can recall the most amazing dumplings in Guangzhou China, the tastiest udon in Tokyo Japan and homestyle Kimchi Jjigae in Seoul.
Never underestimate the power of listening. This helps in so many ways – it helps you connect with your customer or peers, as well as better understanding your customers needs and opportunities. And take your learnings from many viewpoints, whether it be the executive leadership or the front line team members. All aspects will help in understanding the problem and opportunities that exist.
As a leader, you bring the weather. Creating a positive, collaborative environment is key and helps bring many problem solvers to the table. Spend the time to get those who are less likely to speak to give them a voice and realise that the loudest or most dominant voice or opinion in the room may not be the best solution.
During your past 12 months at Genpact, what have you achieved to date?
In my first year at Genpact, I have loved driving the transformation and innovation agenda in Australia with my area of focus being consumer goods, retail, life sciences and healthcare. I’ve brought a strong focus of relationship building to my role, both internally with Genpact employees, but also externally with our customer base. I firmly believe that if we view all activity through the eyes of the customer and understand the end to end value chain, you can ensure a much better outcome.
Given that the 12 months I have been at Genpact have been turbulent from a pandemic perspective, it's been full throttle working with companies to bring forward digital transformation plans, but still with a long-term strategy in mind to drive and sustain growth.
We have seen an acceleration to cloud, the continued leveraging data and analytics – particularly in the supply chain area in our consumer goods organisations and accelerating eCommerce and assuring supply in our retailers. Decisions need to be made in an agile, virtual manner, so access to information is critical.
In the healthcare and life sciences domain, I’ve been privileged to see Genpact’s work in the UK; monitoring, capturing, collating and analysing the adverse effects of the vaccine roll out with AI automation, which has inspired further innovation using the same AI driven technology, but in different sectors.
What are some of your ambitions in the company in the next 12 months?
From my experience working across various roles and in different countries and cultures, I am aiming to open up the sharing community and bring learnings from other parts in the world that we operate, including North America, Europe and Asia into Australia/New Zealand and vice versa.
As an international company we are great at this, but on a community level there is always more to be done, and from my experience this breeds further innovation, which we can then deliver to our customers both locally and globally.
We have seen incredible growth around digital transformation and innovation and I now see my role as aiding companies to assess their quick sprint to digitise during the pandemic, and if it is now sustainable and fit-for-purpose in the long-term.
Being able to provide that clear consultancy in a period of such unknown risk, gives me real job satisfaction. It is an unprecedented time and it is all about seizing the opportunity that this presents. Complacency or not taking action is not an option.