In our Centered on Your Success blog series, get to know our experts and how they measure success for clients. In this installment, meet Debbi Young.
What’s your story?
Early in my career, I wanted to use my industrial and systems engineering degree from The Ohio State University to be a systems engineer or systems analyst. This worked well while I was on a team to implement a large enterprise operational system.
When I became an IT Manager a few years later, I often found myself fighting the urge to explore new fields, test modern technologies and experience more of what the world had to offer. At the same time, I found myself moving to a new city and looking for a new job due to a spouse’s opportunity.
Little did I know what I would learn with that move. As a result of circumstances, I had to get out of my comfort zone to secure a job. I was hired for a role I literally did not qualify for – with the promise I would grow into their need. This opportunity enforced my willingness to jump into new things.
A pivotal point in my career came when I was first introduced to a piece of software called SAP R/3 (an enterprise resource planning software developed in Germany). The project I was working on was with one of the first organizations in the United States to use this new “client-server” version of SAP. I had no idea at that time how big SAP R3 would become and the impact it would have on my career. I was able to work with consultants and learn what they did. I was also given the opportunity to provide feedback on the software and (later) work with the engineers in Germany to create new capabilities.
Due to the small number of people with SAP R/3 experience, I was able to make a move (back home) and secure a job as a consultant and manager with Andersen Consulting. Consulting taught me to think on my feet, speak in front of people more easily (I am an introvert at heart), and pursue new ideas. Eventually, I became a Senior Executive at Andersen Consulting, now known as Accenture. I thought I had reached my career goal but soon found things were not as I expected.
Even though I reached partner status, the long hours and the responsibilities of a large team (over 220 team members) left me missing hands-on delivery and solving day-to-day technical problems. I longed to work with and coach a smaller number of colleagues. I also needed a healthier work-life balance. After a few other pursuits, a friend suggested that I look at Centric Consulting. This is where I have been ever since.
Why did you decide to become part of your field?
My dad raised me until I was about 12. He was a Structural Engineer and encouraged me to pursue my passion, often taking me to his business to “help.” I was one of those kids who always enjoyed math and science. I found computer systems interesting. As a young girl, my dad was a bit ahead of his time. He encouraged me to explore careers and hobbies that interested me, even though most were typically male-dominated.
How are you guiding clients right now?
I am a Senior Manager in our National Data and Analytics practice. I am currently working as a dedicated Program Manager and have been doing so for around the last 18 months. The client determines what programs I am assigned to, and in general, they are typically areas that are in flux or a bit in chaos. They always involve technology and data. My work typically involves clarifying strategy and aligning success measures and outcomes. These are things that sound like they should be easy but generally have layers of complexity. It’s like getting a bunch of puzzle pieces and figuring out how they need to come together.
What, in your opinion, do companies need the most help with right now?
A lot of times, companies are focusing on “shiny objects” like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are important in today’s world. However, sometimes organizations need to take a step back and think about what their ideal result is and what they are trying to accomplish. The biggest thing I see is that teams are often unaware of the role they play in the bigger picture. This causes confusion about who does what and results in teams losing sight of their priorities.
Once companies take a step back and consider current roadblocks and understand their current data, they realize that the pain they are facing isn’t so much a technology problem as much as it is a communication problem. Organizations should take the time to assess processes and create a strategy for communication and learning to realize the benefits of almost any program.
What do you think organizations should be thinking about next?
Businesses need to intentionally define and communicate their strategy and priorities – from both a near- and long-term perspective. Technology needs to support both. Sometimes, it’s helpful to ask the question: Are my teams and the projects we are funding supporting our priorities? Can we map each project to a specific goal or objective in my business? This helps decide if effort, focus and budget should be redirected.
What are you looking forward to in your industry?
Data and analytics continue to move forward and challenge all of us with innovative ideas and new dimensions to what we thought we knew previously. I love the evolution and ongoing discovery. I am really looking forward to seeing the interesting positive contributions of artificial intelligence and prescriptive analytics.
What’s the best or most impactful career advice you’ve ever received?
You don’t ever have to be done with your career. Don’t ever be afraid to learn new things. Remember – you can learn something from every experience. I have had a lengthy career, and as I look back, I can’t believe how many fun and amazing opportunities I’ve had because I stepped out of my comfort zone.
What do you do when you’re not guiding clients?
One of my most adventurous hobbies was being an NHRA Super Gas drag racer (think racing a quarter-mile in nine seconds). I retired from that several years ago due to some safety concerns. Now, my hobbies are a bit less dangerous. During the pandemic, my husband and I really got into hiking. It’s a great outdoor activity to help us stay active. We found plenty of beautiful trails near Cincinnati. We don’t just limit our hiking trips to Cincinnati, though.
Another one of our favorite things to do is travel. In the last few years, we have chosen locations with great hiking. We have been to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, Mexico and recently returned from a great trip hiking in the rainforest and volcanic region of Costa Rica.