In our Centered on Your Success blog series, get to know our experts and how they measure success for clients. In this installment, meet Maureen Jesuthasan.
What’s your story?
I have been in the world of IT for over 30 years now, but ironically, neither of my two degrees are in computer science. My original ambition was to become a child psychologist, however, a series of life surprises put me on a very different path altogether.
I finished college during an economic recession which made getting a job impossible for new college hires. For example, upon graduation, I was a part of the one percent of my graduating class who had a job offer. My opportunity was in IT customer service, which I thought would be temporary and allow me to go to graduate school while working full-time.
Soon after starting the job, I experienced a major life change that made me realize I wasn’t quite ready for graduate school, so I decided to focus on the career I had in IT. Over time, this job served as a stepping-stone to other positions. I moved away from a customer service focus to working as telephony apprentice for a major healthcare provider under the direction of the Telecom Manager. That opportunity taught me how to maintain the phone system and, later, the contact center and the interactive voice response unit, otherwise known as the IVR.
As the years progressed, I was offered an opportunity with a “Big 4” consulting firm that allowed me to learn project, program, and release management fundamentals. My time with the firm opened my world beyond the IT infrastructure and was a wonderful education in understanding the critical integration points between application and infrastructure teams.
Over time, I progressed into roles that carried a higher degree of responsibility and personal accountability and built my confidence professionally. From there, I transitioned into a series of industry opportunities, from the manufacturing, financial services, and high-tech sectors, where I focused on IT delivery. Even though I was successful in those roles, the desire to experience greater challenges and professional development led me to return to consulting. This is where I’ve spent the past six years. The consulting sector is where I feel the most challenged because I am here to help my clients tackle difficult problems or chart the best possible pathway to success prior to engaging in a large-scale transformation. I leverage my holistic expertise to help the client achieve continuity with strategic vision with delivery.
To achieve this objective, the client needs to feel a sense of partnership – that we are in it together –instead of executing a transaction. At Centric Consulting, we place the client’s needs at the center of all that we do. This is the core of who I am as a professional and where I want to be.
Why did you decide to commit to a career in IT?
In the early 90s, there weren’t a lot of women in IT. No matter the role working in IT is a challenge. However, it’s even harder when you don’t look like most of the people you work with.
As I have progressed in my career, I have intentionally strived to be a leader who prevents anyone else from experiencing those hardships that I believe come from a lack of appreciation for diverse thinking and creativity. My goal is to always foster a fully inclusive working environment. As a leader, I receive energy through serving other people by honoring and respecting their points of view, which helps me to learn continuously. There is no greater reward than watching a team member grow and celebrating their success, no matter how big or small.
How are you working to guide your clients to success right now?
When engaging with a client, I actively listen, and when I hear something that doesn’t feel right, I question it. Often, I gravitate towards comments that prompt me to ask questions that might seem a bit out of the norm but eventually pays a significant dividend. These dividends can sometimes take the shape of identifying gaps in terminology, skill readiness and process maturity. Once discovered, the questioning leads to a deeper understanding of current state limitations normalized over time.
What does the success of your clients mean to you?
A successful engagement is not limited to the delivery of an asset and or strategic roadmap, but rather it is the ability to break down organizational silos and bring people together. Success is never generated by one department. It depends on healthy partnerships based on shared ownership of success and failure. Establishing these “relationship networks” is key to the sustainability of change, and if I can successfully convey the value associated with this interaction, I believe I am setting my clients up for long-term success.
What, in your opinion, do companies need the most help with right now?
When planning a transformation, companies need to be very mindful of the impact on the people who do the work. A clear understanding of how change will impact the people performing the work is the foundation of successful transformation. To achieve this objective, clients need to have a different type of strategic planning conversation where they think about the point of impact down to the people level.
I like to challenge my clients to consider departments that will be most impacted by the change on primary, secondary and tertiary levels and invite those people into the conversation. By having these discovery sessions, they can expose the extent of technical debt and dependency on manual processes. This awareness can increase the quality of capital acquisition requests while capturing additional savings opportunities they can track through benefit realization. Including the people who perform the work at the time of discovery also increases the probability of change adoption because they become change agents and advocates.
What do you think they should be thinking about next?
When planning a transformation, clients should think about creating a pathway between strategic planning and managing benefits realization. After all, that’s what a transformation should be about – creating long-term value. When you invest the time to design benefit-realization best practices at the start, you’re creating the mechanics you will use to validate the value you generate.
Clients can achieve the journey to benefits realization by defining the critical success factors (CSFs) of a transformation at the start. Over the course of the journey, you can further define those CSFs not only as the key performance indicators (KPIs) but as measurements to determine if you generate intended outcomes. Creating these measurements and identifying source systems and individuals will account for benefit realization tracking and should be regarded as a tracked deliverable on a project plan. This prevents the common outcome of “we’ll just create performance measurements” mentality at the time of program or project delivery.
What are you looking forward to in your industry?
Within the last several years, I’ve seen an interesting shift in client leaders. For most of my career, all decisions seemed to begin and end with either the CIO or CTO, but no more. Due to the many costly failures within the digital transformation era, it is very common to have decisions shared with the business side of the C-suite instead of being siloed under IT.
This shift is forcing a deeper appreciation for understanding the organization’s purpose and the necessary contributions everyone makes to achieve strategic goals. Instead of focusing on technology, there must be an appreciation for how people conduct their work. By prioritizing people’s needs, we can better understand the normalized bottlenecks over time and how best to remove them.
In the end, we will no longer determine success by efficiently installing technology but by how it improves the efficiency of people.
What piece of career advice keeps you passionate and purposeful?
Always be humble and kind. I know it’s a song, but it really sums up my character. Maintaining a kind demeanor even in the hardest of times is not a simple task, but it is worth the time and investment.
What do you do when you’re not guiding clients?
I love gardening, cooking, and taking long walks with my Husband and our dog Jack around the neighborhood. I also love international travel, and I’ve been to over 16 different countries. I’ve always felt more comfortable in places I don’t belong in more than the ones that make up my everyday life.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Chicago area?
My favorite thing to do in Chicago? That’s easy – eating! There are so many good restaurants in the city, and unique markets so I can get delicious ingredients to cook at home with.