Women in Tech Q&A: Medb Corcoran | Ireland Lead, Accenture Labs

The Women in Tech Awards is Ireland’s first annual celebration of women and diversity in the technology industry. The goal of the Women in Tech Awards is to drive diversity and narrow the gender gap in an industry which offers opportunity and success to anyone with ambition, passion and a strong work ethic.

To mark this and showcase some of Ireland’s most talented “disruptors” we’ve asked the nominees for the Disruptor award about their careers to date, and what it’s really like being a woman in tech in Ireland. The second interview in this series is with Medb Corcoran, Ireland Lead at Accenture Labs, one of Accenture’s seven key research hubs around the world.

What is your background? How did you get into the technology sector?

I did 2 degrees in Maths and then took a grad job in Bank of Ireland Asset Management. There I spent circa 15 months in finance and the periods I spent in consulting always edged me further and further into technology…

Can you describe your current role – what are your main responsibilities?

I’m the lead for ‘Accenture Labs’ in Ireland, one of Accenture’s seven key research hubs around the world. Based in Accenture’s The Dock, my team incubates and prototypes new concepts through applied R&D projects that are expected to have a significant strategic impact on Accenture and its clients.

I also drive the Artificial Intelligence R&D work for Accenture Labs in Ireland. This involves exploring new ways of addressing critical business problems by applying leading-edge AI techniques, including machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation and reasoning

What do you attribute your success so far to?

I can bridge the business and technical/quantitative worlds – translating business requirements into a workable analytical solution using processes, models etc. I’m able to explain the solution and its measurable benefits to a non-technical audience, be that clients or people within my own organisation.

You’ve been nominated for the disruptor award – what has been your biggest business risk to date?

I think it has been jumping fully on board with the idea of the Dock when it was a fledgeling idea within Accenture and there was still a risk it might not happen.

I believed in the idea so strongly, I was willing to risk moving away from my existing ‘safe’ position and bet my future on it.

What trends are you noticing in your industry now? What do you see being the next big disruptor?

The disrupters in this marketplace will be those companies that truly embrace human and machine symbiosis, reskill their workforce for these jobs of the future and think broadly to reimagine their business with these new capabilities, rather than just using AI to automate for short-term gain.

In what way is your company leveraging new technologies successfully?

The Dock, where I work, is a great example of Accenture leveraging new technologies, and new ways of working successfully.

In terms of pitching innovative or new ideas effectively in business, what are your tips?

Build trust first. Prove yourself on a small, innovative idea first and grow from there. Also, make sure how your success is measured is quantifiable and not just qualitative.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt over the years?

Pick roles that you are genuinely interested in, rather than because you think it will get you a higher up the ladder.  If you are doing what you enjoy you will excel at it and recognition will follow.

How do you stay current in a constantly evolving industry?

I find picking a few key sources and keeping up to date via those is best for me, with the odd dip into the twitter and LinkedIn feeds to keep an eye on the streams of information there.

It’s well reported that women are underrepresented in the technology industry, what has your experience been like? Do you think it’s been more challenging for you to succeed as a woman?

In general, I haven’t found being a woman in Technology (or Finance) has made it more difficult to succeed. Saying that I have noticed a shift in the workplace in the last 10 years in terms of flexible working arrangements which has made it easier for women (and men) with family commitments outside the workplace to succeed.

What is the best thing about working in tech in Ireland?

The vibrant, extensive ecosystem. All the global top 10 ‘born on the internet’ companies have a significant presence in Ireland, as well as the exciting tech start-up scene and a strong set of academic R&D centres.

Accenture’s international clients that come to The Dock in Dublin are consistently amazed by this ecosystem and how proximally located they are.

If you were beginning your career now, what would you do differently?

Do my bachelors in AI, rather than Maths, and not spend so long in the financial sector…

Medb is the Lead for Accenture Labs in Ireland. Accenture Labs does cutting-edge research and incubates new concepts through applied R&D projects that have a significant near-term impact on clients’ businesses. The winner of the Disruptor award will be announced at The Women in Tech Awards on Thursday, November 22nd – good luck to all those nominated.

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If you are interested in a new career within the technology industry you can view all live tech jobs on cpljobs.com, alternatively get in touch with Libby Kelly, libby.kelly@cpl.ie or Lisa Holt, lisa.holt@cpl.ie