WORK THAT MATTERS - Impacting Public Sector through Private Sector Work


John Mannion (MPP 2010)

Management Consulting Manager, Accenture, Ireland

I made a decision when I was 16 that I should try to leave the world a better place by the time I retire. I was unsure whether I would have a large impact, or a small impact – or any impact at all – but that was the objective I set myself. Therefore as I started my career I set certain parameters. These parameters were not rigid – just a guideline to ensure I was always working towards that goal. I didn’t have to have a large impact when I was 25. I don’t have to have a large impact when I am 55. But as I make my choices in my career, these parameters always give me the framework within which to make a decision – ‘Is this helping me leave the world a better place?’ and ‘Will this help me in the future to leave the world a better place?’.

Attending the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) was one of the best decisions I made within these parameters. I learned so much about impactful people working across a wide range of areas – from International Relations and Dean Mahbubani’s stories, from Urban Development and Prof Kenneth Paul Tan’s papers, from Social Entrepreneurship and Prof Ann Florini’s research and Prof Vu Minh Khuong’s views on Human Capital Development (which I will reference later). I also learnt about how to measure impact, how social value is created, how you can measure a triple bottom line and how empirical analysis can be applied to public policy initiatives. The biggest benefit of my learning in LKY School was what I learnt about myself – what I valued, how I could be impactful and where my skills were best suited across the wide array of opportunities that public policy presents. I would have happily stayed in Singapore and given back to a country which matched my ambition for progress. When I completed my time in LKY School, I again assessed my choices through my parameters and felt the impact I sought was in Ireland, in my home country where due to a burning pride I would be most motivated to attempt to have the largest impact.


I returned to Ireland, which due to a very open economy was still reeling from the Global Recession. I had a number of options that I could have pursued – they ranged from the public service, social entrepreneurship and work with the NGO sector. However I made a decision with the ‘future’ in mind and felt that private sector experience would both help me build excellent skills, and also allow me to view ‘impact’ through the private sector lens. I still structured my decision within my aforementioned parameters – ‘where can I work and be impactful’ and thus approached companies which had a footprint within the public sector – which would enable me to answer both my questions – impact now and preparing for impact in the future. In my research I identified Accenture as the place to go. I therefore sought and gained a role within their Management Consultancy practice.

When I joined Accenture, they were aware of my background but I also stated my preference – by interest area and skills. I was therefore placed within the Health and Public Sector Practice with an expertise in Talent & Organisation, an expertise I would be encouraged to consistently develop. Talent & Organisation involves workforce planning, capability development, learning and development and change management – everything that falls under ‘People’ when you split work into ‘People, Process & Tools/Systems’. Thus I was using my knowledge from Prof. Vu’s class and building on it. While I have been involved in strategy work, I have tried to become proficient at delivery – implementing projects day to day with clients.

And the delivery I am completing allows me to have the impact I want. I implement government policy each day. I partner with Public Sector workers each day. I have helped design and deliver a HR Transformation project that effects each Civil Servant. I have worked with frontline workers in improving their capability to deliver service. I have helped redesign the response to a crisis that could affect one of Ireland’s biggest industries. I implemented progressive social legislation that could affect 50% of the Irish population. I am currently working in healthcare making a semi state actor more efficient in providing service to members of the public. When I wanted to increase my skills I have been able to move into other areas of the business – I have worked in a semi state resources company (something which my thesis under Prof. Benjamin Sovacool helped) and also had a short stint in Financial Services for Accenture to improve my skills there. Accenture also allowed me to work for free through ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ for a Government Agency looking at Employability with Disadvantaged Youth. This project was very rewarding and I was assigned to it for four months. As you can see, the choice of a private sector consultancy firm has still allowed me to have the public impact I hoped for. We describe this area within Accenture as #workthatmatters and I can attest to that maxim.

I am unsure whether I would have believed you if you told me at 16, that I would be as happy working in my current area/organisation and that it would fall fully within my defined parameters. But in Accenture it does. I also feel it answers my questions – current impact and setting myself up for future impact. I was more assured in my decision to go to Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy – and that provided me with benefits I never imagined or expected when I set foot in Singapore. Similarly Accenture has provided me with benefits I never imagined or expected from my first day setting foot within the office. And both happily fully support the dream and goals I set when I was a young boy growing up in rural Ireland, wondering if I could have the impact I hoped for.

And from Ireland a Happy St. Patricks Day!