“I decided to challenge the status quo in IT”
My childhood dream was to become a pilot. I couldn’t see any prerequisite about being male and I didn’t understand why it was a profession always suggested to boys and never to me, a girl. My desire for equality started then. I wanted to “break the rules” and let the adults know that everyone can dream about what they would like to become, regardless of gender or background. Ever since, I have tried to change the status quo, either looking for challenges or challenges finding me. I love being outside my comfort zone and convincing people around me that everything is possible. It brings me purpose in life and in my job at Accenture.
I first discovered Accenture while studying Business Engineering at Solvay Business School. I had never heard of the company before, but during a job day, I saw the Accenture stand and thought: “That looks cool, futuristic and trendy”. Two weeks later, I had my first interview. What really struck me was the effort Accenture put into getting to know me first as a person: what I enjoy doing, my passions, my ambitions, my strengths, not only trying to see whether my profile would be a good match for Accenture but if Accenture fitted me. I was looking for a place where I could learn, grow, meet nice people, and be myself. I didn’t expect to end up with such nice colleagues, who are today very good friends. And I didn’t expect to be able to be totally myself and even pushed to be myself, encouraged to use my background, my past, my family, and my values as strengths in my daily work.
“My multicultural background makes me proud”
Four of my eight great-grandparents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo and four are from a European country: Belgium (where my family and I moved 20 years ago), Portugal (explaining my last name), the Netherlands (where I was born) and Germany. This means that my grandparents are a mix of one European country and one African country, and hence also myself, my parents, and siblings. We have all kinds of skin colors, hair types, eye colors in my family.
My multicultural background makes me proud. While at university, I noticed that there were very few students with an African background on my course. I decided to do something about this, and joined the African group at the ULB, eventually becoming its president. I organized mentorship programs, partnerships with companies, coaching sessions with Alumni, etc. I'm still an active Alumna, coaching, mentoring, and supporting the students who are full of dreams but also fears.
“We all play a role in the ecosystem to which we belong”
I’ve always been convinced that technology is part of the solution to the problems our world is facing. But when choosing a career in IT, I didn’t know it was mainly “white male” dominated. Since I’m a “non-white female”, I soon noticed that I looked different from most of the people around me. This surprised me. But once again, rather than doing nothing, I decided to challenge the status quo and hopefully break down barriers for those coming after me.
As the lead of Accenture’s Cross-Cultural team in Belgium & Luxembourg, I help to bring to life our commitment to being an inclusive workplace, where everyone can be their best selves, respected and heard. Under this initiative, we have launched a guide about racism, and we also have a buddy program to help expat colleagues coming to work in Belgium to feel at home in their new team and country. As a cross-cultural trainer at Accenture, I also coach my colleagues on projects where teams include different cultural or ethnic backgrounds. I can draw on my own background but also on my professional experience of leading teams across borders and time zones. Knowing that I have a positive impact on my colleagues and their projects is inspiring.
“Our Ladies in Tech program provides tailored support to women early in their career”
Equally inspiring for me is helping to raise awareness of female talent in technology, something that Accenture is committed to. Making it to the Top 5 of Young ICT Lady of the Year 2023 was an honor, both personally and as an ambassador for my company. We have a lot of ongoing initiatives but one in particular had a big impact on me. In 2021, Accenture & Orange sponsored the Young Potential Boostcamp, designed to bring motivated females in technology together with experienced mentors from the industry to support their growth and development. I had benefitted from this initiative two years previously, and I’m still in touch with my mentor. Together with my colleague Rima Farhat (ICT Woman of the Year 2021), I helped to organize the 2021 edition, which brought together 39 mentors with 42 mentees, all eager to learn and grow. Through these experiences, I joined forces with other Accenture colleagues to set up our own mentorship program called Ladies in Tech (LiT) through which female colleagues with one to three years of experience receive tailored support on their next career steps. Around 100 mentees have participated so far, and the LiT program is so successful, it has been copied and rolled out across Accenture.
What I love most about my current role as the Technology Delivery Manager on a project in the Utilities industry is being connected to people and building bridges between them. I need to make sure that the teams are delivering what has been agreed with the client while also making sure that everyone in the team is growing, enjoying their role, and improving their skills. I sometimes feel like I’m speaking six languages because I need to continuously adapt my words to each person. I’m convinced that we all play a role in the ecosystem to which we belong. We decide which words we use, and words are powerful. So, it’s important to always make choices that will have a positive impact on those around us.
Cornelia Fontes de Mello (1992)
- Started working at Accenture: 2017
- My passions: Food from all around the world. I love to cook and eat. My grandmothers and parents are the best cooks ever and I learned my skills watching them
- My favorite food: Chicken with peanut butter sauce and Plantain bananas (an African dish)
- My favorite writer: Don Miguel Ruiz and his book “The Four Agreements”
- My favorite place on earth: Anywhere outside home. I’m addicted to travel. Since joining Accenture, I’ve visited around 15 new countries. When I’m traveling, I feel connected to myself and others. New boxes in my brain are opened and this allows me to discover a new world and sometimes even a new planet
- The person I’d like to sit next to on a long train journey: Kamala Harris
- The best lesson life has taught me: Just do it, don’t be afraid, you’re going to make it happen
- What nobody knows about me (until now): I love to sing and I’m always singing in the morning while going to work
- Life motto: You don’t do something because it’s impossible. It’s because you don’t do it that it’s impossible