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A digital accelerator story: Emily Donoghue, on taking the leap into automation upskilling

By the ProEdge team | Published: September 6, 2021 | Read time: 6 minutes

A few years ago at PwC, we realized that lightning-fast advances in automation and data analytics technologies were transforming the business world.

To keep pace, we made a commitment to upskilling our entire workforce. This was a huge undertaking, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the group of our people who raised their hands to be what we call “Digital Accelerators.”

PwC’s Digital Accelerators participated in individualized training in automation technologies and workflow creation software. These trained ambassadors were then embedded in our teams across the firm to teach these new ways of working, drive adoption and help us innovate at scale.

Through the Digital Accelerator Program, we trained tens of thousands of PwC people to build automation solutions using UiPath, Alteryx and other technologies. Offering these kinds of digital ambassadorships within a company can help launch and accelerate digital transformation, as well as boost internal software adoption. Emily Donoghue was one of these early pioneers.

Standing at a career crossroads

Emily was working in our Tax line of service and was quite frankly not feeling challenged with the work: “It was old school, by the book work because we need to abide by laws that necessarily govern processes for compliance and safety. But that meant lots of manual, repetitive tasks. I was getting ahead in my career. But I felt I was on a path I couldn’t leave as easily if I continued. I felt at a crossroads. Do I stay in the firm? Or leave for a new challenge? And that’s when I heard about the Digital Accelerator program.”

Emily Donoghue

"I felt at a crossroads. Do I stay in the firm? Or leave for a new challenge? And that’s when I heard about the Digital Accelerator program."
— Emily Donoghue, Digital Accelerator pioneer

The idea of upskilling in something new, while still staying in the firm she loves, enticed Emily to sign up for the Digital Accelerator program, even before she knew the details. But she quickly saw it would involve learning how to automate tedious tasks and then teaching others how to do the same. This would free up more time for value-add activities that involved more creativity and critical thinking. 

“It wasn’t long before I learned Alteryx,” Emily recalls. “It was my tool of choice. I went all in, and I could see the impacts on my everyday work. I couldn’t wait to take it back to my teams; it was so encouraging. I spent eighteen months doing deep dives with teams on Alteryx and showing them how to build workflows.” 

An automation success story

Watching her automations in action was especially rewarding. Her favorite example was when her team built a time-saving workflow for audit support: “One of the big tasks in the audit process is scoping data. We were spending hours and hours doing the preliminary data scoping before we could even test data for accuracy. It was a time suck,” she said. This is where Emily’s Alteryx skills paid off; it was just the kind of consistent data process begging to be automated. 

Her team built an Alteryx workflow to comb through the relevant Excel sheets, saving them 40 hours of work on an audit engagement. 

"Once we saw our time savings, we wanted to roll it out to other teams working on similar audits," Emily recalls. "We tested it for accuracy, and it became a bigger initiative for the firm. Other people who had upskilled in automation were suggesting similar fixes. So the workflow became standardized and now it’s a digital asset in PwC's internal digital asset library that the whole firm can use." 

"Once we saw our time savings, we wanted to roll it out to other teams working on similar audits..."

PwC’s digital asset library became the inspiration and basis for the Digital on Demand product. It was also how our upskilling journey and its citizen developer success stories became the genesis of another PwC product—ProEdge. Emily is part of that story too.

Scaling upskilling benefits 

“After I wrapped up the Digital Accelerator program, I knew I wanted to be more involved in automation. But I wasn’t sure how or where. My relationship leader in the firm connected me with Suneet Dua, a firm partner who was looking for innovative, product-minded people," Emily said. Dua’s team was striving to find ways to package our digital assets and upskilling strategies in ways that could benefit clients. This idea evolved into ProEdge, a single platform that provides an end-to-end upskilling process from skills gap analysis to skills acquisition to scaling the benefits of those skills across an organization.

Emily joined the PwC products team with a focus on streamlining operations and automating reporting and other processes: “The Digital Accelerator program opened my eyes to possibilities. It changed my career trajectory and showed me how I could still help clients by creating automations and supporting products that help other people upskill.”

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