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Ron Ash spent the majority of his childhood in Ohio and started programming when he was fourteen, using his personal Commodore 64. Little did he know that computer would help define his trajectory that led Ash, a Hispanic American, to be among the first generation of his family to go to college and pursue a career in technology.
“My mother strongly believed that computers would change the world, so she pushed me to build that skill as a child,” he says. “So, when I went to college, I continued my focus on growing my technical skills which led me to a career in IT consulting.”
Graduating from Ohio University in 1996, Ash took an internship with Andersen Consulting, which became Accenture in 2001, and it’s there that he discovered his love for using technology to solve organizations’ challenges and help them run more efficiently.
“I came into the workforce with very little understanding of what it took to be successful at a white-collar job. I was very fortunate to find a mentor at that internship, and that relationship has been the single-most important thing in my career,” he enthuses. “That’s when I stopped worrying about the color of my skin, the way I talk, and the college I went to; when I knew someone had my back and I didn’t have to do it all on my own. Someone was invested in helping make me successful.”
“I started programming and development on the commercial side, supporting telecommunications clients and learning the fundamentals of a career in consulting. I focused on supply chain work for the first five years or so,” Ash recounts. “After 9/11, I thought a lot about where I wanted to take the rest of my life professionally and how I could make an impact for my country. I wanted to take my passion for helping organizations perform better and apply that to federal agencies and their missions.”
So, he found an opportunity to go to Accenture Federal Services, a subsidiary company of Accenture that focuses on the federal government. At the time, the company was working on a proposal for US airports about how to model checkpoints to increase security without impacting throughput.
“The connection to mission changed me. That was a very rewarding experience, and I haven’t left federal since then,” Ash notes.
Over the years, his work has spanned from helping federal law enforcement agencies implement investigative case management capabilities, to reimagining global logistics for a foreign affairs organization, to always looking for ways to apply technology to challenges the federal government is facing. On his path to COO, Ash served as a client account lead for multiple agencies.
“As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve moved from being an expert in a particular area and an individual contributor, to focusing more on helping others grow and succeed,” Ash explains. “As my roles have changed, I’ve learned that none of this can be accomplished alone. My focus has shifted to finding ways to help other people find their strengths to succeed and grow individually in their own careers—extending the same mentoring and support I received early on that has been so critical to my success.”
It has been especially important to Ash to personally provide that support to the Hispanic American community at Accenture Federal Services, through which Ash actively mentors aspiring leaders and participates in community forums to share his personal experiences and help his colleagues develop confidence bringing their authentic selves to work.
He is ever mindful of the challenges that Hispanic American workers face, as evidenced by recent Pew Research Center statistics that show while Hispanic Americans comprise 17 percent of total employment across all occupations, they comprise just 8 percent of all STEM workers.
Ash has their back.
“At the end of the day in the consulting business, people are our greatest asset,” he asserts. “If our people aren’t coming to work every day and bringing the energy and insight that comes from diverse experiences and perspectives, we won’t be able to help make our clients successful.”
Now, as COO, Ash is currently helping to shepherd Accenture Federal Services through a business transformation during a period of rapid and sustained growth. “We’re at an interesting time where we are growing above the market, which is fantastic, but sometimes when companies grow this fast, it can be hard to modernize,” he explains. “One of my chief priorities is to reinvent our enterprise, the same way we are doing it with our clients: bringing in leading-edge technologies like generative AI, cloud, and analytics. I am always reminding our teams of the importance of being easy to work with—we are here to help our clients do more.”
Building teams with that focus is a critical priority for Ash. It requires slowing down to listen and understand individuals and their goals.
“A lot of times, when you’re in the day-to-day, it’s easy to fall victim to the pace of the day,” he says. “But being able to sit down and listen to someone who is going through something personally or isn’t fulfilled professionally and help them find a path to where they can find meaning and joy in the work they are doing—drawing on the background and experiences that make them unique and allowing them to deliver a unique and lasting impact for our clients—that’s been the most important thing for me.”