Being bold with Elisha Harrington

Elisha Harrington is a natural innovator. Having cut her teeth in the start-up industry early on in her career, she has spent the last few years steadily working her way up to the top of her industry, now working for one of the "Big Four" accounting firms [PwC] as the Melbourne Open Innovation Lead.


Elisha Harrington believes in education, but she believes even more in an education punctuated with industry learning and experiences. If you catch a glimpse of her CV this is immediately obvious through her impressive array of academic prowess, corporate experience and her inclination towards volunteering and guest speaking. “I didn’t want to walk out of university with just piece of paper. I saw the value of getting involved with industry and doing internships as much as possible. I approached leading firms like L'oreal and different global graduate programs going at the time … I’d even just drop them a line … I didn’t always go the traditional route of applying," says Elisha.

"RMIT gave me an opportunity to directly apply everything I learned ... these days I think all educational institutions need to look at how education can evolve and ask 'how can our Australian institutions teach and communicate the forefront of industry to their students?'"

Armed with an eagerness to learn and the drive to make it happen, Elisha quickly gained invaluable experience within the “start-up ecosystem” with an e-commerce company. As the business grew Elisha was able to work across several departments including sales, marketing and digital, as well as working closely with the founder, building on the foundations that her degree had provided her. From there, Elisha’s career only "trended upwards" until she finally landed at her most recent company: PwC.

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“I was with firms when they were smaller until they moved on to very large clients, and then I moved on to other opportunities … I encourage everyone to really just go for it. [Being employable] doesn’t always depend on your education; we’re a very relationship-based culture,” says Elisha. "My advice is ... be bold; don't look at boundaries and let them stop you, whether they're organisational models or you're not sure if you should contact that 'high level' person ... You would be surprised at the connections you can make if you just reach out. Also ... find something to specialise in. You need to be known for something."

One of PwC’s goals is to gain 10 per cent of their revenue from platform businesses. As the time and materials model in consulting begins to take a backseat to digital and emerging technologies they’ve decided it’s imperative that they build their own products that they can take to market -- and that’s how Elisha got her start with the company, first joining PwC as a part of their ventures team.

“I came into the platforms business under Trent Lund, a leading partner in Sydney,” says Elisha. “I looked after the Open Innovation Platform … which PwC utilises to help our clients put challenges up on the website, and we then go to the marketplace with that [connecting large corporates, government, researchers and start-ups at scale] to crowd-solve a solution. The whole idea is to bring together diverse minds and solve challenges worth solving.”

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Like many with the drive to push boundaries, Elisha’s role at PwC has evolved rapidly. While working on the Open Innovation Platform she was also brought on to help the company firm up their “Innovation Nation” pillars. The idea behind these pillars is that PwC doesn't just pick up any type of work as a consulting firm, but that they also try to fulfil their responsibility as a leader in the industry by focusing on important social and economic issues -- like smart cities and food trusts.

In her original role Elisha spent most of her days running workshops on strategic ideation and cultural disruption, speaking with various levels of government and consulting with large corporations to help them value-add to their work. “In PwC when you’re in these lead roles they’re very dynamic; you’ve got a lot of other side responsibilities as well,” explains Elisha. “You find yourself involved in internal strategy work and project work that’s really key to the way PwC is going ... It’s a really fantastic culture.”

Nowadays, although still acting as the Melbourne Open Innovation Lead and managing all that that entails, Elisha's role has altered to include new duties within the assurance team under Kristin Stubbins, working across emerging technology, "deconstruct the audit" and assurance innovation. "I do everything from learning and development strategies, to what we're going to upskill our people in [RPA and IOT], and then also running challenges in the firm," says Elisha. "My remit is to help transform the business and elevate the capabilities of the firm ... it's about empowering our people and asking 'how can we foster their passion?'"

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Elisha Harrington completed the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Marketing).

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"My advice is ... be bold; don't look at boundaries and let them stop you." - Elisha Harrington.
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