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“It is a myth that women in tech are not as creative or warm or sociable”, with Penny Bauder & Pamela Maynard

Often, when you’re a woman in a tech field, the outside world may assume that you’re more analytical by nature and not as creative or warm or sociable. But that’s far from true. Tech is becoming a more inclusive and comfortable working environment. Certainly, at Avanade we make sure it is and I don’t think […]

Often, when you’re a woman in a tech field, the outside world may assume that you’re more analytical by nature and not as creative or warm or sociable. But that’s far from true. Tech is becoming a more inclusive and comfortable working environment. Certainly, at Avanade we make sure it is and I don’t think we are the only ones. There are many roles within the world of tech and many paths to a career in tech. We encourage diversity in hiring — and that means we are also open to unusual career paths and experiences that might lead a candidate to consider Avanade. By diversifying our workforce and bringing people in from outside of tech, we can make a bigger human impact. Our employees can pull from their diverse experiences from other industries and help shape new experiences. We find that by encouraging a full range of skills, expertise and attributes, we are able to help our clients in innovative and engaging ways we might not have otherwise thought about. Avanade hires from many different fields — not just tech.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Maynard, CEO of Avanade.

Pamela Maynard believes Avanade’s purpose is to make a genuine human impact. She is committed to Avanade’s vision: to be the leading digital innovator, creating great experiences to realize results for clients and their customers through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem. She says three of the most important things she does are to make sure Avanade clients are successful on their digital journeys, ensure the company stays on the pulse of the next wave of technology, and make sure Avanade employees feel inspired, confident and cared for.

Before being named CEO in September 2019, Pam was president of Product and Innovation, focused on defining and delivering innovative solutions for clients. Earlier in her Avanade career she was president of Avanade’s European organization after serving as General Manager of Avanade UK. Across her Avanade career, she has built a strong track record of driving growth, delivering results and building strong alignment with the company’s ecosystem of partners.

Pam is a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion and played a key role in kick-starting Avanade’s Women’s Employee Resource Group, which empowers connections to drive personal and professional growth and innovation. She also is executive sponsor of Avanade’s Technology for Social Good initiative, which brings the power of Avanade’s cloud and digital technology skills and expertise to non-profit organizations, digitally transforming their work and accelerating their social impact.

Pam draws inspiration from the varied backgrounds and cultures she encounters as she travels the world. When she is not meeting with clients or inspiring Avanade teams, you will find her enjoying time with family and friends.


Thank you so much for doing this with us. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s been quite a journey. In September 2019, I went from leading global product and innovation for Avanade to becoming CEO, a position I am honored to hold as we celebrate our 20-year anniversary year. And I have to say, I took an unconventional path to get here.

I was born in London, but my parents, who were originally from the West Indies, soon moved the family to a village outside of the city. We actually were the only black family in town, and I credit that experience with helping me learn to become resilient from a young age.

Being different has been the story of my life. I became the first in my family to attend university, where I eventually pursued a business degree, because it gave me a choice of career paths. An internship at IBM introduced me to the world of tech, so when I returned to school, I determined that I wanted a career that combined business and technology. My first job right out of university was with Oracle, and I loved it. It was there that I fell in love with technology and delivering solutions to clients. I progressed from coder to designer to analyst to project program management, and after a couple of other stops, I joined Avanade in 2008 as Avanade UK GM, then was named head of Avanade Europe and Africa. I later moved to the role of president, product and innovation, and in 2019 was named CEO.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

One day as I was walking through our UK office, one of our analysts said, “What’s up? You’ve changed.” I thought about that and realized that we had just made our quarterly numbers and the relief I felt, as GM of UK, was palpable. Since then I have been very aware of the “ripple effect” we as leaders have on co-workers around us. It was a defining moment that I carry with me. Our words and what we project have weight to those in our organizations, and part of our responsibility as leaders is to be sure that the messages we send, intentionally and unintentionally, are what we intend to convey.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One day I will never forget: early in my career as a consultant, I was scheduled to take a flight and then drive from the airport to my engagement at a client site, which happened to be in a mountainous region of England. When I arrived at the airport to pick up my rental car, I noticed there was a weather warning for an approaching major snowstorm, but I was determined to get to my destination, so I continued on. I arrived at the client site and while I was there, the alarms in the building went off, warning everyone to leave or face the danger of getting snowed in, so I quickly set out to return to Manchester airport, 60 miles away. Of course, I got stuck in the snow, still in my heels and business suit. I had to be rescued by a crew of firefighters and spent the night in a community center, where I slept on a yoga mat, along with fellow stranded travelers. We pride ourselves on doing what it takes for our clients, but that is one long, cold day I’m not anxious to repeat!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

If I had to select just one thing, I would say it is our commitment to creating a positive employee experience. At Avanade, we believe that a positive and inspiring employee experience creates a positive client experience, which is why we are so committed to providing an inclusive, digital workplace where our employees feel they can thrive. We regularly poll our employees and seek feedback so that we keep our finger on the pulse of what they feel they need in order to feel confident, cared for and successful in their roles. Our research confirms a connection between employee and client experience and its role in the success of a business, so we know from empirical evidence that it is important to practice what we preach. We put a large focus on our employees’ wellbeing, and we know it produces success for our clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Avanade you will hear the term “#humanimpact” a lot. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, and this idea of using technology to change things for the better has been a cornerstone of our belief system from the beginning. We always consider the human impact our work makes. For example, we recently created the ability to conduct virtual cancer consultations for Ascension Wisconsin, one of the largest hospital systems in North America. It increases doctors’ ability to collaborate across multiple disciplines throughout the system, allowing them to share their expertise for even better patient care. The results were many, but overall the project led to a more comprehensive treatment for patients, accelerated time to diagnosis and the development of treatment plans for four times more patients than were possible before. We see results like these throughout our company, inspiring stories about how our work has a positive human impact.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I definitely am not satisfied with the status quo of women in STEM, and I’m not sure anyone in the tech industry is. I’m happy to say that at Avanade women now hold about 25 percent of leadership roles. As a company, we are taking steps to address the female shortage in the industry by encouraging girls and women to enter the tech sphere. So, we’ve teamed with universities around the world and initiated an Avanade scholarship program specifically for young women to attend college and focus on STEM on full technology scholarships. Several of our scholarship recipients have started their post-college careers with Avanade. We have several mentorship programs around the world. Two examples come to mind. In Italy, we run a program where students get face time with Avanade employees to learn more about their careers in STEM along with what client challenges they face and solve. The other is a new program we have recently started in New York, where we advise Brooklyn College students on how to start and build their careers. They come to our office, meet with our people and even get resume advice. So we are doing a lot. But we can do even better. As Avanade marks 20 years in business, our commitment as an organization includes actively recruiting more women into our company and building programs that encourage them to build their career at Avanade.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

There aren’t as many women as men in STEM fields, period. However, that’s beginning to change. Avanade, for example, has come a long way since we were formed by Microsoft and Accenture 20 years ago. Even so, sometimes old-school gender norms do come up. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “press for progress.” It’s an acknowledgement that while we’ve made great strides on gender parity, we need to accelerate our pace. For example, at Avanade, we’ve created global and regional inclusion and diversity plans. Now we need to press for progress in bringing these to life. We measure gender parity as part of our corporate scorecard. It’s time to press for progress to exceed our targets. We’ve driven awareness of the importance of bringing diverse voices and perspectives to our clients. Now it is time to press for progress by raising our voices and expanding our network of allies. I’m committed to being bold as we press for progress, and I encourage my fellow leaders to join me.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or tech. Can you explain what you mean?

Often, when you’re a woman in a tech field, the outside world may assume that you’re more analytical by nature and not as creative or warm or sociable. But that’s far from true. Tech is becoming a more inclusive and comfortable working environment. Certainly, at Avanade we make sure it is and I don’t think we are the only ones. There are many roles within the world of tech and many paths to a career in tech. We encourage diversity in hiring — and that means we are also open to unusual career paths and experiences that might lead a candidate to consider Avanade. By diversifying our workforce and bringing people in from outside of tech, we can make a bigger human impact. Our employees can pull from their diverse experiences from other industries and help shape new experiences. We find that by encouraging a full range of skills, expertise and attributes, we are able to help our clients in innovative and engaging ways we might not have otherwise thought about. Avanade hires from many different fields — not just tech.

I do think we are making progress combatting another big myth, that the tech workplace is hostile toward women. That may have been true in the past, but it is certainly not the case as much now. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are seeing more and more women walk through the doors at Avanade, building communities, friendships and rapport that are leading to enormous employee and client success. We are seeing more and more females in leadership roles, leading client teams and owning their successes, and that is because they feel included and supported in their workplace.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Challenge old ways of thinking. Now is the time to try new ideas, grow as a person and as a leader, take the business to places it has never been. Earlier in my career, I sponsored an in-person meeting for 200 people from across our European locations. My goal was to help everyone get to know one another, so we could work more effectively together. It turns out it was the first time ever we had run a facilitated workshop for that many people. Don’t be afraid to push against the conventional! If you don’t, we will not achieve our vision and develop new opportunities for the future.
  2. Actively seek out mentors. I have sought out and worked with mentors throughout my career, typically when I go through a major transition. Mentors have helped me role play difficult scenarios and consider career options. When I’ve had trouble finding my voice, I’ve asked mentors for advice or to create opportunities in meetings for me to share my opinions. That helped me build the confidence I carry today and allowed me to successfully grow into my leadership roles. Similarly, it is important to become a mentor. No matter where you are on your own career ladder, you are a source of inspiration and can serve as a role model for others.
  3. Create space to think, plan and evaluate. Throughout my own career, mentors and coaches have encouraged me to take the time I need — to recharge, think things through, figure out what’s working and adjust where needed. I personally do yoga and listen to music in my personal time. Not only does this help me unwind, it gives me time to think and reflect on many things, including work.
  4. Embrace the things that go wrong — and don’t panic when they do. What’s important is how you react and address the issue. Getting things wrong provides the greatest opportunities to learn. My predecessor, Adam Warby, reminded me of this when one of our business units was underperforming just as I became responsible for the affected P&L. He said “Things will blow up. You can’t control everything. It’s how you respond to the things that blow up that’s important.”
  5. Actively work to attract, develop and keep women at the company: We need to inspire women in ways that make them want to come work for us. And then we need to ensure we’re developing them and retaining them. I think about what attracted me to Avanade and made me want to stay and grow my career here. That’s what I keep in mind as we develop our programs to attract and retain the women of Avanade.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team thrive?

Walk through the door. I would never have achieved the successes in my career if I had not walked through the doors that were opened for me time and time again. At other times, I have had to pull together the confidence to walk up to a door and open it myself. Think about how you may be holding yourself — and your teams — back if you don’t grab hold of an opportunity on front of you. As you do, remember to look for doors you can open for others. By supporting and encouraging one another and enabling the next generation of women leaders, we all press ahead together.

What advice would you give other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Don’t simply “check the boxes.” Always look at what you can do to improve. Identify role models who are successful operating at their level. Develop relationships and network with many levels within our company. Learn and operate within the political landscape to develop and demonstrate presence and confidence while remaining authentic.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mother was my first source of inspiration, pushing my siblings and me to put ourselves out there and encouraging us to find our voice. Throughout my life, she has made tough decisions, modeled strong beliefs and encouraged me at every step of my career to go for it. When I was just four years old, she moved our family to a small village outside of London so that we could get a better education. When I wasn’t sure what to study at university, she reassured me that it was ok to take risks and follow my gut. When I had the opportunity to move halfway across the world a few years ago to take a larger role in our company, she was the first one to encourage me to walk through that door. My mother is central to the woman I have become.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of the areas of our work I am most passionate about is our Technology for Social Good initiative. We work with a myriad of non-profit organizations, providing our technology expertise and muscle to help them incorporate the power of digital transformation into their operations. This initiative allows our employees to work on causes dear to their heart while helping these non-profits to increase their reach and impact on the communities and people they serve.

One example of many: we have recently teamed with Answer ALS, which is the largest global research effort in the fight against ALS. Its mission is to find the causes of ALS and develop effective treatment protocols. They are building a massive open research repository that will help medical researchers around the world learn from each other by sharing information and data from their respective work. Avanade has created a data query engine that allows researchers to submit a complicated research query and get an answer in hours rather than days or weeks. We, along with Answer ALS, believe this initiative could be a game-changer in the fight against this disease. It’s stories like these that inspire all of us every day.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I am limited to one, I would jumpstart an initiative to unlock the full potential of diversity. Think about what could be accomplished in just one market segment, technology. Companies like mine depend on technology innovation to succeed. Now imagine if we had the full power of diversity in backgrounds, perspectives, mindsets. The more diverse your team, the more innovative you will be. Diversity in the workforce expands the questions we ask to determine what a client needs and how they use a product or service. Including a broad range of perspectives shapes a better product. It’s also so much more inspiring to work with a team from places and cultures different from our own; it broadens our horizons and challenges us to think differently.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Early on, my mother gave me the book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. At its core, it’s about having a go at something if the door is open, and it is a philosophy I recommend to women, who too often tend to hold themselves back. Take applying for a job, for example. Say you meet two of the five requirements for a job. Try for it anyhow. Studies show that’s what male job applicants tend to do. As the first person in my family to go to university, as a woman in what has been a male-dominated field, as often the only person of color in a meeting, throughout my career I have reminded myself to do what I recommend to others: feel the fear and do it anyway.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would choose Michelle Obama. There are so few role models for people who look like me. Her passion for her family, for music and culture, for continued growth as a life-long learner, her background and the personal journey she has been on all inspire me and many others.

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