Executive Q&A: Pamela Maynard of Avanade Is Advocating for Diversity in Tech

After heading up Avanade’s operations in Europe and Africa, Pamela Maynard is bringing her philosophy on tech diversity to the entire company.

This article appears in print in the March 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Pamela Maynard was born in London but her parents, immigrants from Barbados, moved the family to a village outside the city in search of a better education for their two children.

Maynard became the first in her family to attend university. Last September, she was named president for strategic offerings and innovation at Seattle-based Avanade Inc., a joint venture of Accenture and Microsoft that provides IT consulting services centering on the Microsoft platform. Avanade has 30,000 employees worldwide and $2 billion in annual revenue.

EARLY LIFE: My mother was a nurse and my father drove buses before training to be a welder at a big manufacturer and then working as a carpenter. When we moved outside London, I was a bit lonely at first as the only black child in my class. Being different has been the story of my life. At a student-teachers match of rounders, a baseball-like game, the students wouldn’t pick me for their team so the teachers let me join theirs. Dad had taught us cricket, so I was able to hit those balls way out into the back field. The girls came up to me afterward and were saying, “We didn’t realize you would be so good,” and, “Do you want to come over for tea?” Sports broke down boundaries and helped me be accepted.

EDUCATION: I chose business school because it left me a lot of choices in terms of career paths. I did an internship at IBM, then took a job in sales at Oracle, where I liked the entrepreneurialism and pace. I received a technology industry award for doubling the size of Oracle’s U.K. business in two years.

CONSULTING: I went into consulting to get involved in the point at which technology strategy meets business strategy. I worked at EY and Capgemini before joining Avanade [in 2008]. I became head of U.K. operations with 250 people, and then was put in charge of Europe and Africa with 4,000 people.

SEATTLE: I’ve been coming to the Seattle area regularly for board meetings or Microsoft strategy sessions, but I would usually just see Bellevue and Redmond. Now I’m living downtown to experience the city.

CLIENTS: I have always maintained clients because I take my energy from helping them transform their business. I like helping businesses leverage analytics in a way that changes the way they engage with customers, such as by implementing new customer relationship management systems. Now, as president, I’m taking a more strategic lens to our business in terms of how we take new offerings to market using insight as well as our connections to Microsoft and Accenture.
PARTNERSHIP: Microsoft has moved from a position where the only answer was Microsoft to one where the company sees itself as a platform for digital transformation that will work with different technologies. I’m here to get closer to Microsoft’s strategy. As they evolve as a business, we have to evolve our strategy.

LEADERSHIP: I focus on who are the leaders that I need around me to take me and the business to the next level. I always look to hire the best — the people who can teach me stuff. The head of HR once told me, “When you are running the technology divisions, your words are like pebbles. When you are running the business, your words are like boulders.” Once, when I was nervous about meeting our targets, a junior analyst asked me what was the matter. Later, when we made the target, the analyst said I seemed happier. I realized then that when I became tense, I made the whole organization tense.

WOMEN: I have to be a role model for other women. It’s about me being visible and participating as a leader in driving initiatives from the executive level. I became the executive sponsor for our first International Women’s Day events. It’s a day every March when we participate in a global movement with roundtables and mentoring sessions. We evolved that to create a women’s employee resource group focused on pushing the gender diversity agenda within Avanade. We now have women in about 25 percent of leadership roles, but we need to continue to push on that. With the advent of mobile applications, there is a need for a more creative approach to technology that plays strongly to women who have taken a more creative career path.

HIRING: There is unconscious bias, so we do blind sifting of CVs. We’ve been specific with recruiters and head hunters about the number of women we want through the interview process, and we have women on interview panels. I’m also looking at how I can open doors for other people, on how I can help pull other women up.

MEN AS ALLIES: I’ve always struggled with my shyness. I was always polite and would wait for others to finish, so I would never get a chance to speak. Once, I asked my boss to create an opportunity for me to talk. At the next meeting, he said: “That was a good conversation, but Pam, what do you think?” That was really helpful.

STRENGTHS AS A WOMAN: I suppose I’m more collaborative, more consultative in terms of my approach. I’ll listen to a conversation about testing a go-to-market approach, and I’ll say, “Let’s validate this with a different group.”
WORK/LIFE BALANCE: It’s easy to work incredibly hard and forget about aspects of your life like family and friends that ground you. I try to create boundaries. As I’ve taken on new roles, I’ve been clear that I will never work on Saturday. I will never leave home for a business trip on a Sunday unless it’s really, really important. I need time to breathe and reflect. I’m the least resilient when I’m not creating that type of space.

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