Debbie Mavis

Debbie Mavis joined Avanti in July 2018 as Group HR Director and as a member of the Executive Committee.

She oversees all aspects of HR, in addition to managing the Property and Communications departments. During her time at Avanti, Debbie has also spearheaded Avanti’s education projects, including its work with the UNHCR. Key milestones to date include providing more than 180,000 children in Africa with access to quality education and delivering connectivity to seven off-grid refugee settlements in Uganda, which has helped to further Avanti’s mission to provide life enhancing connectivity solutions where and when they are needed most. Debbie also leads the company’s work as a Business Avenger and has been central to Avanti’s focus on progressing Sustainable Development Goal #4, Education.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Group HR Director of Avanti Communications, the leading provider of high-throughput Ka-band satellite connectivity to the communications industry across EMEA. I work across all aspects of HR, as well as overseeing Avanti’s Property, Communications and Education departments. I come from a large family (I am one of 10 siblings!) so

was brought up with a healthy sense of competitiveness. This has fed into everything I have done in my career to date, and is what has led me to gravitate towards roles with collaboration at their centre.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Most definitely not! I am not degree educated, so did not have the typical route into business. I entered the workplace with a training contract at BT, and then left to have my first child. I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible post-birth, so I applied to Vodafone for some evening shifts. 12 years later, I had worked my way up to very senior roles in HR.

Eventually I was approached by Avanti’s CEO, Kyle Whitehill, who was a previous colleague of mine at Vodafone. He reached out to offer me the HR Director role at Avanti – an opportunity I could not turn down. I was so excited to join, as this was my first straight HR Director role, whereas my previous role had predominantly involved areas such as recruitment,leadership and talent management.

Now my role at Avanti has expanded into running the Property and Communications departments and playing an instrumental role in the work Avanti does to connect schools in Africa. For example, I led Avanti’s partnership with the FCDO, formerly DFID, to provide satellite connectivity to 245 schools in Kenya, resulting in more than 180,000 children with access to quality education, and partnered with UNHCR to deliver connectivity to seven off-grid refugee settlements in Uganda. I am really passionate about furthering Avanti’s mission to provide life enhancing connectivity solutions where and when they are needed most.

I love working in HR where the function is valued and taken seriously by the CEO, so together we can offer a compelling proposition for all our employees. I am long off hanging up my HR boots, and in the future I would like to consult for businesses, helping them to grow by solving people challenges.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As for every business, Covid was an especially difficult time for us. We are based in nine countries, so we had to navigate multiple legislations that were sometimes conflicting. During this period, we created a raft of initiatives to keep people involved, trying to create moments of joy within the darkness. I could not be more proud of what we achieved during this extremely tricky period.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I have always had a strong drive to be the best at what I do. No matter how menial the task, I think it is really important to put your everything into the job you take on, so you are seen as someone who is hard working, reliant and dedicated. I have personally found that garnering such a reputation results in greater opportunities.

I also believe in having a good work-life balance. I never take my work home with me, and make sure I take time on the weekends to be with family and friends. I now have three grandchildren which keeps me on my toes, and brings me back down to earth after a busy week.

What top tips would you give to a woman who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

The three things I would recommend to any woman looking to excel her career in the tech industry would be to:

Not be put off by the male dominated industry, or try to fit the mould – your differences are your strengths and you can use these to your advantage.

Be open and transparent about pay with your manager. Ask for gender pay gap details when you go for a job, and practice ‘compensation conversations’ around asking for more money – men would do it, so should you!

Know your strengths – find what you are good at and own it. Never be afraid to be your own cheerleader, and shout about how great you are at something. This is something I often see missing in women. We need to be more comfortable with owning our successes!

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Gender balance in the telecommunications industry has certainly improved since I first started, however, there is still a long way to go, especially with keeping women in the industry throughout the entirety of their career. For instance, 57% of women drop out of engineering industries by the age of 45, (compared to 17% of men), so it is really important for companies to prioritize policies which reduce this gender gap. For instance, introducing more flexibility with hybrid working, schemes for paternity leave, and having an increasingly open-minded approach for women when and if they choose to return back to the office after having a child. There is no one-size-fits-all narrative when it comes to supporting employees. Understanding this is the first step in ensuring you are giving your staff everything they need to succeed.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love listening to informative and educational podcasts as I get ready in the morning. My favourites at the moment are Steven Bartlett’s, Diary of a CEO podcast, as it celebrates a wide variety of leaders from a range of industries, genders and backgrounds.

I think networking opportunities are essential to understanding the different sub-sectors in the industry, and for meeting new people that you otherwise wouldn’t through your own network. Some of my favourites are The London Tech Network and London Tech Week in June. We live in a world where only 28% of board members are female, so attending mixed gendered events increases your exposure to individuals within senior leadership positions. In the same vein, I would recommend finding mentors of all genders, so that you can learn and gain insight into both a female and male perspective.