Pam Maynard

A veteran of the technology industry, Pamela has dedicated her 25+ year career to helping clients rethink their business strategies by harnessing the power of digital innovation to renew and grow their businesses.

As CEO of Avanade, Pamela Maynard is passionate about building a people-first culture for Avanade’s 50,000+ global employees while driving sustainable, responsible growth centred around client success. Under her leadership, Avanade has put its purpose of making a genuine human impact at the forefront of the work we do for our clients, their employees and their customers. She’s also tied our purpose to the contributions we make in our communities and the planet.

Prior to being named CEO of Avanade in Sept. 2019, Pamela was Avanade’s President of Product and Innovation, focused on defining and delivering innovative solutions for our clients. Earlier in her Avanade career, she served as President of our European organisation and as General Manager of Avanade UK.

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

I’m the CEO of Avanade, and I’m proud to lead 60,000 professionals across the world who make a genuine human impact with the work that we do for our clients and in our communities. We’re the global leader in Microsoft services, which means we know the Microsoft technology ecosystem better than anyone else and have the most experience in the industry. We help clients of all sizes use their Microsoft technology investments to do what matters to them, whether that’s creating better experiences for their employees and their customers, containing operational costs, or being more efficient.

On a personal note, I’m a native of London and I’m the eldest of three siblings. My experiences growing up as one of the few Black girls in my school and community really shaped who I am today as one of the few Black female leaders in the technology industry. It fuels my passion for making the technology more inclusive and diverse than it is today and to ensure that we’re building a culture where everyone feels encouraged and safe to bring their authentic selves to work.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve never had a five year-plan and never will—my career path to CEO was not a straight line! I think the totality of one’s experiences and the diversity of experiences is more important than a linear career.

The first thing I wanted to be was an architect and as I got older and was closer to university age, I wanted to be a lawyer. Even though I was intent on a law degree, I changed my mind when I was at university. I remember having a conversation with my mum about it at the time, and she asked me an important question: “What do you enjoy?”

She encouraged me to trust my gut instincts and pursue a management science degree instead. It was a big deal for me, because I was the first person in my family to go to university.    But that decision led me to an internship at IBM, which gave me my first real experience in technology. I loved working with clients to help them with the technology enablement of their business strategy.

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

Early in my career I struggled with a sense of belonging. It’s a real challenge when you feel like an anomaly, when no one in the room looks like you or shares your experiences.

But I’ve realized that being different is also a position of strength. It allows you to see things another way…. to tackle problems from a different angle – and that’s where true innovation comes from. It’s something the world needs more of and it’s why I’m so passionate about creating a workplace that encourages it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The highlight of my career was when I was appointed CEO of Avanade in Sept. 2019 – and talk about timing – just six months before the world would face the devasting impact of a global pandemic! I can say being CEO has been the most inspiring and humbling phase of my career and where I’ve truly learned the most.

One of the things I’m proudest of is my decision at the beginning of my tenure as CEO to articulate our company’s purpose – which is to make a genuine human impact with the work that we do. I knew that it would give all of us a common goal to rally around. But even I underestimated the power that a collective purpose has had in galvanizing our people around a common goal and vision.

I think that it’s because we are going beyond the ‘ones and zeros’ of technology to illustrate the real impact it has on the people who are using it. It’s been such an incredible journey to see how our have brought that purpose to life—not just for our clients but for each other and in the communities that they live and work in.

I directly attribute our clearly articulated purpose to strengthening our culture and putting us in a position to    achieve the highest period of growth in our company’s history during one of the most challenging times for all of us personally and professionally.

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

More than anything, I think it’s been my willingness to truly embrace what makes me different and to realize   that it is the very thing that makes me strong.

One of my favorite poets Maya Angelou once wrote: “If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you can be.”  Looking back, my biggest accomplishments came when I had the courage to be my true, authentic self and embrace the things that made me, me.

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

My advice: appreciate the totality of one’s experiences more than a linear career journey. The richness of diverse experiences, perspectives and backgrounds can make a profound difference on the work we do for our clients and the impact we can make.

There have been many experiences that have served to help me grow personally and professionally, but I’d have to say my experiences as a woman of color have been the most influential. Being the only woman of color in the room for a long time really challenged me and motivated me to go above and beyond. It propelled me forward and it’s helped me progress and fight for my place at the table – and now I’m passionate about helping others do the same.

Also, when I look for potential leaders, I seek professionals that demonstrate a willingness to be open to trying new things, show resilience and an eagerness to challenge old ways of thinking and the status quo.

If there’s anything we’ve taken away from the past 36+ months, it’s that change is inevitable and out of our control. But we can control how we react to these shifts and how we perceive the challenges presented to us as opportunities, so that we can embrace and thrive with change.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, and unfortunately those barriers have not only been made more visible by the pandemic, but it’s set gender diversity back significantly—not just in technology but in every sector and in every country.

A study by McKinsey found that the pandemic and its economic fallout have turned back efforts on gender equality and that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to crisis than men’s jobs. It’s staggering to think that while women make up 39% of the global workforce, they accounted for 54% of overall job losses during the pandemic. Women in leadership roles and women of color have fared even worse.

Another Accenture study found that gender inequality has significantly worsened through the pandemic around the world—adding as many as 51 years to the time it will take to reach gender equality in the workplace.

There are a few key factors for this decline: the brunt of childcare and remote learning while also juggling the responsibilities of work. To change that, organizations are having to completely rethink the way that work gets done and to use the power of technology to make it happen.

It’s great to see the progress that’s been made and the attention that it’s getting, but I think more can be done to overcome the barriers that still exist.

At Avanade, for example, we’ve looked at how to support working women from all angles. We’ve created flexible working arrangements through our Alternative Work Week program so they can choose a work schedule that is best for them. We’ve ensured that our well-being programs address mental and emotional health so that working women can tap into those resources when they need to. And we’ve created programs like our Women’s Employee Network—which ensure that women have a sense of belonging and community. We’re also very focused on providing access to mentors and leadership development opportunities so they can continue to develop their careers.

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

Because the challenges and causes vary widely, from my point of view, there must be a three-pronged approach:

  1. We first need to provide the support and resources to attract women—and women of color—into STEM careers in the first place. That starts with providing them with the resources, mentorship and education that builds a career in technology. At Avanade, for example, we started a STEM Scholarship program in 2015 in which we’ve partnered with 17 universities globally to award over 300 scholarships to female STEM scholars. I’m proud to say that 14 of them have joined Avanade upon graduation and more than 100 of them are currently being mentored by Avanade leaders.
  2. We need to provide the support, mentorship and sense of belonging for women who are already in the technology industry. That means creating Employee Networks that bring women together and supports them in their career journey as well as leadership and development programs that focus on helping them reach the next stage of their careers.
  3. We have to focus on their well-being. That means giving them the resources and programs to support them personally and professionally and letting them decide which ones work the best for their needs. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. A great example of this is providing flexibility and choice in how women work and where they work so they can balance their personal and professional responsibilities in a way that works for them. I know there’s a lot of debate about this among some business leaders in the wake of the pandemic, but in my mind it’s a no-brainer! We’ve seen productivity and employee satisfaction—particularly among our women professionals—increase significantly since launching Alternative Work Week options.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

For as long as I’ve been in tech, there’s always been the challenge of bringing more women into the industry at every level. I can tell you from our experience at Avanade that increasing representation of women in technology can indeed be done because we have done it! There is no magic wand, but the technology industry can’t make progress without a clear plan that is actionable and measurable.

Avanade’s goal is to be recognized as one of the most inclusive employers in the world because it’s a core part of our company purpose of making a genuine human impact. Our inclusion and diversity commitment and efforts begin at the top—and with my passion to leave the technology industry more inclusive and diverse than we all found it.

And, true to our history, it’s not enough for Avanade to create programs that support inclusion and diversity—we’ve set ambitious goals and measure our progress against them. I’m proud to say that our investments and our efforts are making a difference. By putting inclusion and diversity at the heart of our company’s culture and business operations, we have:

  • Invested in Inclusion & Diversity, including growing our I&D team from 3 to 15.
  • Focused our recruitment marketing efforts on bringing more top female talent to Avanade. With a presence in 28 countries across the globe, 40% of our hires (more than 3,000) last year were female.
  • Ensured that we have gender diversity within our Board and leadership team. For example, 60% of our Board of Directors are female and 10 members of our Executive Committee are women, including myself.
  • We’re also seeing women move up at a higher rate across the organization – in the last year, 35.5% of our promotions were women, up from 26% just three years ago.
  • I should also point out that our commitment to diversity and inclusion and to elevating our employee experience extends to equal pay. We have a rigorous pay equity and review program that ensures fair and consistent pay for employees in comparable roles, location and tenure. We just completed a review, and as a result, we’ve achieved dollar-for-dollar, 100% pay equity comparing women to men globally.

We also achieved the same level of pay equity by race and ethnicity for our people in the U.S., where we currently have data to track our progress.

We’ve taken a lot of action, but we’ve got a lot of work still to do as we go far beyond gender equity and expand our definition of diversity to include race, gender identity, disability and neurodiversity.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

When I was younger, my mother gave me the book by Susan Jeffers, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” It’s all about being willing to take risks and betting on yourself—and it’s a book that I still share today.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway” is something I’ve done throughout my career… Whether it’s been to raise my hand for a new role, to try a bold new approach, or to seek advice from a mentor. It’s about having a growth mindset and taking risks, learning from your mistakes and carving a better path forward. I believe it’s such a critical skill that we’ve provided our people at Avanade with training to adopt this way of thinking.  The experiences we’ve all learned over the past few years show that growth comes from the uncertain moments in life such as a failure or from taking a chance on yourself.

Over the holidays, I listened to No Rules Rules on Audible, which is about Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. It’s a fascinating story…thought provoking for leaders on what it takes to create a culture and mindset for the organization to continually learn and thrive.