As a Principal for Pariveda Solutions, Denise Moreno is a leader of leaders. From joining the Chicago office of this leading management and technology consulting firm as the market’s only female employee to proudly sharing 12 years later that women now account for 30% of the Chicago office, Moreno has grown personally and professionally alongside Pariveda.
“The way we prioritize growing each individual person through coaching makes us unique,” said Moreno, who largely attributes her success to Pariveda’s talent development model. “Career progression at Pariveda means you are coached to eventually become the one coaching — a transition that has been the most rewarding part of my career so far.”
Here, Moreno tells Fairygodboss about reflections on her journey to Principal — and what is possible when a company’s focus is to support and develop its employees as whole people.
What was your first impression of working at Pariveda Solutions?
In 2008, I left a top 10 consulting firm to join Pariveda. I was looking to diversify my projects and the technology I was learning. I had heard nothing but great things about Pariveda from a friend and saw the move as a perfect opportunity to learn and grow.
At the time, Pariveda was essentially a start-up – there were only ten employees (and not one woman) in the Chicago office where I would be working. Coming from a large firm, I experienced a bit of culture shock. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was in for another shock – I was pregnant and would be on bed rest within a couple of weeks of ramping up on a new project.
There I was, a brand-new employee, the only woman in the office, and I was on bed rest. We were a small office at the time, and it was just one other colleague and me trying to build our reputation with the client. I felt guilty for being on bed rest. The leaders in my office were quick to remind me that my job was to take care of myself and my health. They were incredibly understanding and did everything they could to make me feel like I wasn’t dragging the team down. They allowed me flexibility in how and where I could do my job.
Being wholly supported by my firm and leadership team during this time as a new employee was my first impression of working at Pariveda — an impression that has stuck over the past twelve years.
What can industry leaders do to create a supportive environment for women in technology?
They must ask themselves the hard questions.
When the Chicago leadership noticed low numbers of women on their team, they started a push to understand why. They were forthright about their intention to get more women on the leadership team, and their conscious effort eventually resulted in a significant increase in female representation and overall diversity in the Chicago office.
Additionally, it is crucial to have a space dedicated to the discussion of ideas, articles, and ways to make your company a more inclusive place for women. The Espirit de Femme circle within Pariveda was intentionally crafted for this purpose. Through regular in-person events and a Slack channel, Espirit de Femme has created a culture of unwavering support among women across Pariveda – a source of empowerment that I didn’t feel or see at my previous firm.
Lastly, establishing a formal mentorship program helps level the playing field for relationship building, leadership skills and developmental coaching. In the beginning of my career, I felt inexperienced when it came to building relationships. Men would ask other men to grab drinks after work, something that I knew was helping them gain traction in working with each other, but this didn’t feel natural to me. Over time, I found that Pariveda’s mentorship program — and my experience as both a mentee and a mentor — was a significant factor in my career progression and more specifically, provided an outlet to build relationships. As a mentee, I go to my mentor with problems and trust their advice. As a mentor, I am required to step up when my mentees come to me, helping them through coaching and offering perspective.
The intersection of mentorship and the Espirit de Femme circle has been especially beneficial throughout my time at Pariveda. Every time I cross paths with a woman more senior than me, she always ends up as one of my informal mentors. I find value in hearing stories and experiences from women who have been in the field longer than I have – learning from the challenges they have faced and ultimately overcame. I was recently part of a conversation about how difficult it can be to call out gender bias in real-time, especially if you don’t realize it is gender bias. When women feel compelled and empowered to share their perspectives with one another, they are better positioned to call out bias, break down barriers, and make meaningful change.
You mentioned that mentorship was a significant factor in your career progression. Can you tell us more about how being a mentor has enriched your work experience?
I see a large part of my development as a direct result of the coaching opportunities Pariveda’s unique architecture has afforded me. My transition from being coached by others to being the one coaching perfectly maps to my leadership progression and success.
My journey as a formal mentor began when I was promoted to Manager about five years ago. In the beginning, I struggled with imposter syndrome. I remember thinking: “Who am I to give this person advice on developing themselves and building their career?” It was hard for me to take ownership of the wealth of my experiences and my value as a mentor. Soon enough, I found myself responsible for helping a mentee overcome their imposter syndrome. As I walked my mentee through the root of their imposter syndrome, reminding them of their transferrable experiences and the strength of their foundational knowledge, I found myself taking my own advice.
To this day, I feel the pressure to know every answer and solve every problem. I know I have the background and experience to tackle what’s next, but imposter syndrome tries to creep in and dilute that confidence. When this happens, I think about what I would tell myself if I was my own mentor. I focus on what I have done and what I can do. I see imposter syndrome as a much greater threat to my ability to be the best mentor I can be than an actual lack of experience.
How has your journey through coaching and mentorship impacted how you manage a team and show up as a leader?
Pariveda relies on an "Expectations Framework," in which clearly defined goals exist for clearly defined organizational levels. As you progress in your career, the greater the expectations are for you to develop others. Vice Presidents are expected to develop teams and grow future executives. Therefore, coaching and mentorship are integral to our mission and success.
For me, this means managing a team goes far beyond serving as a leader and includes intentionally crafting development opportunities. While we have a codified, universal set of expectations, the way our employees grow and develop their competencies varies greatly from person to person. I make sure I understand the root of their struggles and their point of view to the best of my ability.
Just as mentorship is personal and specific to everyone, my approach to managing my teams is no different. I pride myself on being a resource for my team to use for support both in and outside of the office. The quarantine and stay at home orders have resulted in members of my teams reacting in different ways based on their different situations — my focus on the individuals in my teams has positioned me to have authentic check-ins with everyone. The established relationships with my teams mean they are more comfortable escalating concerns that may hinder delivery. Proactively addressing these concerns has allowed us to maintain a competitive edge and client trust during these unprecedented times.
A lot has changed at Pariveda since you joined the firm eleven years ago. Reflecting on your time as the only woman in the Chicago office to now, what has remained constant through your journey?
The most prominent and consistent force at Pariveda is support. Woven through our eight Findamentals, support summarizes the actions and expectations of all employees.
Not only has a lot changed at Pariveda in the last eleven years, but I have experienced many seasons of life in those years. Thinking about my time at Pariveda, I can’t help but think about how these seasons of life have intertwined with my career progression. My role as a Principal at Pariveda makes me a better mother, and my role as a mother makes me a better leader, mentor, coach, colleague and more.
Support is reflective of the overall culture at Pariveda. From motherhood to promotions and everything in between, I have always felt like Pariveda is in my corner rooting for me to be successful and step up. This support has been represented in a variety of ways: From flexible work options when I was put on bed rest as a new employee, coaching and mentorship to develop myself and others both personally and professionally, and the willingness of leadership to adapt to meet the needs of employees.
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