How I’m Helping My Company ‘Move Toward a Brighter, More Equitable Future’ — From a Director

Sponsored by Avanade

Nina Arora-Rowland

Photo courtesy of Avanade.

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April 14, 2024 at 4:15AM UTC

In my job, “I get to have a genuine impact on our people,” says Nina Arora-Rowland, the Director of Analytics Architecture as well as the Midwest (MW) and North America Analytics Talent Community Lead at Avanade, a company that transforms businesses for the digital area through the power of people and the Microsoft platform.

“On a daily basis, I work with our internal teams to ensure our people are cared for, align myself to meaningful projects and join as many enriching development and growth opportunities as possible,” Arora-Rowland explains. 

And, her impact doesn’t end there! “For fun, I’m also the Midwest Inclusion and Diversity Lead,” Arora-Rowland adds. “During the pandemic lockdowns, our vibrant community was not able to connect in the way we had been accustomed to. During that time, the world was also experiencing turmoil from the side effects of a terrifying pandemic, loss and hate crimes. One of my primary objectives was to work with the Midwest regional leadership to ensure that we were creating spaces for our people to feel safe in, as well as opportunities to provide tips and content, share thoughts and grieve together — supporting each other through the turbulent moments.”

Clearly, Arora-Rowland is deeply involved and invested in her company’s inclusion and diversity efforts. But what inspired her to take on this additional responsibility?

“As a woman in tech, it hasn’t always been easy being heard in this historically male-dominated field,” explains Arora-Rowland. “To have a group where you can be with others who have gone through the same experiences you have and who have felt the same pain is so empowering. There is a lot to be said about feeling pain together as a way to heal and rise above.”

Arora-Rowland notes that being in these employee groups is also great from a professional standpoint, as she is able to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of women professionals — and she gets to learn from them, too! And, at their core, these groups are empowering and fill members with the knowledge that the decision of how to live their lives “is ours for the first time since ancient history,” shares Arora-Rowland. “We are living history! To share that together enables us to reach new heights, together.”

In this article, Arora-Rowland shares more about inclusion and diversity, the importance of employee groups, uplifting other women and how other companies can learn from Avanade.

To start, can you tell us a bit about Avanade’s Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) efforts?

Avanade has a growing number of programs and strategic partnerships that will help us achieve our I&D mission. To achieve this, our actions are built around three strategic pillars: Increasing Representation, Limitless Learning and Engagement. We’ve also set clear targets to measure progress and report on them each quarter so that everyone at Avanade can see where we are on our journey.

In regards to initiatives, we have many throughout the organization that are focused on D&I, including:

  • A “returnship” program for experienced Women Data Engineers.

  • Our Inaugural Data Engineering Skill Academy. 

  • A growing number of employee resource groups (ERGs), including a women’s employee network that, like Avanade as a whole, is focused on empowering women, creating an inclusive environment where they can thrive and increasing representation through both hiring and advancing current employees.

    • The ERGs also include training and support for allyship.

  • Including non-traditional candidate pools to open doors to talent in communities that have typically been underserved. More Academies will launch soon, focusing on upskilling or retraining women talent who might come from non-traditional career backgrounds.

  • Sensitivity training. 

  • Making every effort to ensure we are being equitable in promotions and compensation, while closing pay equity gaps when and where we can.

  • Working with MSSA to recruit veterans who are going through the SkillBridge program. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

That’s amazing! What groups at Avanade are you actively involved in?

I’m involved in:

  • INSPIRE, our Black and African American Employee Network Group.

  • Adelante, our LatinX Employee Network Group.

  • AWEN, our Avanade Women’s Employee Network Group.

  • Our Asian Employee Network Group.

I’m also an ally for PRISM (our LGBTQA+ employee network (EN) group) and the many others we have.

In my role as the MW I&D lead, I’m connected with each of the EN Groups from a strategy and planning perspective as well. So there’s a dual purpose to my involvement here.

What's an ERG accomplishment that you’re particularly proud about? 

I think the push for allyship across all of our ERGs is something to be proud of. As members of a group, we can all talk about the challenges and hurdles, but it takes an ally or sponsor to really affect change — to be the catalyst for the change that’s needed. We’ve seen this in all of our ERGs.

Outside of ERGs, how do you make time to uplift other women?

Every opportunity that comes across my inbox is an opportunity that can be used to uplift someone else. If it doesn’t require my own presence, then that is something that I open up to my network of fabulous female technologists. There are a lot of us here, and we all bring a unique perspective to the conversation. 

I have also created a Council to help me lead the community. This has not only provided opportunities for growth and exposure to different aspects of running the business for those around me, but has also helped me use my time to focus on more strategic work. 

Being a leader requires this of us, so it is built into our schedule and everything we do.

What do you think other companies can learn from how your company handles ERG’s and D&I initiatives? 

It’s one thing for the leaders to understand these initiatives, but until the mindset has evolved throughout the organization at all levels, only the surface is being scratched. Accountability is the one thing most are apprehensive about; however, it is the single-most important thing required to move toward a brighter, more equitable future.

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