I'm a CEO With a Purpose — Why That Matters When I’m the ‘Only Person in the Room Who Looks Like Me

Sponsored by Avanade

Photo Courtesy of Avanade.

Photo Courtesy of Avanade.


Pamela Maynard, CEO of Avanade Inc., believes her company’s purpose statement says it all: to make a genuine human impact. Since assuming the CEO role six months ago, she has helped Avanade join the roster of top technology companies who see the business benefit of having a company purpose in their organizations.

Studies show that companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5%-7% per year. They also grow faster and have higher profitability.

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“When I stepped into the role of CEO, it was important to me to get everyone focused on our purpose – the ‘so what’ behind the work that we do every day,” Maynard says. “As a technology company, it is easy to get lost in the magic of what we can do for our clients and their customers. We can make their business processes faster, more efficient and accurate. We can create a customer experience for them that intrigues and delights their customers. We can show our clients how a digital transformation can help them reach their most ambitious business objectives. At the same time, our purpose inspires us to look deeper. How is what I am doing changing things for the better and making a human impact on our client, their customers, their employees and beyond?”

Looking deeper, challenging herself and those around her to be their best comes naturally to a technology leader who, throughout her life, has often found herself “the only person in the room who looks like me.” From her early days as a coder throughout her career in business and technology, Maynard has used those experiences thoughtfully.

“From a young age, my parents taught me to be resilient and confident, and those are attributes I have worked to incorporate into all areas of my life,” she says. “We were the only black family in the town where I grew up, and I credit that experience with helping me break through barriers and be comfortable with who I am. Being different has been the story of my life.”

In addition to confidence and resiliency, navigating those differences has taught Maynard the importance of mentorship. At every major career transition, Maynard actively sought out a mentor or an employee resource group that could help her make the most of every career opportunity. When she moved to a city with a very small black population, she connected with a local African American employee resource group for advice and support.

“Having mentors has been an important part of my professional development helping me to role play difficult scenarios and consider career options. When I accepted a role where I would be the only woman on an overwhelmingly male team, I worked with a mentor. When I’ve had trouble finding my voice, I’ve asked mentors for advice or to create opportunities in meetings for me to share my opinions. That helped me build the confidence I carry today and allowed me to successfully grow into my leadership roles.

“Similarly, it is important to ‘pay it forward’ and become a mentor to others. No matter where you are on your own career ladder, you are a source of inspiration and can serve as a role model for others. Now, as CEO, I am honored to help build and champion the mentorship and employee resource group programs that Avanade sponsors for people at every level of their career. It is part of the way we make sure our employees feel inspired, confident and cared for.”

Maynard practices what she preaches.

After a summer internship and graduation from college, Sierra Jackson began her career at Avanade shortly before Maynard was named CEO. “Imagine my surprise when she walked right up to me during a visit to our office and introduced herself. I told her how excited I was to see someone who looks like me as CEO, something I never expected to see during my lifetime, especially fresh out of college.

“Her reply was also something I never expected. ‘I’m happy to see people who look like you in the business,’ she told me. In that moment, I felt equal and important in a way that I imagine many 21-year-old black women never get to.”

As Avanade celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Maynard and her leadership team are reflecting on how the company has grown from its early days as a software consulting company with a handful of employees, to a global business consultancy with 38,000 professionals, operations in 25 countries, and a company purpose that calls them all to be positive influencers making a genuine human impact in their communities.

“Each of us is a role model for someone, even if we don’t realize it,” she says. “That is one of the things I value most about our Avanade culture, and something we expect of our leaders as they advance in the company. We support one another. We help others find their voice and together we celebrate what we accomplish. One of the things that improves and defines us as leaders is the fact that we are there to open doors and create opportunity for others.”

Asked for one piece of advice to women in business, Maynard doesn’t hesitate. Her answer combines her belief in the importance of confidence, mentorship and purpose:

“Walk through the door. I would never have achieved the successes in my career if I had not walked through the doors that were opened for me time and time again. Sometimes I have had to pull together the confidence to walk up to a door and open it myself. As you do, remember to look for doors you can open for others. By supporting and encouraging one another and enabling the next generation of women leaders, we all press ahead together.”


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