Pam Maynard: Making a genuine human impact
When Pam Maynard, CEO of tech-consulting giant Avanade, strode to the podium to collect her Woman of the Year award at this year’s everywoman Women in Technology Awards, it was just the latest plaudit for an industry leader who has come to stand for so much.
Digital Bulletin supported the event and was witness to the reception she received, and has now been lucky enough to spend some quality time with her for the Digital Bulletin podcast.
Maynard began her tech career as a graduate trainee at Oracle before being headhunted into EY’s consulting arm, moving with that to Capgemini on its sale to the French firm in 2000. She joined Avanade in 2008 and quickly ascended its leadership ranks, working in a variety of senior roles during an 11-year career at the company, including as president of its Europe region and heading product strategy globally.
She was appointed CEO in the wake of the departure of long-standing incumbent CEO Adam Warby. Under his leadership the company had ballooned in size and tripled revenues to $2.5bn, but if that was a tough act to follow, Maynard’s tenure would begin with a once-in-a-generation baptism of fire.
Leading Genuine Human Impact
Maynard recalls a stroll through Houston airport with Warby as she prepared to take the top seat at Avanade. They discussed the company’s core purpose. Not it’s mission, vision, or values, but rather the reason why the company and its 50,000+ people did what they did. She decided that what would “signify my leadership and the Pam Maynard era” would be to ‘make a genuine human impact’.
“I was thinking from the perspective of not just the work that we do for our clients, and therefore the impact they wanted to have on their customers, on their people, or in the communities which were important to them, but on our people. How do we ensure that the people who want to spend a chapter of their career at Avanade feel that we are creating a genuine human impact for them,” she says.
“That became really, really important.”
Maynard took the helm at Avanade in September 2019 and at that point formally introduced the company’s refined purpose to the organisation. She unveiled it publicly in a LinkedIn post in November, just 55 days before a novel coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China. By March 2020, flying to Houston – or just about anywhere else – had become impossible.
“And a few months after that, we got the unrest associated with the death of George Floyd,” she adds.
“The ‘genuine human impact’ actually served as a North Star for us in terms of guiding us to think more about the impact of the work that we wanted to have, but also the impact and the opportunity we wanted to create for our people.”
Maynard successfully led the company through unprecedented challenges by doubling down on its mission to be a place of genuinely meaningful ‘belonging’ for its people. As a rare example of a woman of colour leading a globally significant technology company, she was perfectly placed to continue championing inclusion and diversity amongst the company’s ranks, something for which her predecessor in the role was also a vocal proponent. It was a vital component of Avanade’s ability to thrive in the face of global challenges, and validated with the company being placed in the top three of Newsweek’s Most Loved Workplaces in 2022.
Maynard says systematically driving at inclusion and diversity is crucial not only because it is morally necessary, but because a failure to do so strips organisations of an ability to innovate and adapt on the back of a rich, deep pool of diverse perspectives and experiences. It also makes it much harder to recruit and retain the best people in the industry’s ongoing war for talent.
Speaking more generally, while Maynard says a huge amount of work remains to be done in promoting diversity in positions of senior leadership – particularly for people of colour – she sees significant progress being made.
“I see this at Avanade. For example, 55% of my executive committee are women. There are women I speak to who say when they look up at Avanade all they see are women. So in terms of leadership, I’m seeing progress. I’m also seeing progress in terms of graduate intakes. The challenge for a lot of organisations is in the middle management layer – how do we retain people when they take a career break, especially in technology where things move so fast,” she says.
Secrets of Success
Maynard explains that a foundational aspect of Avanade’s success in encouraging inclusion and diversity is its focus on employee networking and mentorship. The company boasts innumerable employee groups representing distinct interests, and every member of Avanade’s leadership team sponsors at least one of them. This is not just to help those groups sustain themselves, but “because it’s a learning opportunity for us – they help us, and they help me, to understand how we might need to adjust the organisation.”
Mentorship and networking has been fundamental to Maynard’s own journey, she says. Her most important mentor remains her mother, whose determination and adventurism led her to leave her home in Barbados to travel to the UK as part of the Windrush generation.
Her mother would go on to become a career nurse (her father was a London bus driver) and make bold decisions for her family that would ultimately position Maynard to confront and overcome her limitations. From meeting the cognitive and social challenge of being “the only black girl in the village” to conquering her overwhelming shyness, mentorship and the opportunities afforded by supportive networks are what helped enable Maynard’s ascent to the very top.
Listen to the Digital Bulletin podcast to hear more about the making of one of technology’s most influential leaders and most important role models.