#Avanade20Years: Go-karting, gatecrashing and other rock 'n roll moments from 2000
- Posted on January 15, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
We continue our #Avanade20Years special series on the blog in celebration of our 20th Anniversary on April 4, 2020. Today we are putting the spotlight on two employees that have been here since the beginning; Grace Niewiadomskyj out of our Paris office and Chris Buckley out of our London office.
Avanade News: Can you tell us where you started at Avanade and where you are now?
Grace: My title when I started was Country Financial Accountant, or CFA. Now, I’m a Managed Services Lead. I did one of my recruiting interviews with Chris; I think it was in October 2000.
Chris: I also started in Finance, as European Finance Director – Grace was on my team! Now I’m Executive of Global Business Operations, responsible for our Common Operating System, among other things.
Avanade News: What’s one of your first memories of Avanade?
Chris: Well, literally my first memory was rolling onto “Project Shasta” (the initial project name for Avanade) to help setup Avanade in Europe on July 4, 2000, my wife’s birthday. Shortly after that, we almost missed the launch dinner in Paris because nobody remembered to invite Finance … so I suppose technically we “gatecrashed” the party.
Grace: I definitely felt surprised to have been hired by Avanade because the last time I spoke English was 10 years ago … at school! I can still picture our first Paris office in a co-working building near Galeries Lafayette in the center of Paris. I also remember when Mitch Hill, Avanade’s first CEO, came to France and participated in one of our team events and he actually won the karting race.
Avanade News: What’s the biggest thing that’s changed at Avanade since you got here?
Grace: Well, it’s pretty different, considering that we’ve gone from 15 to 750 people in the Paris office. And to get a complete idea of how far we’ve come, we used to track our time in Excel instead of MyTE, our current time reporting tool!
Chris: We’ve definitely “grown up,” and there are way fewer “hot shots” (we used to call them “rock stars”) than at the start. In those early days, we even had someone unsuccessfully try to charge T&E for hiring a private jet to meet a client – very rock and roll.
Avanade News: What’s stayed the same?
Grace: Our foosball game! And the team spirit between employees and alumni.
Chris: Team members still tell me what a great open culture we have and how approachable and engaged our leadership team is.
Avanade News: What keeps you at Avanade?
Chris: Two things – the people, and the excitement of a new and different challenge literally every day. That creates so much opportunity for growth and reinvention. Back in Mitch’s day, I covered when Avanade’s CFO was on sick leave for a month. It went well, but what I enjoyed most were the operational aspects of the role; this went into my career plan, an Ops leadership role came up soon after, and the rest is history.
Grace: I agree. It’s the opportunity to always improve my skills.
Avanade News: What is your wish for Avanade in the next 20 years?
Chris: I hope we always maintain our focus our employee and client experience. I’m looking forward to helping develop and handing over what we’ve built to our talented next generations of leaders – just not quite yet!
Grace: I’d like Avanade to stay focused on people and keep the “start-up” spirit.
Chris (left) and Grace (right) attending an Avanade meeting in our early days.