#Avanade20Years: An interview with Avanade alum and former Chief Leadership Officer Howard Kilman

  • Posted on March 19, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
#Avanade20Years: An interview with Avanade alum and former Chief Leadership Officer Howard Kilman

We continue our #Avanade20Years special series on the blog in celebration of our 20th Anniversary on April 4, 2020. This week, we’re catching up with former Chief Leadership Officer Howard Kilman. Howard was with Avanade from its inception, and since retiring in 2015, he’s continued to make a difference with his leadership through volunteering.

Avanade News: What was your role at Avanade?

Howard: I was there from the beginning. Before the beginning, actually! I was brought on four months before the official launch of Avanade and then retired after 15 years with the company. I started as General Manager of Central Region in the U.S., progressed to Executive VP of North America, and then spent my last two and a half years as Chief Leadership Officer. 

Avanade News: What did you love most about working here?

Howard: I loved solving tough business problems while leveraging Microsoft technologies. But in addition to that, I loved having a hand in building the careers of countless professionals along the way. A day at Avanade was always dynamic and challenging – I was surrounded by inspirational people and we were always having a lot of fun. I have so many incredible memories from my time at Avanade, but one moment that stands out is in early 2001 when the company finally made its first monthly profit. It was proof that we were on the right path and were making a difference.

Avanade News: That’s a good one. What are you most proud of from your time at Avanade?

Howard: I’ll have to choose two. I’m so proud that by working with the strong leaders within the North America Avanade business and forming a stellar high-performance team, we grew the business to $750 million. That was a big deal back in FY15! And secondly, I was proud to be the first Chief Leadership Officer and work to establish a talent management engine that helps drive the company forward today. 

Avanade News: What came after Avanade?

Howard: When I left, I retired from corporate life and shifted to focusing my time on a set of professional volunteer activities – I use my skillset to help businesses and leaders grow. So, I do professional consulting in a volunteer governmental entity called SCORE. Its focus is to help small businesses get started, grow and successfully mediate challenges. I also like to volunteer at the Sarasota Military Academy, helping high school students pass the state required Florida algebra proficiency exam. These kids would not get a high school diploma without passing this exam, and I’m proud to say that I have a 100% success rate over the last three years. Also, I have a focus on exercise, health, playing softball, learning guitar, religious studies and our grandchildren. 

Avanade News: What advice do you give to people just starting out their careers?

Howard: Five things: 1. Surround yourself with smart, motivated people 2. Take on tough challenges. 3. Solve them as a team. 4. Create space for that team to grow. 5. Leave your role when the time is right – it creates opportunity for someone to learn and it brings in new energies and ideas for the business to grow further.

In my own career, No. 2. (from above) – take on tough challenges – was a huge difference maker. This was the sales pitch that was made to me when I was considering taking the offer to leave my great job at Microsoft and join this new company. It was a tough road with lots of difficult challenges and obstacles along the way. There was no guarantee of success. But it was an opportunity to do something unique in the industry – build a highly successful joint-venture company that actually delivers on the hypothetical synergies in the business plan to all three companies. The journey was filled with multitude of varied experiences. Wow, what a ride, what a learning curve, what a platform to advance so many professional careers!

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