Community, advocacy and inspiration: How we’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Posted on September 28, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

Delivering the best results for Avanade clients is all about diligently doing what matters. If we want our Avanade colleagues to act with purpose and to do what matters for clients, we’ve got to do what matters for our colleagues. Purpose flows from one’s authentic self. So celebrating our teammates’ unique identities is a key part of our “do what matters” brand. That’s why doing Hispanic Heritage Month right matters a lot.

Celebrating Community

The Hispanic and Latinx communities in the U.S. and Canada continue to grow, becoming a key component of the emerging majority and a major demographic engine of change. So it’s no surprise that Hispanic Heritage Month has grown, too – beginning as a weeklong celebration in 1968 before expanding into a month-long event in 1988. Now, Hispanic Heritage Month is held annually from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as a showcase for the community’s history, culture and contributions through festivals, art shows, conferences and other gatherings. It’s a critical opportunity for North America’s Hispanic community to unify voices under a single narrative and to raise awareness about the significant contributions the Latinx community continues to make.

Adelante Advocates

Adelante, Avanade’s Latinx Employee Network, has created a robust program of Hispanic Heritage Month activities. Karla Hernandez and Ronni Edens are two of Adelante’s active members. We asked them to share their perceptions of being Hispanic/Latinx at Avanade and to describe the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

What was your experience of inclusion and acceptance as a Latina when you first joined Avanade?

Ronni: When I came onboard in 2010 via an acquisition, Avanade held a two-day orientation to get the new joiners acclimated. From the start, it seemed to be in Avanade’s DNA to make new employees feel comfortable and confident that they could make a long-term difference here as well as to ensure a successful acquisition transition.

There wasn’t any formal Avanade program at the time acknowledging people’s ethnic backgrounds or trying to create peer groups around them. I guess you could call it a serendipitous encounter that the first person I met when joining was Charlie Zaragoza, now a fellow Adelante board member. Obviously, we didn’t know at the time that it would take a full decade later to work together as part of our employee network. Back then, there wasn’t a formal Hispanic Heritage Month celebration or anything. It was more about casually finding people of common heritage and discovering an affinity that naturally occurs when you run into people with similar backgrounds.

Karla: I was hired by Avanade straight from university, so this has been my first experience in the tech industry. As a Latin woman, being part of two minorities felt a bit intimidating even during university, so I was somewhat intimidated when applying for jobs. When I interviewed with Avanade, it was evident from the start how diverse Avanade’s workforce is and how welcoming everyone is. I worked with other new hires through the Ignition program and was comforted to see how many other women and Latinos there were. During my first weeks in the company, I was also introduced to employee networks (ENs) including Adelante. From the first Adelante event I attended, I was able to feel a sense of community through the music, the games and the people who spoke about their life experiences.

How are employee networks like Adelante valuable for Avanade?

Karla: Successful teams leverage diversity of thought and inclusion to maximize performance. In a team-oriented environment like this, it’s helpful to understand the history behind your peers so you can better collaborate with them. At Adelante events, hearing others’ stories about struggles growing up in a different country, about moving to a new country and everything in between, shows me that there are a lot more people I can relate to here than I originally thought. It feels like there is a big community of people whom you can turn to when you need support. People are usually more productive and creative – better able to do what matters – when they feel represented, supported and valued for who they are.

Ronni: Avanade’s diversity and inclusion efforts have been very successful relative to other tech companies. For example, in our last year alone, 40% of our new hires were female. Our employee networks are a key part of Avanade’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

There are now 14 ENs at Avanade, including Adelante. Adelante is a forum for proud participation and affinity but it’s also a platform for career management and connectivity. Some of our meetings are pure fun like our Posaditas en Secreto holiday or events where we play Latin music and share family recipes. There’s so much cultural diversity across the varied country backgrounds of our members and they all have unique elements.

Some of our meetings are focused on the unique aspects of managing your career as a minority. With Adelante, there’s a focus on limitless learning which extends beyond functional or technical skills to topics like how to be your own best career advocate or how to cultivate a mentor.

Tell us about the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month events Adelante has planned.

Ronni: We’ve embraced the “Emerging Majority” theme this year to highlight the huge growth and integration of the Latino community in the U.S. and Canada. Our culture is comprised of many different sub-cultures and experiences. Our goal is to raise awareness about the significant contributions the Latinx community continues to make to share a call to action for unification as one cultural voice. To do this, we’ve created hour-long events for each week of the month-long celebration. My committee is focused on a “catalyst for change” event focused on being Latinx in the technology sector.

Karla: My committee, marketing and communications, kicked off an inspiring social media campaign that enabled our members to share their emerging majority perspectives and story. We will also release our first-ever podcast featuring three Adelante members surrounding this topic. And these are only a few of the activities that our committee has planned, with the hope that we can bring some light to what being part of the emerging majority means for the Latinx community.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to the next generation of Hispanic/Latinx talent entering the technology workforce?

Karla: Even though getting started can seem daunting, there’s really no need to feel intimidated. You are safe here to be true to your authentic self to make a difference as part of a diverse team.

Ronni: I would add that you need to be your own best advocate and that you’re expected to be bold in thinking. Don’t be silent. Find peers and mentors with common ground, make a genuine human impact and help lead the effort to always do what matters.

We encourage all our Avanade colleagues to participate in Hispanic Heritage Month and to explore any of our employee networks with which you have a close connection. Together, we can ensure that the right kind of change happens for ourselves and our clients.

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