It’s been four years since we first conceived of Avanade’s Black Employee Network. Here’s what we’ve accomplished since then.

  • Posted on August 31, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

As Michael Harris and I conclude our last term as co-chairs of the INSPIRE Black Employee Network, we took a moment to reflect on how we got to where we currently are.

It all started back in the summer of 2018 when I was listening in on a conference call with the National Society of Black Engineers. They were trying to find a way to incorporate coding into their regional conference that was being held in Dallas, Texas. I thought to myself that Avanade has a Talent Community devoted to Software Engineering and it would be awesome if Avanade could get involved. Someone in my network connected me to future co-chair, Michael Harris, who was the Community Lead for Dallas at the time. We quickly connected and eventually hosted the first-ever coding hackathon for close to 60 6th-12th grade students. 

From there, we began building our board of talented individuals to form the affinity group, then called “Blacks at Avanade.” Much of the first year was spent working on foundational pillars such as our strategical goals, board structure, and operating guidelines. With the support of the I&D team at Avanade, we had enough momentum to become a full employee resource group (ERG), INSPIRE, which stands for Investing in the Next Set of Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Engineers. Supported by the organization, we then had the amazing opportunity of being mentored by our previous CHRO, Dave Gartenburg, our current NA President, Eric Miquelon, and our outstanding CEO Pam Maynard, INSPIRE began to thrive.                            

Someone once asked me which has been my favorite INSPIRE event and I could not pick just one. I will never forget our first Juneteenth celebration, which I feel was a supportive trigger in opening the door for future discussions on growth at a global level. Then secondly was to be able to host a social justice hackathon that allows Avanade’s talented workforce to use technology for good. As we look back at the past four years, one pivotal growth moment was the INSPIRE leadership retreat held in Chicago with 23 of our board members, and it was amazing. The energy, the laughter, and the tears that went into the planning of our upcoming fiscal year will surely reflect in the exciting events that are to come.


I truly believe that the success of INSPIRE has come from a passionate group of employees who simply wanted to make an impact. This impact included service in the community, professional development and building an environment that just feels welcoming. It has been an absolute pleasure to see how Avanade has changed during my 15 years with the company. It brings a smile to my face to see the personal growth of each board member. I have learned so much from them, and I am looking forward to the future successes that are sure to come.


As Michael and I come to the end of our tenure, I want to thank every colleague, ally, and friend that has supported us over the last four years. There are too many to name but know that we appreciated every donated moment. I encourage all at Avanade to find a place that feels like home to them, and then once in that home, find a way to contribute. Every contribution counts and adds up as we find ways to make an impact in our community! 

Annabel Nichols

From a humble phone call in 2018 to now a thriving, fully fledged Employee Network with 23 Board Members - just incredible. Thank you to you and Michael and all the INSPIRE members and allies - great job!

September 12, 2022

Inside Avanade Newsletter

Stay up to date with our latest news.

Share this page
Modal window