The road to ERG

  • Posted on August 12, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

“Plant a seed. Water it. Watch it grow. Harvest.”


In June 2016, I had no clue where my vision would take me when it came to inclusion and diversity at Avanade. One morning, I decided to reach out to the acting Global Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Lead for a candid conversation on this matter. During the call, I remember hearing, “Build a platform with passion, empathy, inclusivity and the rest is history.” It wasn’t until late that evening, during a deep moment of reflection, that I realized how powerful that message was. This message inspired me to connect with many like-minded employees who shared my vision. After exchanging our stories, the need to build a diverse and inclusive workplace – specifically for people who self-identify as black, African American or African descent – became apparent at Avanade.


Cultivating a culture of inclusion and diversity is central to the way we do business at Avanade. However, in the discussion of inclusion and diversity, our inherent unconscious bias can have significant impact in creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce. The literature shows that unconscious biases impair diversity, retention rates and promotions as well undermines recruiting efforts and employee development, specifically impacting people of color the most. 


I was determined to create change at Avanade with the effects of unconscious bias in mind. As a result, I continued to keep in touch and expand my like-minded networks during this journey.


In May 2018, our self-organizing founding members and governing board of Blacks @ Avanade was born, initially based in the Southwest Region. In October 2018, we went from operating as a small group in the Southwest Region to a larger company-wide initiative. We completed seven events, built alliances across the “Power of 3” (Accenture x Avanade x Microsoft) and established a North America footprint. Soon after, we formed our vision, mission, goals and governing board.


On Friday, May 17, 2019, we officially launched INSPIRE | Black Employee Network, a significant milestone in our Global I&D agenda at Avanade. INSPIRE stands for “Investing in the Next Set of Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Engineers.”


I am very proud to work alongside passionate people who lead, embrace and champion change by doing.

Sasha Smith

Michael thanks for all  your hard work and vision. I am proud to be a part of the group.

September 6, 2019

Nebi Belayhun

Awesome Michael - proud of you - you truly INSPIRE us!

August 14, 2019

Moneshia zu Eltz

Dear Michael, the change begins from within and then heart to heart. Thank you for sharing the grassroots community building on this important topic!

August 12, 2019

Jason Jackson

This is a wonderful accomplishment and so glad that this has come to fruition. I am so proud to have had involvement in this ERG prior to my departure. 

August 12, 2019

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