Finding my work community during the pandemic

  • Posted on July 21, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Finding my work community during the pandemic

My name is D J Sharp … yes, D is my first name and J is my middle name. I am a senior analyst/back-end developer based out of Columbus, Ohio, but my heart is stuck in Memphis, Tennessee, where I’m originally from. Three years ago, I had my first interview with Avanade, but I didn’t feel like the travel requirements would work for my life, so I declined to go forward in the process. However, my uncle, mentor and idol Derek Sharp worked for Accenture many years ago and considered it one of the great experiences of his life; when an Avanade recruiter called me again in 2020, my uncle made sure that I didn’t pass up this amazing opportunity. I accepted my offer with Avanade and was sure I had just taken the job of my dreams! I had always wanted to be a consultant, envisioning myself in a business suit with a leather laptop bag, taking calls on my phone and traveling all over for business. I was excited.

Once my flight to Chicago for onboarding was scheduled, I ran out to the store immediately to buy all the travel tools I’d need and packed my bags right away for my first trip as an Avanade employee. I got to meet many amazing different individuals, learn about Avanade and received some orange swag; I was so ready to begin my adventures with Avanade! My only thought was, “Where would I go first?”

When I returned home from onboarding, I jumped right into finding a project, dreaming of traveling to Houston, Miami, Seattle, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, Indianapolis and anywhere else I could think of. However, COVID-19 cases had started popping up in the U.S. and fears of traveling began to grow.

I finally got on to my first project just as the pandemic was hitting full tilt. Things were beginning to close and change. I was scared; I had yet to go to an Avanade function, like amazing events such as !nnovate, or get to meet any of my colleagues on my project in person. I found myself feeling alone and a little depressed as I prepared my home office. I had only met about seven people at Avanade at this point, and while they are amazing, caring and helpful individuals, I was scared to reach out to them; I felt so disconnected because my entire job was now inside of four walls and Teams calls that were occasionally on video. I tried to focus on the things that mattered most: doing my best for the client and connecting with my teammates virtually as much as I could. That said, this was not the Avanade I planned to work for. I’d been so ready to shake hands, give my elevator pitch, meet our leaders and really get my name out there; Teams meetings and posts on a thread were not feeling the same. I felt like I did not matter and nobody knew me.

Up to this point in my life, I had always gone into an office and worked around people. I love writing code, but I also love talking about Halo or Star Wars while in the office doing it. I felt like what brought me to Avanade, the combination of tech and a friendly culture, was lost; another day, another Microsoft Teams Meeting, another task I would work alone.

Finally, I’d had enough and I decided to do the one thing that saved my Avanade career: I sent an email to my region’s HR lead for help. It was then I learned about the Midwest Mentoring program that connects those looking for mentorship with leaders in our region who are willing to share their time and expertise. EXCITED!

I’m so thankful for the Avanade Midwest team for their guidance, support, encouragement and passion for helping me succeed. The Midwest mentoring program introduced me to the Midwest family who all became big brothers and sisters to me through taking time to show me the Avanade way. All of these wonderful Avanade members, helped me see and appreciate all the culture and opportunities I thought I couldn’t find while working remotely. I think the most important thing that I missed being virtual is probably the least mentioned benefit of working at Avanade: Everyone is willing to grab the hand of someone struggling and give them the opportunity to pull themselves up.

I am bought in anew and have a new Avanade dream. I have learned to pivot, and I am succeeding in working in this new world, where you’re able to become a member of the orange family even though Teams. If I could say anything to new or future employees of Avanade, I would say three things:

  1. Do not wait. My first mistake was waiting for that feeling of disconnection to change on its own, instead of asking for assistance when I needed it.
  2. Reach out for help. Avanade is an amazing place to work, and the most amazing thing is everyone in the company wants to succeed, which means they need the company to succeed, which means they need you to succeed. Reach out; help is near.
  3. Dive in. At first, I was only focused on being a great employee for the client. I didn’t realize how much I would learn attending an Agile meeting on Friday and talking with Chuck, or an Inspire panel discussion, or a virtual happy hour, or a remote hackathon. NO! It is not the same as traveling with my leather laptop bag, wireless ear buds and business suit, but it is the new dream and way of becoming a valued contributing member of the Avanade family.


Today, I wear orange every day; sometimes, on days when I need an extra push, I have my orange on under my business suit, next to my leather laptop bag, as I take the stairs down to my home office. I’m part of a different workplace than I expected, but the passion and pride for our work for our clients and our own people could never change. GO ORANGE!

AJ Apenteng

Lovely article! GO ORANGE #AvanadeProud

July 29, 2021

Dean Swann

D J, thanks for sharing this story. Agree with Kristen, this is great advice!

July 28, 2021

Kristen Johnson

Good advice and so glad you circled back and joined us! :D 

July 27, 2021

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