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Five years of opportunities at Avanade

  • Posted on May 11, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes

I’ll say it, these last 12 months have been a lot.

Not only did I volunteer to lead and execute our eighth International Women’s Day Global Marquee Event, I started French lessons, I changed career paths, I lost my mother, I started therapy, I moved in with my partner, we took in a foster cat (he was adopted out), I was selected to participate in Avanade’s Leadership Program for Women (ALPW), we took in a different mistreated foster cat (recently turned into foster-failure), I attended ALPW in Rome, I took a leave of absence for a necessary surgery and then the pandemic landed. Uff-dah, that’s a lot.

And while any of these are a lot for any person to handle on their own, I give credit to not only my own fortitude and resiliency, but the one consistency that helped me through it all – support. I had the full support of my friends, my family, and that of Avanade to help me navigate my way through it all.

Two years ago, I wrote my last Inside Avanade blog commemorating my three year anniversary and shared my experiences from a short-term secondment in Sydney, Australia. In it, I mention my least favorite interview question: “Where do you see yourself in three years?” I prefer not to know! Less than a year after that post, I took my next career risk. I expressed interest in moving from an internal global-role to an in-region, client-facing role that would leverage my strengths and experiences. I knew that I was ready for a change and challenge, but I didn’t want it to have to be outside of Avanade – I wanted to continue to be a part of the culture and network I’ve created here. After connecting with others in the Northeast region, a few coaching conversations and interviews, I was offered the opportunity to join the Modern Workplace team in a pre-sales role. My expertise in human resources, employee experience, communications and marketing, along with my welcoming demeanor and ability to build relationships, could be brought to life in a whole new way – in strategically advising our clients on opportunities to engage their people through the right combination of culture, process and technology.

A little over a month into role, I was set to hop on an early call with my career adviser (CA) and his CA when I noticed my older brother calling me at what would have been 7 a.m. his time in Minneapolis. I found that odd, so sent a reply that I would call after my meeting. He responded, “Now, Kiley.” The second I read that message, my heart dropped, I knew something had happened. I called him and found a quiet space before dropping to my knees upon hearing that our 60-year-old mother had passed unexpectedly. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move.

After speaking with my brother, I managed to hammer out a Teams message to my closest friend in the office – “Emergency. I need you.” He helped me off the ground, he was able to reach my boyfriend to come get me, he packed up my personal belongings at my desk, notified my CA and helped me outside. And it didn’t stop there – the people of Avanade supported me through this. Flowers were sent for the funeral, personal messages were received from numerous colleagues and executives, and several even contributed to the funeral expenses to help out my brother and I during this time. Then, I took the time off I needed to heal.

There were no fire drills nor pressure to return. I took breaks to walk, sleep or cry. The trauma of such an experience never leaves you, but I’ve learned to lean on the people in your circle; they are the ones who help you carry the unmanageable load. I appreciate that the people of Avanade were on my side, not just as a number, but as a human being.

Fast forward to October of last year; it was crisp fall day in NYC as I treated myself to a soy cappuccino on my way into our office in Flatiron as motivation for the day ahead – first Friday sales training and an Oktoberfest themed happy hour. Upon opening my laptop, I spot an email with the heading, “Please Read Immediately” addressed from our CHRO, Dave Gartenberg. My jaw dropped; my eyes filled. I had been selected as one of 32 women out of 38,000+ employees globally to attend ALPW in Rome. An honor I didn’t truly consider a possibility. Then, I shed another tear: my mother was my biggest cheerleader, and she was the one person I wanted to be proud of me. Even though I no longer had her, I had a support system that spanned far and wide to share this accomplishment with. I shot a text to my partner, my father, my brother, my closest friends, my sponsor and mentor, my peers and colleagues, then I shared it as an Instagram story. I had known that women are less likely to share accomplishments, so I pushed myself to not let fear of judgement influence me; I was overwhelmed by the number of responses of praise and congrats, with one friend even exclaiming, “Dude, you need to brag more. I’m so proud.” I knew I had made the right choice to share my accomplishment.

Then, I was able to experience ALPW itself in Rome! That deserves a full post on its own – keynote sessions with our new CEO, Pam Maynard, the Northeast General Manager, Suzanne Dann and Mirjam Van Ost, Executive Operations Lead of Gallia - some of my co-participants beat me to blog completion as shortly after returning from the three-day program, I checked out of work for seven weeks, as I checked into my first surgery and the required recovery.

Prior to the operation, I was nervous to tell my CA – I, like many others with aspirations for growth, development and promotion, feared that it would make me look weak, that it would appear as if I didn’t care about my career nor the organization. Thankfully, I had three different and radically transparent conversations; the first, with one of my sponsors, an executive in HR, reasoned with me about the risks I could create for the rest of my life if I rushed myself back to work too soon. The other, my current CA, shared his own experience of taking time off to recover from a surgery earlier in his career here. The third, my CA’s CA, and one of the supporters of bringing me into the new role, said blankly, “You’re worrying too much – you won’t be forgotten.”

Thanks to the support of Avanade, I took the full short-term disability I was approved for, and the time was beyond beneficial for my well-being. And now, I just surpassed the one-year mark in role, and I could not be happier. I have been challenged and I’ve grown in a multitude of ways, and I’m just getting started. I know the world looks different than it did just a few months ago, but I know Avanade’s got my back and I look forward to the opportunities ahead – I wonder where I’ll be in the next two to three years 😉

Mirjam van Olst Twitter Orange Icon@mirjamvanolst

Wow, what a rollercoaster year you've been on, Kiley! 
Thank you for sharing your story. It';s inspiring to see you still standing, let alone thriving as you are. 
I'm looking forward to seeing what other great things you're going to achieve!

June 16, 2020

Hana Collins

This is great - thank you for sharing!  I am so glad we got me meet - you are an example why Avanade is a great place to work - you can meet extraordinary individuals like you!

May 26, 2020

Kiley Surma

Hana, behind every woman is a tribe of women who have her back :) 

May 28, 2020

Katie Miller Twitter Orange Icon@LetsReallyLive

Kiley, thank you so much for sharing your story! You're such an inspiration and I';m really thankful Avanade introduced me to you. Keep on rocking girl, I'm excited to see what you do next. 

May 22, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thanks so much, Katie - I'm also excited to see what's in store! 

May 28, 2020

Rebel Berenyi

You’re an amazing woman Kiley, thanks for sharing your story with us all. 

May 19, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thank you, Rebel - grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you in Australia! 

May 28, 2020

Herjit Saini

Kiley - Thank you for sharing your story. Your resilience and strength to challenge yourself despite the personal traumas you were experiencing is one of a kind. I'm so lucky to have met you during your time in Australia and so glad we are part of this big orange family. Keep shining and I look forward to watching you kick your goals!

May 11, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thank you, Herjit - empowered women, empower women, I look forward to the continued mutual support!

May 12, 2020

Elizabeth Derby Twitter Orange Icon@elizabeth_derby

Kiley, thanks for your candor, vulnerability and inspiring story of resiliency - very timely. Your joie de vivre is infectious. Your story aptly highlights our uniquely orange culture and the special people we call our Avanade family. I'm honored to call you a friend and colleague.

May 11, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thank you so much, Elizabeth - you've been a cheerleader for me throughout the journey!

May 11, 2020

Kendra Capozzi

Love this!! Thank you for sharing your experiences so openly and honestly. And thank you for being proud of your accomplishments and challenging all us to do so, more boldly! You are a force, and I'm so glad to know you.
 

May 11, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thank you so much, Kendra, I'm so happy to have had you as part of my ALPW experience and beyond! 

May 11, 2020

Julie Madayag Twitter Orange Icon@west_recruiter

Great blog post, Kiley! I am so proud of you. Keep going! 

May 11, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thank you, Julie - I've got a few more years to go until I can get to your longevity status here! ;)

May 11, 2020

Paul Phillips Twitter Orange Icon@paulphillips79

Kiley - a great and honest read. It was an utter delight to have you part of our team and glad to see that you are continuing to shine and share. Keep being Kiley - we are honored that you are part of the Avanade family.

May 11, 2020

Kiley Surma

Thanks, Paul, I'm grateful to still have you in my corner. 

May 11, 2020

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