The commencement speech I didn’t give

  • Posted on November 22, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Mid-September, 21 women completed four months of intense training to prepare them for careers in Data & AI at Avanade. Their graduation from the Avanade Edition of the Data & AI Track at Techionista Academy was filled with stories of courage and resilience and commitment. One graduate thanked her children, who agreed to give up their summer holiday so mommy could study. Another participant was surprised by the support and pride of her family. As woman in technology, I appreciate the hard work of this group. I am thrilled to welcome them to the Avanade Data & AI team and want to share a little advice from my own life experiences.

Take time to celebrate

When I graduated from the University of Hamburg, there was no ceremony and my degree was just sent via post. Acknowledging a milestone by taking a breath and a pat on the back isn’t wasteful or boastful. It’s a recognition that you set out to accomplish something and you’ve done it. Deciding to join a technology company and go through four months of learning trying new things with new people is a big deal. As women, we sometimes gloss over our achievements or deflect attention away from ourselves. We don’t need to do that! Anyone who has the motivation to make a big change and the perseverance to see it through deserves a moment (or two!) in the spotlight.

Surround yourself with supportive people

One of the things I enjoy about working with data is finding the stories that emerge by combining individual data points. I believe that people, like data, tell a different story when you view them in context with others. In this case, 21 women came to Avanade through their own paths and joined together as an Academy class. Each of them has a network of people who have helped her reach this point. Family, friends, colleagues, mentors—even terrible bosses who may have sparked a career change! I heard so much gratitude at the graduation ceremony for these networks. It was a good reminder of how much stronger we are together.

As these newly minted Data & Al professionals move into project work at Avanade, I want to emphasize the fact that no one here is alone. Avanade is different from other places I’ve worked. People here care for, inspire and support one another at levels I’ve not experienced before. The graduates of this Academy can count on each other, on any of the leaders they’ve met along the way, and on their future colleagues to help them succeed. And they can count on me, of course!

Trust in your abilities

We had more than 800 women in Europe apply for the spots in this session of the Avanade Edition of the Data & AI Track at Techionista Academy. As I looked through the CVs, I saw a colorful selection of great talent. Truly impressive. For some of the candidates, I found myself wondering why they were applying to the Academy rather than directly to Avanade. Many had the experience, skills—and most important, the potential—to start working with us immediately. Then I recalled that women are less likely to stretch for a role than men are, and more willing to make sure they tick all the qualification boxes before going for something new.

Giving women the opportunity to stretch comfortably and find a path into technology is the goal of our academies, and I’m glad to see it working. And I hope everyone who joins Avanade—through any channel—quickly sees the possibilities that exist in an organization where a growth mindset is the norm. We are here to advance the world through the power of people and Microsoft. This means we are ready to unleash the power of our people into new ideas and directions—because that’s where innovation and transformation happen. We bring people in for their potential and encourage them to follow their passions. We end up with amazing colleagues and outstanding results.

I admire our latest Academy graduates and wish them all the best in the next phase of their career journeys. And I am proud to work for a company where we don’t just talk about closing the gender gap in technology; we work to make it happen.

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