What happened when I told my Avanade interviewer I was pregnant

  • Posted on April 8, 2024
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Going into her third CTO interview, Laura Malcolm knew she was pregnant. She also knew most companies wouldn’t appoint an executive about to go on maternity leave. But Avanade isn’t like most companies. Laura got the job and, seven years later, she became Avanade’s General Manager for Australia. This is her story.

Ten years ago, when Avanade approached me to become a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), I was in an organization where the culture didn’t feel right. It was a good job, but I wasn’t passionate about it. Avanade really piqued my interest. Microsoft was entering an exciting new phase with its cloud journey – and the focus on innovation was compelling. But there was a problem: my husband and I were planning to start a family.

I kept telling Avanade it wasn’t the right time to make a move. And they kept telling me they believe in talent for the long term. I really tested that claim when I turned up for my third interview pregnant. I was stunned when Avanade offered me the role anyway. They told me they’d make it work – and they did. I joined for a few months and then went off on paid maternity leave.

That first interaction encapsulates everything I love about Avanade. We put people first. No matter what your background or situation, we’ll invest in your potential. Even if it’s challenging. If we believe in you – we’ll back you. No matter what.

That’s why we founded our Academy program for non-traditional technology talent. We take on people without tech foundations – people who’ve taken a career break, or whose skillset is outdated – and we reskill them for future jobs. It’s a good example of how Avanade is different from much of the industry.

9 years, 9 roles and 2 children

When I started with Avanade, my personal and professional goals were intertwined. I wanted my husband and I to both have a thriving career, be great parents – and remain healthy.

I can honestly say that having young kids didn't hold me back professionally. As I started my family, Avanade supported me to take on bigger challenges, including global and Asia Pacific roles. Professionally, I’ve achieved more than I ever dreamed possible. After a year as CTO – and a year juggling Advisory Leadership with having my second child – I found myself running our Digital business in the United Kingdom. Then I became a Chief Operating Officer (COO) and took on a Global Advisory Lead role as I returned to Australia. I was then a Growth and Strategy Lead before taking on the Australia General Manager role. All the while, my husband was also working full time.

Of course, it certainly hasn't all been easy. The struggle and the juggle are real when you have small children. My house is often not a pretty sight. I’m not always there for dinner or bedtimes. But, when I’m not travelling for work, my team helps me set and stick to my boundaries so I can be there for my kids in the moments that matter.

Today, for example, I took two hours off to volunteer at school. People think I can do that because I’m General Manager. In fact, all our team members have that level of flexibility. We have an Alternative Work Week program to make sure everyone can manage their personal responsibilities alongside work.

Pushing progress in diversity and inclusion (D&I)

To me, diversity is a no-brainer. The data conclusively shows that companies with diverse thinking perform better. All stakeholder relationships are stronger when your workforce truly reflects your community. Technology should be a great career for everyone.

Yet, while the tech industry has changed a lot in the last 25 years, we’re still not where we need to be. At Avanade, we have good levels of diversity at junior levels, and we’re doing better in leadership. But it’s harder to drive rapid change in the mid-levels of the organization. With the current advances in generative AI, and the way tech roles are changing, I think this is something we need to get right very quickly.

My approach is to make sure everyone understands the importance of D&I. I don’t enforce quotas. Instead, I challenge my team to look at diversity in their teams – and empower them to address the issue directly.

Once you get beyond the hygiene stuff, like ensuring pay parity, one of the most important diversity levers is having supportive leaders. I’ve experienced that throughout my career at Avanade. I often found myself questioning whether I was right for a new role, “Am I capable? Am I the best person?”. Each time, senior people supported and encouraged me – and pushed me to develop.

It’s made me realize why mentoring and coaching are so important. Now I’m on the other side of that equation, I make sure people know I’m available and spend time helping when I can. I'm involved with our Reciprocal Mentoring for Women program. I love spending time sharing experience with upcoming female leaders and other senior Avanade people (male and female) from around the world. That type of powerful, immersive learning elevates all of us.

A cultural difference that people notice

Our inclusive culture is the first thing people notice. Within weeks of people joining Avanade they say, “Wow, the culture here is amazing!”. Our clients notice it too. They tell me, “You have great people who genuinely care.” We set out to make a genuine human impact. That starts with how we treat people.

My favorite times are when we get everyone together. Whether we’re having fun or working hard, I really believe in the power of human connection. That sense of belonging – that’s what makes me happiest to be here at Avanade.

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