What has been your personal highlight of 2021?
Hands down, it was welcoming the 50,000th member of our Avanade family in September. It was such a symbolic moment for us in a year that brought so many historic milestones. Looking back on the year, I am so inspired by our people and how they rallied during a challenging time to put our clients first. I'm also really proud of the work we did to strengthen our people-first culture, whether that was launching our Employee Value Proposition or launching new ways of working that empower our professionals to choose alternative work schedules that fit their lives.
Which tech figurehead has impressed you the most this year, and why?
I am truly inspired by Microsoft US chief digital officer Jacky Wright. It was such an honour and privilege to accompany her earlier this month as she received her award for topping the Black Excellence PowerList for 2022, which recognises the UK's most powerful people of African, African-Caribbean and African American heritage.
As one of the few Black female leaders in the technology industry, I know how important it is to have role models that look like you. As a London-born Black female leader, Jacky's call for ‘monumental shifts' to ensure that Britain is a more equal place is just one of the ways she is paving the way to build a brighter future where we are all encouraged to bring our diverse perspectives, experiences and backgrounds to our workplaces and communities.
If you had the time to learn one new skill, what would it be?
We've been focusing a lot at Avanade on cultivating our growth mindsets - and learning new things is such an important element of that. Since I'm a music lover, learning how to play guitar is definitely on my bucket list.
Which one lockdown habit do you plan to keep going? I made it a priority during the lockdown to get outside everyday and take a walk. The fresh air helped to clear my head and was such an effective way to organise my day that I have made it a daily practice!
Which face-to-face industry event are you most excited to return to, and why?
I've always enjoyed Fortune's Most Powerful Women event - it's incredible to be in the presence of so many women who have made a genuine human impact with the work they do. It's so important for women professionals to see others making a difference in their workplaces and communities - I always come away from this event inspired and energised by the conversations I've had with other female business leaders and their stories of perseverance and resilience.
If you could go back and tell your childhood self one thing, what would you say?
It's a piece of advice that I give to other young women professionals all the time: just walk through the doors that present themselves - and don't be afraid to pry open the ones that you feel are closed to you. I wouldn't have achieved the successes I have in my own career if I hadn't had the courage to just walk through the doors that opened to me time and again.
One of my mentors once told me: "The success of your career will be down to you and no one else." It's a piece of advice that I took to heart early on in my career and gave me the confidence to get me to where I am today.
If you had to sing karaoke, what would your song be of choice?
My most memorable karaoke experience was when I was visiting the Avanade team in Japan. Karaoke bars are such a big part of the culture there, but I was reluctant to go. The area president there at the time, an Italian woman named Anna Di Silverio (who is now area president of Europe) insisted that this was one of the best ways to get to know the team (and vice versa). She and I ended up belting out a rendition of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and had such a blast. I haven't laughed so much in a long time - so that song would be my pick!
Sum up 2021 in three words.
So many words come to mind, but I'd sum it up this way: Enlightening, exhausting and empowering.
Enlightening: The pandemic shone a spotlight on many social, racial and economic injustices in the world, and that brought about some very honest discussions at Avanade about the role we wanted to play in helping to leave the world better than we found it. We focused on three key areas: continuing to accelerate our efforts around inclusion and diversity; clarifying and fortifying our commitments and goals as a responsible business; and being clear how and where we want to make a difference in our communities and in the world.
Exhausting: It wouldn't be honest if I said this past year hasn't been overwhelming and stressful - and I know so many are feeling the same. The blurred line between home and work life, added responsibilities brought about by the pandemic, and the weight of global and social issues on my heart and mind can take a toll. It's also been a reminder of how important it is to focus on mental and physical wellbeing. As a business leader of a global organisation, I have made it my mission to make sure that our people are cared for in ways they value and have the support from Avanade to make their health and wellbeing their first priority.
Empowering: All the lessons of this past year have taught me one thing: we can do anything we set out to achieve. In the face of so much adversity, we came together to do some amazing things for our clients, whether it was to help the NHS and The Felix Project use technology to adapt to the new world we were living or support SSE Renewables' focus on sustainability.
But our people didn't stop there! While they were simultaneously juggling their own personal and professional responsibilities and adapting to entirely new ways of working, so many donated time and energy to support the causes they were passionate about - and they took the time to be there for one another through virtual happy hours, mentoring and beyond.
Yes, the pandemic has brought with it so much tragedy and suffering - but it has also brought out the best in us. Witnessing the resilience of our people has been so inspiring, and it's why I am so hopeful and optimistic about the future.