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Avanade Leadership Program for Women goes virtual in 2021 to great effect

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Launched in 2016, the Avanade Leadership Program for Women (ALPW) is not new to our organization, but it is seeing some significant changes this year. This is the first year the program has been run virtually, so it was redesigned to take place over six months, from May to November.

With 58 women from across Avanade participating, it’s the program’s largest cohort ever. The women will join a three-hour session once per week for six weeks before moving to one-on-one coaching along with webinars or coaching circles every few weeks until November.

Also new this year is the freshly launched ALPW Alumni Program, which allows former participants to keep touchpoints, learn from experts and leaders, and grow their network. Anyone who has attended ALPW in the last six years is welcome to join.

To gain more insight into these new experiences, we chatted with 2021 ALPW participant Jen Glover, digital product manager, ALPW alumna Patricia Valloni, Growth Markets corporate citizenship lead.

2021 ALPW Participant Jen Glover

How did you feel when you first heard you've been selected for this year's cohort?

I’d heard the mythology of ALPW since probably in my first six months at Avanade, and I've been wanting to get in that program ever since joining. So, it's been about two years in the making, kind of lobbying for myself, and eventually, yeah, I got it and I was really ecstatic and felt really seen and validated.

Apart from those immediate, ecstatic reactions, did you have any concerns about participating in the program?

I did, mainly linked to the new virtual format that includes a three-hour learning session every Monday for five weeks. I was mainly concerned because I recently took on a team lead role and I was a little concerned that this would tear into my schedule, and I wanted to be there for my team and delegate effectively. But really, I just let my team know that during Mondays at this time I wouldn’t be available because I had to focus on this, and we made it work. Also, thinking in terms of return on investment on my time, although I’m spending it away from the team, ultimately it's going to benefit them and I’ll be better at supporting them as a leader.

You’re really role modelling a positive behavior by showing your team that you are prioritizing your own development as well. So hopefully if they are in a similar position one day, they'll feel comfortable to do that too.

It's really great that you said that, because I know personally, it's so hard. And as a female, it’s harder to put myself first, and feel I can concentrate on this FOR ME. It’s just such a hesitancy we have to overcome. And if you don’t make that time for yourself, you’ll get resentful. So it’s important to have that balance and be intentional about it. I recently sent an email to the team saying, you know, if you have downtime, don't hesitate take advantage of learning opportunities. Watch a video, read a book, or do something that that'll upskill you, and that you're interested in.

Now that you’ve completed the first part of ALPW 2021, was it what you expected?

In terms of the curriculum, it wasn’t what I expected actually, but it provided something we all needed. We all get a lot of career advice in general, but there are all these variables that prevent you sometimes from taking that advice, whether it's not the right scenario that you're in at work; or if it's not the right dynamic you have someone; or if your own personality doesn't support that type of behavior. I hear certain advice and I just think no, I would never do that, so it's not for me. The curriculum really encourages introspection of yourself as a leader. I didn't realize it, but that’s the first step. One of the first learnings I took from the program is that it's simply not enough to give someone at leadership title, they have to make a mental shift to see themselves as a leader. I feel like I was missing some of the language to describe that before ALPW. When you go from being an individual contributor to a people manager, you can have something like an existential crisis: Am I adding as much value now that I’m not doing the actual work?

Were there any particular highlights or standout moments?

Well, I shared a lot in the sessions, and was pretty transparent and vulnerable – because I felt I could be. Maybe the virtual format allowed the introverts like me to be a little more vocal and transparent! I expressed some of those growing pains of getting promoted into a new role and not being as comfortable as I was in my last role, and things that were affecting me when Chief People Officer Caroline Fanning was speaking with us. She reached out and offered to have a virtual coffee with me. We spent 30 minutes together where she asked me more about my experiences and listened, empathized with me and gave me some great advice. And that meant a lot.

What advice would you give to future participants in ALPW?

Have some sort of vision of what kind of leader you want to be. For me, it’s always to be the kind of manager I wish I’d had earlier in my career. Start to think like a leader and know what an impact you can make on people and their development. Even if someone is on your team for a year or less, you can still have an impact on their trajectory, whether it's by lifting them up, supporting them, and sponsoring them.

ALPW Alumna Patricia Valloni

When did you attend ALPW?

December 2018 in Italy. I was four months pregnant at the time. Pregnancy is a period of great uncertainty in a woman's life, especially around career. The investment Avanade made in developing me as a person and as a leader, in addition to the powerful connections I made with the other women at the event, made me more confident and aware of my capabilities.

What was the most impactful thing you learned and were able to use, or apply, in your professional life after ALPW?

We did self-knowledge exercises, which help me a lot to work more assertively, taking into account my feelings, strengths and points of improvement, respecting my limits as a human being

What made you decide to participate in the new ALPW alumni program?

Keeping the connection with these amazing women who listen, share, teach and learn.

How have you found the ALPW alumni program so far?

I think it's worthwhile to keep in touch on this journey, as well as having new content so we can continue our learning and development journey.

Is there any advice you’d like to give to the women in the ALPW 2021 cohort as they continue their development journey?

To be honest with yourself. Don't change yourself too much and believe in your skills. And I look forward to a time when we can all gather together again.

The original article was published here.

Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing.  By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career.  The world is your oyster, and it starts with you. 

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