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Adam Warby
Adam Warby, CEO of Avanade.

You may have heard a bit of dialogue of late about gender equality, whether it’s in the technology industry where companies are scrambling to close the gap when it comes to male and female representation, or on the national political stage, where … well, you know.

Adam Warby, CEO of Seattle-based Avanade, the tech consulting and services company, is passionate about gender equality.

“I come from a family of strong women: my mother, my wife and my daughters are all highly intelligent and confident women,” Warby said. “Which is why I find it inexcusable that, generally in work situations, and particularly in the IT sector, women are often under-represented and regarded as less capable than men in terms of technical understanding and management ability. Women add incalculable value to all human endeavor, and to limit or exclude their representation is irrational and demeaning.”

It’s inspiring language from Warby, who just happens to be GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.

Since 2011, Warby has ensured that the topic is a priority on the Avanade agenda.

“For me, equality and diversity became a necessary focus because we were a technology company that had poor representation of women in our leadership team and across the business,” Warby said. “It was a raw point for me and I really wanted to tackle it. Not least, it’s an issue of responsibility. We were missing out on recruiting best talent.”

The onetime Microsoft GM and his team will get the chance to identify and recruit the best talent next week, when they attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston — the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.

In addition to offering speed mentoring sessions for conference attendees with their senior leaders from Australia, North America and the UK, the Avanade team will be setting their sights on a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM  title with an attempt to have the most contributions to a computer program in 24 hours.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Adam Warby:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “Avanade’s vision is to be the leading digital innovator within the Microsoft ecosystem. That means my job is about helping our clients and their customers take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges that the digital world brings.

“With the technology we have available today and the way it’s changed customer expectations, we’re living and working in an unprecedented time. Customers want a consistent experience with a brand across all channels — mobile, online or in person. Millennials have grown up with smart phones in their hands — and their expectations are changing the way brands sell, market and interact. We know that the customer experience will be the differentiator for organizations in the digital world — but there is less discussion about the importance of the employee experience that sits behind it. When those come together, that is when the real magic happens.

“Many business and IT leaders are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm. Every company is being disrupted in some way — and how they deal with that disruption will either make them more competitive or weaken them greatly.

“While technology advancements are incredible, it’s why they are doing all of this that fascinates me. It’s not about the technology per se but about what it can do to empower and engage customers and employees in exciting new ways.

“So why do I do it? Because it’s fun!”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Technology is a force for good and it improves the way we work and live. It’s not only solving business problems and helping organizations seize new opportunities though. It’s giving us, as humans, the ability to address some of the serious problems we face with how to grow more food, conserve water, deliver better health care to remote locations, just to name a few.

“So yes, technology is incredible. But it doesn’t replace the inventiveness, innovation and cultural richness that is born out of everyday work and social interaction. I think this is becoming more evident as we see the headlines about robots coming to work and intelligent machines handling mundane tasks.

“At the end of the day, technology enables us to have incredible lives. But it’s people that will always be at the center of that equation.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “It may seem strange for a self-confessed geek, but I’m also a people person and get my inspiration from the people around me every day — at Avanade, our clients, my family and friends. I tend to solve challenges best when I’m bouncing ideas and solutions around with a group of curious and engaged people.

“From my perspective, our 29,000 professionals across the world are really volunteers. They choose to come to work every day and realize results for our clients. Why are they doing it? I think tangibles like compensation and career opportunities only tell half the story. It’s really about their fundamental belief they have a purpose and the opportunity to make an impact for our clients and their customers.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see our people innovate with the passion and purpose that enable our clients to navigate their own digital transformations.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Hands down, my Microsoft Surface. It travels everywhere with me. I can work, connect on Skype for Business with colleagues using the great camera and speaker, surf the Web, connect with friends, download my daily newspaper and even on occasion tap into live streaming of my favorite sport: rugby. (If I sound like an advert, then so be it. You should try one!).”

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “More often than not, my workspace is the seat of an airplane! I log thousands of airplane miles every year, so I’ve become quite used to relying on mobility to stay in touch and conduct business.”

Warby's best piece of advice for his fellow geeks? Stop and smell the roses. (Courtesy of Adam Warby)
Adam Warby’s best piece of advice for his fellow geeks? Get away from the computer, get outside and smell the roses — like these actual beauties in his English garden. (Courtesy of Adam Warby)

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Protect your time, and decide on three things you are going to achieve in the morning every day. There’s always a monkey on your back: the emails in your inbox that demand your attention; that Tweet you need to respond to; the texts that need replying. The trick is to prioritize the things that are most important and resist the urge to complete everything else on your to do list.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows — Windows 10 in fact!”

Transporter, Time machine or Cloak of invisibility? “Given the many miles I put in on planes, trains and automobiles, my vote is definitely for a transporter.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Build a Leadership Coaching App with a cognitive VUI. I am passionate about leadership and would love to share my lessons learned broadly as well as capture the experience of others that could build over time. Just imagine leadership judgement being codified in an app like that!”

Your role models: “As someone who is especially interested in the impact that women leaders are making on the technology industry as a whole (and the father of two daughters myself), some of my role models tend to be women who’ve made economic, political and social impacts throughout history.

“Women such as Malala Yousafzai, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for the campaigning she has done for the right to education for women; or Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and the first woman to have held the office; have not only succeeded but have made a difference in the world despite the adversity that they faced along the way.”

Greatest game in history: “I’m sure I’ll get some opinions on this, but for me it’s rugby. In particular the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in which England beat Australia!”

Best gadget ever: “My vote would be for the personal computer — it changed everything!”

First computer: “At the risk of dating myself, my first computer was a CDC Mainframe while I was a student at Imperial College in London. My first personal computer was an IBM machine — although I honestly can’t remember which one, it was that long ago!”

Current phone: “Microsoft Lumia 950 Dual Sim.”

Favorite app: “Shazam. How cool is it that your phone can listen to a song and tell you the artist, title and where to buy it?”

Favorite cause: “I’m proud to say that last year, Avanade forged a partnership with the Aspire Foundation, whose goal is to provide mentors for 1 billion women. In this past year alone, 500 Avanade employees have become mentors to 500 female entrepreneurs around the world to help them advance their skills and networks. I personally mentor two women as part of the program — one in Uganda and the other in the U.S. — and it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

Most important technology of 2016 “It has to be the Cloud. Even though we’ve been living with cloud platforms, apps and infrastructure for some time, there is always a tipping point with any technology where adoption becomes mainstream — even with regulated industries like financial services and governments.

“The availability of a truly ubiquitous computing platform with built in intelligence, the so called Intelligent Cloud as Microsoft puts it, is the biggest opportunity business has seen from IT since the PC and the internet. Put this alongside the level of mobility we have today and it’s triggering the greatest shifts in business since the early days of the dot com revolution.”

Most important technology of 2018: “If the headlines and predictions are any indication, I’d have to say that smart technologies — connected things, intelligent automation and dare I say robots — are changing virtually every aspect of work and play.

“Our own global research showed that c-level and IT executives are bracing for significant change, with the majority predicting that that by 2020 their organizations’ workforce will need to change substantially as more smart technologies are used. And, the majority say that the pace of technology change will continue to increase at an unprecedented rate over the next three years.

“Smart machines of all types will continue to help businesses connect all of their data into meaningful insights that will help drive sales, improve productivity and help engage customers and employees. (Heads up: the new cognitive bot technology from Microsoft is going to be a game changer.) And if Elon Musk and Google have their way, today’s kindergartners could be using self-driving cars by the time they are old enough. (Check out my conversation with GeekWire’s John Cook on this very topic.)

“Some predict that smart machines will replace many current roles in the workplace, and perhaps they will. Call me an optimist, but I’d like to think that these technologies will replace the more menial tasks of work and leave us humans to innovative, more fulfilling and creative jobs.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Every once in a while, step away from your computer and phone, get outside and smell the roses.”

Website: Avanade

Twitter: @AdamWarby 

LinkedIn: Adam Warby

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