Lei Wang has her father—and a broken cabinet—to thank for inspiring her career path as an engineer and IT consultant. When she was 12 years old, she noticed a cabinet door at home wasn’t closing properly. “I complained to my dad, and he told me to think about the difference between a rhomboid and a rectangle,” recalls Wang, who got an A in geometry. “I realized the frame had shifted because I had put too many books on one side, so the rectangular door no longer fit the now-rhomboid-shaped frame.”
“Since then,” she continues, “I try to apply what I learned in school to problem solving in real life.”
Wang went on to study computer science, and in 2012, she joined the IT consulting company Avanade, working her way up from consultant to group manager over the last nine-plus years. “Working as an IT consultant allows me to apply my knowledge in computer science to actual software products that are used to resolve real problems in various industries,” she says.
Here, Wang shares how Avanade cultivates professional growth from within, what she loves most about the company culture, and what engineering candidates can do to stand out.
You’ve been at Avanade for almost a decade. What’s kept you there for so long?
The first is the people. I’m very lucky to have worked with visionary leaders inside and outside of the region, from directors to executives. They help me to see myself better. I’ve been asked to take on challenging projects where both the technology and the responsibility are above what I thought I could take on, but they had trust in me and all those challenges turned out to be great growing opportunities.
The second is the culture of getting noticed and recognized. Avanade has always rewarded me for a job well done. There are many channels available to recognize one’s efforts, and the returns can take on different forms, from promotions and bonuses to more visibility and bigger roles with more opportunity.
The last is the culture of continuous growth. For anyone at any level, there is training available to fit one’s interest. I just checked the learning calendar for today, and we have five technical training sessions, three professional training sessions, two solutioning and delivery training sessions, and one leadership training session scheduled.
You’ve been promoted several times since joining Avanade. How has the company helped you grow and develop?
Avanade leadership and culture were really helpful in cultivating my professional growth. I’ve been given opportunities to challenge myself to be better. Avanade also provided training and shadowing roles to enable me to face the challenge. Several years ago, I thought my career would top out as a group manager. But now I can confidently say I see myself taking a more leadership role and making great contributions to the organization from policy to strategy. That’s because I’ve been given the opportunities to observe and learn from other directors, regional leaders, and executives.
What are you responsible for in your role?
As a delivery manager and an architect, I’m responsible for designing and delivering high-quality solutions to help clients transform digitally with the latest technology. In return, this reduces expense and makes us more profitable with improved efficiency and reliability.
As the back-end role family champion for the South Engineering talent community (TC), I’m responsible for creating a community where everyone feels comfortable to exchange ideas and support each other. Most importantly, as one of the senior female employees, I feel responsible for representing the women in tech and making our voice heard. Hopefully I am helping to make some changes in the company to ease the unconscious bias on female employees.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
I’m currently working on a MS365 project at a large telecom company. It is interesting if you think of us working on a communication and collaboration platform when the company’s main business is to help their customers communicate and collaborate on their devices. We completed 13 pilot apps in three months across multiple businesses. I’m sure it will make a very positive impact on how they manage outages and retail shops. We also set up a CoE process to help the organization review and approve any future app adoptions for Microsoft Teams, which will make an even bigger impact in the long run.
What do you love best about the engineering culture at Avanade?
“Boundaryless” is the key word. At Avanade, we have 14 capability-aligned talent communities. For the Software Engineering TC I belong to, we have 13 different role families, including front-end, back-end, and full-stack development. There is no boundary between role families nor the talent communities; one can get cross trained and fill the role that they are passionate about.
Though people are at different job levels, it is not hierarchical in terms of communication and collaboration. When I onboarded my first project at Avanade, the account executive helped me set up the VPN on my laptop. And as a group manager myself, I find helping onboard new hires a pleasure as well.
What opportunities are there for learning and development as an engineer at Avanade?
We have dedicated training resources focusing on people’s professional development. In addition to the official training, there are various programs in place to offer targeted and personalized growth paths. We have career advisors who are by the side of advisees to offer immediate advice on projects, performance, and training. We also have a buddy system where peers can bounce ideas off of each other as well as mentorship programs that offer long-term career planning.
What do you look for in engineering candidates?
What I mostly look for is whether they are consultant material, which means being curious on “why,” thorough on the “how,” and being flexible on the “what.” A candidate stands out when they show that they can not only follow the train of thought of the interviewer, but also respond with more questions that leads to better design.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in an industry where they are often underrepresented, such as engineering?
Throw away the thought that “I have to do this and that because I am a woman.” We are all human beings and should be treated equally with opportunity and respect.