Holly Camponez, Director of Design and Creative Services, and Pallavi Mehta, Director of Client Services, reveal what differentiates Avenue Code from other service providers and employers.

Nareeman Jamal: In this special edition of Leaders in Studio, I have the pleasure of interviewing two Avenue Code leaders: Pallavi Mehta, Director of Client Services, and Holly Camponez, Director of Creative Services. Holly, tell us about your journey at Avenue Code.

Holly Camponez: It’s been a great journey, and it’s also been full of a lot of twists and turns. Nearly six years ago, I had the longest interview of my life: I came in for what was supposed to be a thirty-minute meet-and-greet at 10am, and I didn’t leave until 2:30pm. I met every person in the office that day, but what was so amazing to me about that experience was that everyone I met was clearly very passionate about what they were creating. 

I was fascinated by what I saw, and I felt very clearly that Avenue Code was a place where I could learn and grow. I accepted the offer the same day I received it, and I just knew it was going to be the start of something special. 

I’ve held a lot of different roles at Avenue Code. I started as the Director of Marketing and Communications; I later took on a role managing Client Services before Pallavi joined us; and now I run our Design and Creative Services division, which is a separate agency inside Avenue Code. I’m very excited about what we’re creating at .Design, where we’ve gone from a team of two internal graphic designers to sixty people globally!

NJ: That’s amazing growth! Pallavi, tell us about your journey.

Pallavi Mehta: I’ve been with Avenue Code for about two and a half years now. When I joined, I knew Avenue Code ticked all of the boxes of what I was looking for in a new job, but looking back, I can say that it’s the best thing that has happened to me in my career. I’m constantly pondering what makes me so happy here, and I think one of the biggest reasons is just how beautifully and organically we flow.

Our leaders lead with their hearts. They don’t define goals and processes because they trust us to work toward the end goal. When I joined Avenue Code, I learned that we didn’t even have a sales team until five years ago, yet we were still growing exponentially. I started observing the organization to figure out how this was possible. I realized first that our work itself was excellent and we got a lot of referrals. Also, we are relationship and delivery focused instead of sales focused. I’ve kept this in mind as our Client Services team has grown. Both during and after the pandemic, we’ve managed to continue growing and thriving beautifully.

NJ: I want to hear more about the internal synergy between teams that makes this possible. Holly, can you give us your perspective on this?

HC: This is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently because people aren’t quite sure how .Design fits into Avenue Code, but the collaboration and support between the two sides of the business are incredible. Part of what made my journey at Avenue Code so special was the ability to try new roles, and after working closely with our clients, I discovered that we could bring them great value by offering design services. It was definitely a question of how to create a design agency that has independent credibility but is also in lockstep with the rest of the company.

PM: I want to chime in here because I regularly see clients coming to us for development work with a concept and features already defined. But we realized that there were gaps due to the fact that development was happening without a design perspective. That’s where Holly’s team really helped us shine.

HC: It’s been a virtuous cycle. If we can start with design services and understand how strategic decisions are being made and what user research is dictating, we are better positioned to deliver for our clients and offer a truly consultative perspective that can call out potential roadblocks or points of failure.

PM: Our clients look at us as partners, not just suppliers, so they’re very receptive to hearing our feedback and entertaining the new ideas the .Design team brings.

HC: And from our perspective, the relationship with Avenue Code has made .Design successful in a way that traditional agencies cannot be. Typically design work is siloed. Designers may talk to stakeholders, but not to developers, and sometimes not even to users. When design is done collaboratively and in tandem with developers, you get executable concepts that deliver better results, including faster delivery, faster time to market, and broader adoption.

NJ: So what is it that differentiates Avenue Code from other consultancies?

PM: I’ve been in the industry for almost ten years, and what is starkly different at Avenue Code is our holistic approach and our customer focus. For example, when COVID hit, one of our clients was in the middle of several huge projects with tight timelines. One of the requirements was that the client’s laptops needed to be shipped to our development centers. With COVID, the client was suddenly unable to ship laptops, and the project came to a standstill.

I talked to Zeo, our founder, and his immediate reaction was, “We’ll figure it out; we will not let the client’s work stop. Their timeline is of primary importance.” Before I knew it, he found a way to get the laptops to Brazil. This really influenced my thought patterns. I’ve always been guided by this one statement: the client’s work should not stop. This is our biggest differentiator, and it’s obvious to our clients that we are working to remove every blocker.

HC: Something Pallavi said really resonated with me: our attitude of “we’ll figure it out.” It’s such a small phrase, but it says so much about who we are as a company and how we go about trying things out. There are many companies now talking about “fail fast, pivot, etc.,” but the reality is that most people are scared to death to take a risk. As a company, we do this. We do it responsibly and with integrity, and we say no to projects we can’t deliver on, but we also take risks, and everyone in every department at every level of the organization has this attitude of “Yes. I might not know how yet, but yes.” 

NJ: We spoke earlier about the global nature of Avenue Code, and we’re expanding into more and more countries all the time. Pallavi, tell me about how you manage a global team?

PM: I don’t think that we as leaders manage our teams. I want to give a huge shoutout to our Talent Acquisition team: they have some secret filter for hiring people who are by nature collaborative and don’t need to be managed. My team may be spread across the world, but they share the same mindset.

NJ: So how does Avenue Code instill this mindset?

PM: We lead by example. We hire based on a match with our values and the right wisdom and maturity levels, and when our new consultants see how organic our environment is, they blend seamlessly with it. Avenue Code is so flexible. If one of our Brazilian consultants wants to work out of Canada, for example, we have programs that make it happen. We empower everyone to do their best from anywhere.

HC: I think the best moments in any career happen when you find that intersection between what lights you up and makes you thrive and what contributes business value. At Avenue Code, we are exceptionally good at coaching people to find that intersection. 

Your question is interesting, Nareeman, because I recall so many conversations before the pandemic, not just in Avenue Code but globally, about whether we should be open to remote work, particularly given how in-demand tech talent is. There were so many hesitations because we were acutely aware of the risks involved, not least how difficult it could be to get our client portfolio on board. 

The pandemic forced our hand, and I believe it was the best thing that could have happened. All those risks we foresaw were real, but every person who worked remotely had a choice to tune out and do the bare minimum or else double down on their commitment, passion, and ownership. What’s so remarkable to me is that the percentage of people in Avenue Code who took that second path and are still with us today is huge. We were forced to give people the freedom to decide how they would work, and they surprised us in the best possible way. 

NJ: The freedom we have to raise concerns and propose ideas we know leadership will take seriously definitely encourages this sense of ownership. 

PM:  Connecting the dots, I really feel like we were hiring the right people. It used to be that when my team members went on vacation, they were still looking at their emails, and I actually had to tell them to stop responding and take time off. But the common reply I heard was, “But work has to go on; I don’t want to be a blocker.” 

It was great that they were going above and beyond, but they also needed rest. I brought it up to leadership and got their support to restructure things so that now every account has multiple people responsible. This gave our internal team greater peace of mind to take time off, and it also gave our clients a seamless experience. 

HC: The ownership that has us checking emails when we shouldn’t is the same trait that has now matured into our ability to actually disconnect and rest. Speaking from personal experience, I struggled so much to not work during maternity leave. I did come back sooner than I had planned because I just missed work, but what was so amazing is that I saw my team repeatedly stepping up and handling situations in my absence. I’ve never heard any Avenue Coder say, “That’s not my job, go talk to someone else.”

PM: Even our sales team is so collaborative and able to look at the bigger picture instead of being possessive of their accounts.

HC: I want to ask you to elaborate on that, Pallavi, because that’s something unique that came with your leadership. So many sales directors lead by creating a sense of competition. How did you create an environment where everyone thinks about the success of the organization instead of their own metrics?

PM: I can’t take credit for this–we inherited it from leadership, and Talent Acquisition hired people with the right value system, wisdom, and maturity. We hire for DNA, so we don’t need to train this trait, we just need to reinforce it. Motivation is the most important quality for a successful team. Nareeman, before we conclude this interview, I want to hear about your journey at Avenue Code!

NJ: I started as a Business Specialist but evolved quickly, and I have to give credit to Pallavi, who took me under her wing and told me what to watch out for, which skills to cultivate, and how to frame my mindset. I’ve learned so much about how to strategically analyze situations and put myself in our clients’ shoes to improve their experience. 

My favorite thing about Avenue Code right now is the relationships I’ve built, not only with our clients, but also with our leadership. I was just telling Pallavi that we all feel very comfortable reaching out to anyone in leadership. As a side note, I’m also a traveler, and Avenue Code’s support of my working remotely to spend time with my family is exceptional.

HC: You mentioned how easy it is to reach out to leadership, and I want to share an anecdote about this. My husband, who leads Avenue Code’s product team, has been with the company for ten years, and he tells me about when our CTO Amir would visit the company’s Brazil office every six weeks when there were just eight people in a small room. Amir would never leave without checking that his phone number was still written on the whiteboard so that anyone could call him at any time with a question, blocker, or problem. The fact that Amir still reinforces this now that we are a global company of over 1,000 people is really special. 

PM: When Amir sends his email, he never includes his title because he doesn’t want people to feel a barrier to contacting him. I have seen such humility from our leadership. I remember a client call where Amir proactively called out and apologized for a missed delivery and personally took responsibility to fix it. There was silence on the client side, and then their three VPs responded by saying there were things their teams had missed too that influenced our timeline. The fact that Amir took responsibility for issues the client didn’t even raise gave me such respect for him.

HC: We talk a lot about being a partner and not a vendor, and that’s the difference. If you’re truly being a partner, you have the integrity to own up and make a plan to fix it. 

NJ: These stories highlight what I always tell our consultants: it’s a great time to be an Avenue Coder. Thank you both for your leadership and for sharing your perspectives with us today!

 

Watch Holly and Pallavi's interview and learn more about Leaders inStudio:

Leaders inStudio


Author

Nareeman Jamal

Nareeman is an Account Manager at Avenue Code. She's passionate about working with executives and advancing women in business. She’s inspired by traveling, meeting new people, and getting exposed to new cultures. Other than traveling, she enjoys reading, crossfit, and spending time with family.


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