All her career, Anna Di Silverio has been stretching herself. After a few years as a software developer, coding in Visual Basic and C++, she moved from a technical role and stepped up into management and leadership.
First, with Microsoft Consulting as services director, Public Sector Lead, and then with Hewlett Packard as technology services country manager. Avanade’s senior management then decided Anna was ready for a new challenge. “I really like pushing boundaries,” she says.
Joining the IT consulting and services firm in 2010 as the general manager of Italy, she managed to transform “a team of technology experts into strong consultants focused on delivering client business value”.
Anna relocated to Singapore in 2015 to become the COO of Growth Markets, responsible for Asia–Pacific, South Africa and Brazil. “In my first year in Growth Markets, I spent time learning about the business, different markets in all the different countries, and how to make them more efficient and productive,” she recalls.
Not long after that, in September 2016, she became President of Growth Markets. On top of encountering new business models, the role exposes Anna to a broad range of cultures. “I enjoy the beauty and colour of diversity. Despite different cultures and economic maturity, clients are all going through a common journey – and that is of digital transformation. Some will even leapfrog the rest of the world,” she says. “This is something I find particularly exciting.”
Anna Di Silverio’s approach to emerging and established markets
Anna takes a different approach to emerging markets than she would to a more established market. For her, it’s essentially a strategy of “creating strong local capabilities”. “We spend more time in building the foundations to ensure we create a backbone and have the core capabilities that make us successful in delivering our services, helping clients unlock data value, agile infrastructure and innovation. We are a global company, but we also want to flex and specialise locally, leveraging local knowledge and developing the skills of local talent to connect globally,” Anna explains.
Well aware of the IT industry’s rapidly changing nature, Anna understands the importance of adapting to the times and making sure employees are appropriately equipped to take on the resulting new challenges. In recent years, she has noticed a dramatic shift to moving systems into the cloud.
Providing cloud-scale architecture has been crucial for Avanade’s business, as well as scales that are related to artificial intelligence such as robotics process automation and advanced analytics. “All of this requires not only new skills but also new professions such as data scientists and cybersecurity specialists needing knowledge that is deep and multifaceted,” Anna says.
Forgetting what you already know
Another part of adapting, according to Anna, is realising that in some cases you might need to throw out what you know and learn from scratch. “In the beginning, you’re appointed to a job because you prove you have certain skills and you think you know how to do everything, but when new challenges come along, you need new approaches. I found it particularly useful just asking questions and listening to colleagues or clients, spending time understanding, and then creating new ways of doing things.”
Empathy also plays an important role in leadership. Anna spends a lot of time communicating with employees through meet-ups, webcasts and internal social networks. “I use these tools to engage in a common sense of purpose, where everybody can enjoy the benefits of collaborating, sharing, growing together, and having more career opportunities/professional development,” she says. “It’s unbelievable what you can learn from a new employee too as they can provide fresh perspective in addressing a problem.”
A simple but important goal
While Avanade continues its move into uncharted territory in more ways than one, the goal for Anna is simple – maintain the company’s double-digit growth in revenue. Most important to achieving this goal is keeping a low rate of employee turnover.
“We want to continue to invest in our top talent, making sure they want to stay with us for the coming years,” she concludes. “At the end of the day, this is about our mission of being the leading digital innovator in Microsoft ecosystems.”
Early in her career at Microsoft, Anna had the opportunity to meet Bill Gates. She discussed with him a piece of code developed for Poste Italiane. “He liked it very much and asked for more details. He was very interested in it,” Anna recounts. “As a young developer, having the experience of speaking the same language as Bill Gates was just fantastic.”
Avanade was formed by a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture in 2000, and the three companies still have strong ties. They work together to provide innovative solutions that digitally transform some of the world’s most recognisable brands.
“Together, Microsoft, Accenture and Avanade have a longstanding alliance that’s focused on enabling organisations across Asia to harness the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence,” Ralph Haupter, President of Microsoft Asia, says.