Back in July, Google Cloud welcomed the arrival of newly appointed Adaire Fox-Martin as EMEA Cloud President, bringing more than two decades of tech leadership to the role. Michelle Winny, Editor of PCR caught up with Ms Fox-Martin to find out about how’s she’s got to where she is professionally, her views on women into tech and encouraging more channel diversity.
Highly accomplished at building high performing teams across Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific, Adaire Fox-Martin most recently was Executive Board Member and President of Global Sales, Services, and Customer Engagement at SAP, where she successfully spearheaded and grew the company’s customer-focused teams. Prior to SAP, she held various leadership roles at Oracle.
Adaire recently served on the Board of Directors of Equinix, the world’s largest data center and colocation provider. In 2020, she was named in Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women International List for the fourth time running.
Adaire’s route into the tech industry is a somewhat unconventional one, as she explains: “I started my career as a secondary school English teacher, so you could say my route into the technology industry has been fairly unusual! The role taught me many skills that I hold so valuable today – teaching is the one job in the world where you are immediately, on your first day, the CEO of 30 people sitting right in front of you! It’s your responsibility to organise them, maintain their attention, and inspire.
“My journey from there to now hasn’t been linear. Somewhere along the way someone took a risk on me as a non-standard applicant into the IT world and that helped to set me on the path to where I am today. There were a lot of similarities between being a secondary school teacher and my first role as a training consultant. I loved taking the skills I’d developed at that time and applying them to something entirely new. From that first role, I ended up navigating my way through each line of business in a software company, from consulting, to support, to development, to marketing, and finally, to sales. Understanding how the sum of the parts make up the whole is crucial. It also means that I have developed an innate empathy for the people in my team fulfilling each of these roles. Whilst I didn’t recognise it at the time, performing different roles within a business was great preparation for senior leadership positions, though this realisation has come with the benefit of hindsight and was never my intention at the time!”
What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech channel and what inspires you now?
Initially it was the challenge of doing something that was so different to the role that I had studied and trained for. Today I am inspired by the potential for a positive impact on the communities we live in and serve.
How is life at Google Cloud?
I’m two month’s in so far, and thoroughly enjoying it. I was very fortunate to have been given the gift of time between this role and my previous role. I appreciated the stillness this afforded me and the fact that it gave me the opportunity to be very considered in my choices. I’m really excited for what’s to come.
It’s an incredible time to be at Google Cloud, particularly in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). We’re at a point where companies – large and small – are considering how they transform their business and which partners can support them on this journey. To that end, I’ve been super impressed by the breadth and depth of Google Cloud’s products and services, and what we are able to offer to our EMEA customers and partners. Now is our moment and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the incredible talent we have here, as well as the variety of solutions we have to offer.
I understand you were named in Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women International List for the fourth time running. What does this mean to you?
Being named as one of Fortune’s top 50 most powerful women is a wonderful acknowledgement. It’s exceptionally positive for recognising the role that women have had in the industry and the role that women play in changing the dynamics of business, across all industries and geographies. However, while these awards celebrate individuals, what they really do is celebrate the contribution of each individual’s team. Whatever path someone navigates, they don’t do it alone. These awards truly speak to the talented teams I’ve been so fortunate to work with throughout my career.
Looking forward, I hope for the day where we don’t need to call out women as leaders, but rather look at characteristics of leadership as a whole, irrespective of gender. That being said, until that day arrives, it is important for young talent in the industry to be able to look at the leadership of their organisation and see someone that looks a little like them and speaks a little like them.
Do you think there are currently enough women being recruited into senior positions of management in the tech channel? What can be done to encourage more women into these roles?
This is a perennial question every company in the tech space is dealing with. Leaders make decisions that affect the products we build, the people we serve, and the employees and culture of companies. As such, businesses need to strive for a leadership team that is representative of the environment that we live in. If a business’s internal demographic doesn’t match its external one, that’s a lost opportunity that needs to be addressed.
There is no quick or easy way to get more women into leadership positions, but there are recruitment, progression and retention strategies that can be put in place to ensure that companies continue to move forward in the right direction. Targeted career development programmes, which provide coaching, community-building, mentorship, and advocacy can help women foster relationships with senior leaders and advance their careers. Employers need to also think about the wholeness of employees and how they can support employees’ physical, psychological and social well-being every day.
While there has been progress in the last few years, we’re still way off from where we need to be as an industry. It’s important that as business leaders we are conscious of the diversity in our teams, that we ask the right questions at critical moments in processes related to hiring and promotion.
Do you think the channel needs to do more to create a place of diversity and inclusion? If so, what can be done to achieve this?
The tech industry at large needs to focus on building workforces that better represent our world, while ensuring that company cultures make employees feel like they belong. Hiring and retaining talented professionals from underrepresented groups needs to be a key focus, as does the industry’s work to understand the identities, intersectionalities and experiences of employees worldwide. We need to be open-minded about who we hire and take chances on applicants where we think it will pay off. I personally experienced the benefit of a leader willing to take that risk. There’s no silver bullet for creating a place of diversity and inclusion, but until we have a team that reflects the demographics of the community that we serve, it’s something we need to stay focused on.
If there was piece of leadership advice you’d offer, what would it be?
Never forget what it is like to be managed – someone told me this in my early days as a manager and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s such a small statement, yet it’s followed me for years. It underpins being an empathic leader. As managers and leaders, we need to treat colleagues as we would like to be treated. And that doesn’t mean sugar coating anything, or holding back in difficult conversations, it just means doing them in a constructive and respectful way, putting yourself in the shoes of the person on the other side of the conversation.
It’s easy for managers and leaders to forget what it’s like when you’re starting out in your career, or when you’re yet to fully establish yourself. But it is a manager’s responsibility to nurture this talent, create the right culture and generate results. While the tech industry at large needs to focus on building workforces that better represent our world, leadership teams need to ensure that company cultures make employees feel like they belong, all year round.