Making Technology Delivery Transformation Shine: Q&A With Uma Vandegrift, A Crain’s Chicago Business Rising Star in Tech

The year started off bright at Maven Wave, when our very own Uma Vandegrift, Principal, was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 2020 Rising Stars in Tech. This prestigious recognition was well-deserved as Vandegrift has grown to be one of the most influential mentors within Maven Wave. As a leading Maven, Vandegrift has significantly contributed to our firm’s growth and has helped create and launch our new Cloud Advisory team; a dedicated group focused on enabling successful enterprise digital transformation. What’s more, Vandegrift is active in the broader Chicago tech ecosystem, working with startups and even establishing a tech executive-focused networking event.


After earning her spot on this esteemed list, Vandegrift sat down with us to talk about her career path and how she continues to lead the way when it comes to digital transformation and delivery. In this insightful Q&A, Vandegrift also gives us a glimpse into her life outside of driving transformation for the world’s leading healthcare and life sciences brands and what mentorship means to her.

Q: Uma, Crain’s Chicago Business recently recognized you as one of the 2020 Rising Stars in Tech. What does this recognition mean to you? 

I was very honored to receive such prestigious recognition from Crain’s Chicago Business – a staple publication in the Chicago community. This recognition will allow me to push myself even further to reach new heights. 

Q: As the world continues to navigate the pandemic, your skills are more in demand than ever before. How have you helped Maven Wave’s clients stay competitive in today’s challenging and digital environment? 

Now more than ever, we are finding that enterprises are looking to be more innovative to deliver solutions more rapidly. At the beginning of the pandemic, one of our pharmaceutical clients was extremely focused on ramping up and delivering with speed. After building a strategic transformation roadmap, the company was able to yield a time savings of around 25% per project. This specific area of technology delivery transformation is one that I am most passionate about. 

With today’s evolving challenges, it’s vital to ensure clients understand the changes that are going on around them. At the same time, they need to deliver on those changes rapidly. This task is an enormous feat and one where Maven Wave can step in to enable seamless transformation. For Maven Wave, based on individual challenges, we help enterprises streamline processes and bring the agility needed to deliver faster. And we’ve produced some fantastic results amid a challenging and evolving landscape. 

Q: As a part of Maven Wave’s new Cloud Advisory team, still focused on Technology Delivery Transformation, can you tell us more about how you help organizations with their digital transformation initiatives? 

This year at Maven Wave, we focused on launching our new Cloud Advisory team to help our clients solve the most complex of challenges. Maven Wave approaches all transformation projects with a “think, build, and run” approach. The Cloud Advisory team focuses on the “think” stage of the process. What the newly formed Cloud Advisory team does is help clients structure and roadmap out their problems. 

Rarely do clients want to move to the cloud just for the sake of moving to the cloud. With our approach, we try and bring all of the ancillary benefits to the client by empowering them to digitally transform, giving them the ability to market faster while streamlining their options. Through the Cloud Advisory team, I enjoy enabling transformation by first helping clients get a strategic view into their obstacles, with the end goal of them becoming more digital overall.

Q: As an industry leader and mentor, how have you helped other women advance in technology? 

I believe that it’s crucial to individual growth to mentor others. At Maven Wave, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some powerful and intelligent women. I find mentoring to be a two-way relationship, where both parties can learn, grow, and inspire each other. Throughout my career, I have worked with many women across teams, and I feel that it is important to always provide open and honest feedback and advocate for everyone, especially when someone is killing it!  Also, I think it is encouraging to remind those you are mentoring that they’ve earned their seat at the table. I was very fortunate to have had a fantastic set of mentors over the course of my career, and to me, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they are male or female. What’s important is that you feel connected with your mentor and that they can push you to further your career. 

At Maven Wave, Andrew Dunmore has been an amazing mentor to me. He pushes me to be active and encourages me to pursue women-focused networking events. Before the pandemic hit, at his suggestion, I held a financial services-focused women in tech event, where a small group of executive-level women came together to network, empower each other, and learn. 

Another piece of advice would be to pursue mentorships more organically and intentionally and even consider cultivating these types of relationships with clients, where I personally have forged very valuable mentorships and close bonds. Through these relationships, I had the opportunity to attend a Google Women in Tech event with one of our biggest clients, where together, we were able to make an impact by growing our networks. 

Q: Can you tell us more about the networking opportunities for women specifically at Maven Wave? 

Sure! First things first, at Maven Wave, we all have each other’s backs. Our company truly has assembled a strong group of talented women. Through our initiative, Women at Maven Wave (WAM), we regularly meet and participate in special events to help us all grow individually and as a team. In 2020, we were even recognized by Capacity Media’s Global Women in Telco and Tech Awards 2020 for our International Women’s Day Campaign. We came together to build this campaign to showcase how important women are to the business function. 

Also, the leadership team is very supportive of us and allows us to grow and enhance our skills. 

Q: When you’re not helping Fortune 500 enterprises navigate complex technical challenges, what’s on your itinerary? 

Pre-pandemic, my itinerary was always filled with exciting travel plans. I had a few trips planned that were unfortunately canceled, including Columbia and a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to the Tokyo Olympics. I’m looking forward to rescheduling them someday. I also travel regularly to London to visit my family. This fall, I plan on visiting my father’s homeland, Tanzania, Africa, to celebrate his 70th birthday! When I’m not traveling, I enjoy cooking a little bit of everything, reading sci-fi fantasy novels, and dining at the top restaurants throughout Chicago. Currently, I enjoy dining outdoors in heated igloos and ordering takeout from local Chicago restaurants. You can also find me spending time with my younger sister Mala, who is also a Maven! 

Thanks, Uma, for your insight and for continuing to be such a guiding light here at Maven Wave and throughout Chicago! Keep shining bright! To learn more about how Vandegrift and our new Cloud Advisory team can help you get your enterprise digital transformation goals off the ground, contact us here.

February 19th, 2021

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