• Maxim Williams shares how his upbringing has shaped his perspective and informed his work as Autodesk’s VP of Culture, Diversity, & Belonging.
  • Autodesk’s new diversity and belonging goals focus on workforce representation and building a culture of belonging.
  • Since the previous goals launched in 2020, Autodesk has made strides in workforce diversity and bolstering key programs like Employee Resource Groups, NEXT LEVEL leadership development, and Career Advancement Retention Effort (CARE).

Maxim Williams (right) pictured with his brother and sister.

Growing up, my childhood was a bit like Stranger Things, minus the monsters. I spent most of my youth in Toronto, raised in a multicultural tapestry of family and friends from around the world. My friends and I would ride our BMX bikes all over the neighborhood, making our way to a local forest, Dungeons and Dragons in tow, and have real and imagined adventures for hours on end before dark. Our little cast of characters reflected different parts of the world, from Guyana, Philippines, Pakistan, Germany, Portugal, Trinidad, and of course, Canada.

Six months ago, I joined Autodesk as the Vice President of Culture, Diversity, and Belonging. In my short time here, I’ve witnessed a shared commitment to diversity and belonging across the entire company. My upbringing has shaped my vision for a thriving company culture—a rich diversity of people and perspectives that make up an authentic, collaborative community.

I know this is achievable at Autodesk. I’m excited for us to unlock our collective potential to be more innovative, connected, collaborative, and trusted across our teams, our customers, and around the world. I look forward to doing this work in ways where everyone feels included and part of our ever-expanding community, contributing to our bold mission to design and make a better future, for all.

Now, let’s talk about how we get there…

First, we must ask ourselves, what does a truly inclusive community look like and how do we get there? Within a company, diversity brings an essential mix of perspectives, which makes us better from the inside out.

With this in mind, we have five goals we hope to achieve by the end of FY26, with a continual review of our progress on representation:

  • 25% women in tech roles globally
  • 31% women in commission-eligible sales roles globally
  • 7.5% Black, Latinx, and Indigenous individuals in senior director and above roles in the US and Canada
  • 12% Black, Latinx, and Indigenous employees in the US and Canada
  • Maintain a 4-point or smaller difference between all demographic groups and company-wide survey scores on belonging and care.

We are focused on workforce representation because we believe our employee population should reflect the world and help meet the diverse needs and demands of our business.

These goals will help guide us in creating an innovative and inclusive culture where our employees are empowered to do their best work, together.

Maxim (bottom left) and the PPL team at an employee offsite gathering at Autodesk’s Portland office earlier this year.

Progress and Learnings

It’s encouraging to see the momentum we’ve built, especially since Autodesk launched its first diversity and belonging goals in 2020. We all know too well what happened next: a global pandemic, the great resignation, and a softening of diversity and belonging–related commitments across the industry. Despite this, we remained steadfast in creating a culture where employees, no matter their background, feel they belong.

Our initial goals focused on three levers of change: attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, expanding leadership diversity, and fostering a culture of belonging. Even though we didn’t hit every target within these key areas, due in part to the challenges and volatility during that period, we are proud of the progress we made and can benefit from what we’ve learned.

We made significant advancements in fostering greater gender and ethnic diversity within our talent pool, including a 49.5% increase in the number of women in tech roles, a 20.6% increase in the number of leaders (director and above) based outside of the US, and a 60% increase in the number of leaders (senior director and above) in the US who are people of color.

We’ve expanded our Employee Resource Group (ERG) community to include two new ERGs, Autodesk’s Indigenous Network and MIND (Mental Inclusion, Neurodivergence, and Disability) Network, to support employees with even more opportunities to connect based on common backgrounds and shared experiences. Through opportunities to lead stretch projects, participate in training and development opportunities, and work closely with executive sponsors in executive leadership, our ERG members are positioned to grow and develop their careers at the company. And rightfully so, as they have contributed immeasurably to our culture.

Our ongoing NEXT LEVEL program provides leadership development and sponsorship opportunities designed to increase underrepresented people of color in senior leadership. Since the start of the program, 25% of participants have received promotions. This program will continue to play an essential role in expanding opportunities for leaders of color at Autodesk.

Last year, we grew our Career Advancement Retention Effort (CARE) program, extending its reach to all employees globally. CARE enhances employee-manager relationships through trust building and developing mutual understanding of our individual career motivations. This initiative provides managers with guidance on supporting the experiences of underrepresented people and those from intercultural and non-US backgrounds.

See more culture, diversity, and belonging highlights in Autodesk’s annual impact report.

Maxim with his former karate students from Summit Mist Martial Arts.

A culture of belonging for all Autodeskers

We often hear the critique that diversity and belonging initiatives are skewed toward a US-centric or Western perspective. As someone born outside of the US, I try to approach my work as a global citizen. That means, representing perspectives from employees around the world in the work we do to create a culture of belonging.

I look forward to getting to know many of you and am excited to strengthen our culture of belonging together. I like to think of the concept of belonging as an evolving reality, much like my neighborhoods growing up. When new families moved in, we eventually got to know them, both as neighbors and friends. Over time, they contributed their unique gifts and perspectives to the rich fabric of our community, making it a better place for everyone to live and grow.

Our culture, diversity, and belonging work as a company can follow a similar path. As we continue to better understand ourselves and each other, we can build a culture where everyone, everywhere feels like they can contribute to our bold mission to design and make a better future, for all.