Tech & Innovation Blog

Meet (some of) the Women of ADP DevOps


Women in STEM, Voice of Our People, DevOps

Collage of Stella, Natalia, Tao, Monica

One group of women within our DevOps team share their story of camaraderie and making a difference at ADP. Every day, they work in close support of one another to tackle exciting technical challenges and to drive data-centric development across the company.

ADP is a 2020 Grace Hopper Award recipient for our commitment to diverse teams and the overall development of women, no matter where they are in their careers. One group of women within our DevOps team share their story of camaraderie and making a difference at ADP. Every day, they work in close support of one another to tackle exciting technical challenges and to drive data-centric development across the company. We recently caught up with Monica Bansal (Application Developer), Natalia Ermolayeva (Senior Application Developer), Tao Hu (Principal Application Developer), and Stella Jia (Senior Director, Application Development). It was clear from our chat and how they complement each other’s work why they’ve become such a tight-knit group. Below, they share what makes their collaboration work so well, their recent wins, and what they’re excited to learn—and build—in the months and years to come.

What do each of you do at ADP, and why did you join the team?

Monica sitting by a body of waterMonica: My job is a blend of application development and data analytics—I assist ADP’s data scientists with experiments and then build out the APIs. I’ve been with the company full-time for about a year now; I started as a summer intern while getting my master’s in data science and computer science. I knew I wanted to continue my career in this field, and I liked getting to work with real data and implement it in the real world. I did another part-time internship last spring while finishing my degree, and then I joined Stella’s team.

Tao: I’m a principal application developer, which means I build many of the libraries and components that allow our work to scale—they become the blueprint other teams implemented. I’ve been with ADP since 2013. Before that, I worked in finance as a Java developer. A friend of mine recommended ADP after my company moved farther from my home. I have two young boys, and I wanted to make sure I had time to take care of them. I knew ADP had a reputation for being a family-friendly employer.

When I started at ADP, my work focused on producing reports. But once Stella joined, our team shifted to more machine learning. I love problem-solving and simplifying processes, so it’s been really fun for me.

Natalia: I’m a senior application developer, and I see my role as keeping data safe and available—I handle testing and operations. I’m very new to ADP; I joined about four months ago. One big attraction was the level of collaboration between departments. I was very impressed with the people who interviewed me. Everyone was very professional, and they mentioned many modern tools that I was excited to use. I knew ADP would be a good place to broaden my skills across a lot of different areas.

Stella runningStella: I’m a senior director for application development. My job is to lead the Application Development team and make sure we’re delivering insights that will help ADP build better products. As Tao mentioned, that involves a lot of machine learning work and other statistical analysis, as well as data mining and visualization techniques. An intrinsic strength of this team is connecting the data to the real people we serve. When we look for patterns and anomalies, we’re trying to figure out how we can make people’s jobs easier as we ADP innovate and grow.

I joined ADP about four years ago; a mentor and friend I’d previously worked for recommended I apply. He had great things to say about the leadership and the vision for transformation from a service company to a technology company. The people were great, too, and I liked that I’d get to learn about a lot of domains I hadn’t worked in before. I think it’s an excellent environment for anyone who wants to grow by adding value and helping others.

How do you support each other’s work?

Tao: We’re helping each other every day, sharing results and ideas for new approaches. For example, we’ve been using a new data analysis tool to build some reports, and now we’re looking at other projects that might benefit from those same functionalities. Because of our roles, Monica and I work especially closely, but I feel like I can pick up the phone or message anyone on the team when I have something to figure out, and I’ll get help right away.

Natalia with a cat on her shoulderNatalia: Yes—I like that my teammates are always just a call or text away. Knowing each other as people, chatting and joking around makes it so much easier to communicate and work together. We’re comfortable sharing ideas freely and collaborating, even when we’re not in the same room.

Stella: Definitely. We’d love to hang out in person more, but even with everyone virtual, it’s turned out really well. And that collaboration is so important. I think of the team as a set of pillars—if any of them aren’t there, none of it works. Monica is doing the analytics and research, slicing and dicing the data. Once we’ve found something we want to build upon, Tao steps in to create that foundation. And then Natalia is there to make sure we’re not only maintaining privacy but keeping things sustainable from an operations perspective. We all need each other, and we’re all working toward the same goal and figuring out how to measure success, which could be a product’s stickiness, preventing errors, or saving people time.

Monica: I think everyone on the team is naturally very passionate about working toward what we all want to achieve. You can always go to someone with a question, and everyone pitches in when someone needs help to make sure we’re hitting our targets. Stella is great about making sure we’re all happy and doing the kind of work we want to be doing.

Tell us about some of the ways you’ve made an impact at ADP.

Tao in Death ValleyTao: We recently started using a new workflow manager tool, which has been a big win. Before, if we had a lot of ETL (extract, transform, load) jobs, we’d get files from other teams and load them into the database. With all the pieces and feeds, it wasn’t easy to see the status of any particular piece. That was frustrating. Stella recommended a workflow tool, which I hadn’t heard of at the time. After I got up to speed, we started building things out, adapting the data monitor and using the workflow manager to grab all the outputs, sending them to the monitor, and building the dashboards there. Now we have an accessible overview to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s been so helpful.

Natalia: Due to the nature of my work, success isn’t always obvious. If things run smoothly, no one notices what happens in the background, which means I’ve done my job. As I get more familiar with how things work at ADP, I’ll have some opportunities to automate more daily, repetitive tasks. That’s a big priority.

Monica: We did an error-detection project recently where we built a model to help us flag problems on the back-end when a client runs their payroll and how users respond when they get those warnings. If we have a proper pipeline of data to run the model regularly, clients can see predictions for the entire week, and we can see whether they’re using or ignoring the information, which tells us whether we need to make some corrections.

More broadly, our team helps others understand the importance and potential of data, especially here at ADP, where we have such rich data. We want to drive data-centric development, which starts with data collection. Before we can do the analytics, our data needs to be clean. So we work with a lot of other teams, helping them understand how to use the tools and making sure they’re comfortable and up-to-date on everything they need.

Stella: We are part of a data-informed culture. Technology evolves quickly. At ADP, we want to stay ahead and be proactive rather than reactive. Data is a huge asset in that effort. It gives us much faster feedback loops and insights into our clients. We can quickly see when and whether a client’s hitting a milestone.

But to leverage that asset, as Monica mentioned, we need a certain level of data literacy throughout the business. If developers understand how data can help them build a better product, it will be much easier to scale. Part of our team’s job is to encourage data literacy. We also help establish standards, offer training, and get development teams running on an autonomous path to adopt a canonical format every team can follow. We find that it is contagious. Once a few teams embrace the data, other teams understand the benefits more quickly and have more colleagues to help them learn.

What are you excited to learn next?

Natalia: There are a lot of tools I’m excited to learn more about, including the ones my colleagues have mentioned. I’m looking forward to using new technologies in general, particularly machine learning tools. I think I’ll have many opportunities to code for our team’s internal purposes, for affirmation and monitoring, too. Because I’m new to the team, I’m also learning the big picture and how everything’s connected. ADP is great with documentation, so I can find almost everything I need on my own. But I can always ask my colleagues or get up to speed through a learning session with one of our senior team members.

Tao: I’m excited to keep learning new technologies, too. I’ll often jump over to educational resources to get a quick sense of something, then I come back and try to use it. The machine learning side of things is especially exciting. Besides learning new languages, I love new concepts for how to approach our work.

Monica: I feel like I’ve grown so much already! From the start of my first internship to now, I’ve been able to work on many different services and projects, from machine learning models to APIs to analytics. Whenever Stella says, “I have an idea,” we get excited. The technologies are always changing, and that helps us grow.

Stella: One thing I’m thinking about is how to give developers more visibility into what we do. As Natalia mentioned, most of our foundational work tends to happen behind the scenes. We look forward to building stronger connections with our frontend partners, which will provide even more opportunities to enjoy the results and get recognition for our work.

At ADP, our talent pipeline is so important. It’s about getting the right people and building a strong culture. We want the goal, in everything my team does, to be a better developer experience. We strive to make people happy, make their jobs easier, make their days more efficient. If we provide them with a platform that allows them to test and measure their ideas more quickly, they’ll have more time to explore new ideas and innovate.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Race Against Time: How ADP’s Product Team Helped Thousands of Businesses Secure Critical Paycheck Protections Loans


Pandemic, Innovation, Voice of Our People

Businessman hand presses web clock time sign button

Bill and Terri look back on a whirlwind weekend in April, when the Small Business Administration (SBA) had launched an unprecedented new loan program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Here’s their story.

In the wake of COVID-19, ADP’s product teams have worked tirelessly to ensure our clients weather the storm. We wanted to catch up with two of the people who’ve made this possible. Bill Leonard, Director of Product Management, was once the payroll director for ADP. He advises early-in-career colleagues to say yes to new opportunities—it’s brought him to where he is today. Terri Thomas, Senior Director of Product Management, says that she owes her 35-year career at ADP to outstanding mentors and the advice she received from day one: Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.

Below, Bill and Terri look back on a whirlwind weekend in April, when the Small Business Administration (SBA) had launched an unprecedented new loan program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Tens of thousands of companies applied in the first hour alone. Thanks in part to our team’s hard work, many loans went to ADP clients in the first funding round.

Take us back a few months when you first got involved in this project. How did it start?

Terri ThomasTerri: I remember I got a phone call the day the CARES Act passed, the last Friday in March. The SBA would start accepting loan applications under the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) the following Friday. We wanted to be there for the thousands of ADP’s clients we expected to apply for the loans and give them the tools they would need to help their employees. That meant they needed information from us as soon as possible. I was asked to take the lead on the product side.

We had already been working on the provisions of the FFCRA, or Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which had passed the week before and potentially affected all 600,000 companies who use ADP. But the impact of CARES was massive, too, and we had far less time to take action. So, there was no debate, no red tape. We just got on a call and started working.

Bill: Absolutely. There was limited funding, especially in that first round, so our clients all wanted to be ready the minute the application period opened. We wanted to have their payroll cost reports and other supporting documents ready by Monday.

There were a couple of factors that made that difficult. For example, loan amounts were based on each employee’s annual payroll cost but capped at $100,000 per person per year. We couldn’t just pull data and run a report. The number of moving pieces was pretty astounding due to the rapid shifts in the regulatory environment with unnaturally compressed timelines. We had to respond just as quickly to ensure our clients could keep up and continue to thrive. We had a clear objective; we knew what we needed to do. I think ADP is at its best when we have a dragon to slay.

What were those first couple of days like before the project went live?

Bill LeonardBill: First, we needed to interpret the regulations. We received excellent internal guidance from ADP’s Legal and Compliance teams. They were fantastic in helping us navigate the regulatory language to figure out exactly what it all meant. We couldn’t make any assumptions—for example, defining full-time equivalent hours for employees. In the Affordable Care Act, that meant 30 hours per week, but in this legislation, it was 40.

Since ADP serves so much of the market, we had support at the federal level to ask questions and get answers quickly—and in some cases, we even made recommendations that helped shape the SBA’s guidance.

Terri: Agreed; our Legal and Compliance teams were amazing. The government would release something at 1 a.m. that we’d have to translate the logic of it, to see whether it changed what we were doing, and Legal was right there with us. FTE and lookback periods were big ones, and we also had to figure out what costs qualified, in terms of retirement and health care, and wages. Plus, there was a whole other set of guidance to interpret when it came to loan forgiveness.

ADP has such a large, diverse group of clients—everything from multinational corporations to pizza shops—we offer many different products to our client base. We had to find a way to produce reports that accommodated all those differences but were still consistent enough that a lender’s API could pull out the information they needed. So there were many conversations regarding which fields to “lockdown” and which to let clients edit. For example, if an employee doesn’t come back to work because their job is eliminated, the portion of a PPP loan based on their payroll cost usually isn’t forgivable. However, if an employee has the option to come back to work and refuses, it is. So, we had to build options for clients based on their unique situation.

What happened once the reports were posted—and what’s happened since?

Terri and a man each holding tuna caught on a fishing tripTerri: In the first couple of days after we launched, clients relied on us to help them navigate the calculations. We explained why the numbers on our reports were different from the gross wages they saw on their regular payroll reports—and why they were supposed to be.

One thing that helped, though, was that we’d been able to quickly create not just the reports but some FAQs and other collateral. We shared that with our clients and our Service teams. I think those resources were a big key to our success. We got so much positive feedback from people saying how relieved they were to log on Monday morning and see that we were already on this. They didn’t have to go searching for answers.

Bill: Yes, I think from the client’s point of view, the most valuable thing we gave them, especially in that first week, was assurance. Many business owners were really scared—imagine your company’s entire existence is in question, and here’s this possible lifeline, but you don’t know how or whether you can actually use it. We were able to say, “We’ve got it; we’ll help you through this..”

Terri: Also, while we’d had to make some executive decisions internally to get through the initial launch, we immediately shifted into getting external input. We were pulling everyone into working sessions—clients, CPAs, banks—to find out what they thought about every aspect of the project and how we could do things even better. We kept iterating based on that feedback coupled with the government guidance that continued coming in. We’re still tweaking things even today.

What did you learn from this project that will help you going forward?

Bill and PlutoBill: I think this project was an excellent example of keeping things simple. As Terri mentioned, ADP has lots of different products and tools, and for a good reason—we have many different clients. When we simplify, the easier it is to deploy new features and enable innovation. When things like this happen, it needs to be easy, innovative, and quick to market. Most of all, it needs to be right for our clients.

I also learned a lot about—and from—our team. There were many times when Terri and I and the rest of the people leading this project would talk something through, and then a developer would come back to us with a question that was complete gold and entirely changed the way we’d been thinking.

Terri: I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t matter what your role is; if you have an idea or a suggestion, we want your voice to be heard. Innovation happens here at all levels, and the feedback is immensely powerful in moving the company forward. I’ve already seen numerous examples, and I’ve only been in this role for a few months. My goal as a leader is to encourage that as much as I can.

In true ADP style, the collaboration we saw between teams was amazing. Nothing was about titles or who was attached to what product. The difference this time was that people who don’t ordinarily work together teamed up to make this happen, and having all of those unique perspectives at the table was incredible. Our shared purpose is something I really love about ADP. We’re all working toward the same goal of making an impact for our clients.

In closing, Terri and Bill, you’ve been here 35 and 27 years, respectively. Would you share how you’ve seen ADP change and what advice you would give new people starting with ADP?

Terri: I had some fantastic mentors, and they pushed and made me think about the different opportunities. The advice given to me from day one was don’t be afraid of things you don’t know. That stuck with me for 35 years, and I leaped into things that I never thought I’d even consider. You control your own destiny. Nothing is just handed to you. I got myself in the door and continued to drive my career into different areas. It took a lot of hard work, but I was dedicated to doing it and have had many supporters. So, to me, the sky is the limit at ADP. You don’t have to be stuck in one area. You can go anywhere. It’s like taking a new job when you transition to your next role.

Bill: There is a lot of runway for people on the technology side these days. If you wanted to go into management, there has always been plenty of room there. Today, there’s been much more opportunity to stay on the technology side without having to move into people management to grow your career. As an example, this year, we named our first Distinguished Engineer.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Stronger Together


Video, Culture, Pandemic

Video: Stronger Together

2020 has been a challenging year, and during challenging times, we are tested the most. At ADP, our associates never wavered in their commitment to our clients, our communities, and one another. We want to share what it means to be #ADPStrong and never to stop spreading hope. Watch our story.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Meet The Team Who improved our Year-End Testing for 401K Clients


Voice of Our People, Why ADP

Meet one of our teams who helped build a better customer experience through cross-functional collaboration

A collage of several portraits of people.

Why did you choose ADP?

Karen H. (Tech Lead; 21 years at ADP): I joined ADP because of its reputation in the industry and as an employer. I saw the opportunity to grow my career with a company that is among the best.

Gina G. (Product Owner; 7 years): After earning my master’s, I heard about an awesome graduate internship program at ADP. ADP’s mission, vision, and values aligned closely with my personal interests—and that’s still true today. We have a constant focus on ensuring the client experience is best-in-class, and we offer endless career opportunities to our team; we want everyone to grow and remain passionate about what we do.

David Z. (Director, Application Development; 17.5 years): Back in the early 2000s, a few former co-workers told me that ADP’s retirement services business was growing quickly and that the company was positioned to grow market share. And that’s certainly been true—our client base has tripled since I joined. The role was also a chance to bring my experience designing, creating, and testing similar processing for healthcare plans for our retirement products.

Bhargav A. (Scrum Master; 5.5 years): As a software engineer, I’m passionate about adopting new technical skills. ADP offered a rewarding career, with challenging opportunities to understand our core business and develop products with the latest technologies.

Pradip P. (Principal QA Engineer; 5 years): ADP is a growing organization with many opportunities. I knew the role would be challenging and that I’d learn a lot.

Karan N. (Technical Lead; 4 years): I was looking for a role that would help me grow my technical skills and personally. Luckily, I met someone from ADP who shared his experience and told me about the fantastic culture. That’s exactly what I’ve found here.

Damodhar M. (Manager, 13 years): I’m very excited to work for ADP. It’s an excellent company with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. The business model ADP follows (Simplify-Innovate-Grow) provides me opportunities to work on multiple technologies.

Vasudeo J. (Consultant, 6 years): I heard about ADP from my friend, and he told me that ADP is the best place to work among all IT companies and suggested that I join. My decision was correct. I love working with ADP because of culture in every sense, i.e., work, fun at work, family day, and all other mega-events that happen when we are working in the office.

Shivani K. (Senior Member Technical, 5 Years): This is a super cool company to work for, and it’s been great to get a job here.

Gyan S. (Member Technical, 3 years): ADP has a fantastic work culture. It values its employees as much as the customers. Every day at work brings new challenges and learning.

Sunil K. (Member Technical, 1.7 years): It offers an excellent opportunity to learn and implement innovative ideas. I like the ADP work culture.

Preeti R. (Member Technical, 1.6 years): When I got hired, I felt my skills are particularly well-suited to this position. But I like ADP’s culture too.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Karen H.: I love to ski. During the winter, I teach skiing in my spare time.

Gina G.: I’m a thrill seeker! I once sky-dived, and you’ll often find me hiking the mountains in Hawaii. I find thrills at work, too. I love being a part of digital transformation efforts that simplify client experience and streamline our internal business processes.

David Z.: Nineteen years ago, I formed a team in the Metuchen Softball League, and we finally became league champions. I also play on a 50 and over team that has won the Middlesex County champions a couple of times, and for the past three years, we’ve won the state championship.

Bhargav A.: I’m always eager to learn new things and implement challenging solutions. But when I get some free time, I love to disconnect from the world to visit wildlife.

Pradip P.: I like sports—watching them, but also like getting outside and playing them myself.

Karan N.: I love playing badminton and exploring new places with my friends.

Damodhar M.: When I’m off work, I love to follow current events across the world to stay updated.

Vasudeo J.: I love sleeping. A few months back, I got a call from my friend at around midnight, had a conversation, and had no memory of it the next day. I guess I made sense, he didn’t realize I wasn’t awake.

Shivani K.: Reading a new book or creating a craft.

Gyan S.: I try to add and refine my skills so that I can become more productive at work. I take time to analyze how can we improve as a team, raise the bar and have fun too.

Sunil K.: If the world is facing a big problem, I imagine myself as a hero who saves the world.

Preeti R.: I have a huge sweet tooth!

There you have it!

Team, thanks for sharing your ADP experience, and congratulation for a job well done!

Tech & Innovation Blog

Team effort: Building a better customer experience through cross-functional collaboration


How We Work, Voice of Our People, Team Collaboration

A collage of several portraits of people.

At ADP, every milestone is achieved–and celebrated—together. The work by Sachin Ghag and his team to improve the year-end testing experience for 401(k) administrators is no exception. Along with the Architecture Group, the “Agile Archers” and the “Avenging Explorers” worked across time zones and collaborated with other ADP teams to bring a brand new user experience to life in four short months. Hear from Sachin about how his team got it done.

By Sachin Ghag, Senior Manager, Global Product Development and Technology, Retirement Services

At ADP, every milestone is achieved–and celebrated—together. The work by Sachin Ghag and his team to improve the year-end testing experience for 401(k) administrators is no exception. Along with the Architecture Group, the “Agile Archers” and the “Avenging Explorers” worked across time zones and collaborated with other ADP teams to bring a brand new user experience to life in four short months. Below, hear from Sachin about how his team got it done.

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At the start of every new calendar year, retirement plan administrators at millions of companies across the U.S. add the same pesky item to their to-do list: year-end testing. To ensure their businesses are compliant with federal law, they must confirm that their 401(k) plans are within a half-dozen or so Department of Labor standards, which cover everything from which employees qualify for a plan to how much they contribute. If administrators discover any issues, they must resolve them relatively quickly.

For years, this process was largely manual. Test results came in a single PDF, and companies that needed to take corrective actions had no online option to track whether those issues had been marked as resolved. Instead, administrators had to call ADP for a status update. But we saw an opportunity to save our customers time and better use our resources. It was clear that we could offer a better experience.

We’re always looking for ways to optimize our processes, so a self-service dashboard for year-end testing had long been on our list of projects to tackle. And the timing was perfect: ADP had just started accelerating digital transformations across the company. Our plan was ambitious: We wanted to give clients not just a real-time view of their status, but a central hub for every resource they’d need to resolve any issues. By September 2019, our team in Global Product and Technology (GPT) was ready to dive in. But we knew that the GPT team would need help from our colleagues along the way.

To kick things off, we held a discovery session with the dashboard’s product owner and the UX team, who had already created a mock-up of the end-to-end user experience. Once we made sure we fully understood what we needed to build, we broke the desired product down into features, created user stories for each one, and developed a timeline based on three-week sprints. We wanted to leave plenty of time to test every scenario before the January 10th launch, so we set a target date of December 12.

The first step, we knew, would also be the hardest: Before we could build the APIs and UI that would make our self-service dreams a reality, we needed to move data from a highly complex mainframe system—which most of the Retirement Services GPT team had never worked with before—into SQL. So once our chief architect had offered some invaluable initial feedback, including new processes for transferring the mainframe VSAM data into SQL, we turned to ADP’s subject-matter experts: the Mainframe team. Together, we decided they would extract the millions of records we needed into a text file, updated daily, which we would then import into the SQL site. And of course, updates had to go both ways; we also needed to figure out how to send changes back to the mainframe—re-running tests as soon as possible after users completed corrective actions to ensure the two sources were synced.

Throughout the development phase, collaboration was key. A challenge with the time difference, when our India Global Product and Technology team was half a day ahead of our Mainframe colleagues in the U.S. Being flexible and thoughtful, we managed to meet jointly for an hour or two nearly every day, and were even able to turn the time difference into an advantage. Because our U.S. teammates worked while we slept, they would often have suggestions and solutions ready for us by the time we started the next day.

Once the initial development work was done, yet another phase of collaboration began. We asked our colleagues in Service Operations, who work directly with clients, to help us test the dashboard. Sure enough, their real-life experience helped them find issues we hadn’t—especially around ADP’s 401k Sponsor site, which is used by plan administrators. If a user clicked on certain links within their ADP Task Tracker, for example, we wanted to send them directly to the new self-service dashboard—but many of those links still needed updating. The Service Ops team recorded each issue they found in a spreadsheet, and we fixed them, one by one.

In the end, thanks to hard work from our team and our colleagues across UX, Mainframe, Service Ops, and beyond, what started as an ambitious plan turned into a success story for our teams and our clients. In early January, we launched smoothly, on time, and with a warm welcome from tens of thousands of happy clients—whose reviews ranged from “I love how easy this was to navigate” to “You made my freaking day!” ADP’s leadership team also recognized our work with an award of appreciation.

Screenshot of a compliance window from a computer application.

The new year-end testing dashboard.

Since that first release in January, we’ve already built out some additional features—and we have plans to add more for 2021, including web identification of data integrity issues, which will allow our clients to visualize and modify data within their web session. But even when we aren’t actively working on the dashboard, the experience of building it continues to benefit the GPT team every day. We’ve been able to use the technical knowledge we gained to improve our work on several other projects, both within and outside of compliance. And most importantly, we’ve built relationships with other ADP teams that will help us better serve our clients for years to come.

Given all the things 2020 has given us, our clients will have a smooth year-end. A nice gift after everything that has happened in the world.

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Laptop monitor displaying What can I help you with? screen

AI and Data Ethics: 5 Principles to Consider

As organizations develop their own internal ethical practices and countries continue to develop legal requirements, we are at the beginning of determining standards for ethical use of data and artificial intelligence (AI).

In the past 20 years, our ability to collect, store, and process data has dramatically increased. There are exciting new tools that can help us automate processes, learn things we couldn’t see before, recognize patterns, and predict what is likely to happen. Since our capacity to do new things has developed quickly, the focus in tech has been primarily on what we can do. Today, organizations are starting to ask what’s the right thing to do.

This is partly a global legal question as countries implement new requirements for the use and protection of data, especially information directly or indirectly connected to individuals. It’s also an ethical question as we address concerns about bias and discrimination, and explore concerns about privacy and a person’s rights to understand how data about them is being used.

What is AI and Data Ethics?

Ethical use of data and algorithms means working to do the right thing in the design, functionality, and use of data in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It’s evaluating how data is used and what it’s used for, considering who does and should have access, and anticipating how data could be misused. It means thinking through what data should and should not be connected with other data and how to securely store, move, and use it. Ethical use considerations include privacy, bias, access, personally identifiable information, encryption, legal requirements and restrictions, and what might go wrong.

Data Ethics also means asking hard questions about the possible risks and consequences to people whom the data is about and the organizations who use that data. These considerations include how to be more transparent about what data organizations have and what they do with it. It also means being able to explain how the technology works, so people can make informed choices on how data about them is used and shared.

Why is Ethics Important in HR Technology?

Technology is evolving fast. We can create algorithms that connect and compare information, see patterns and correlations, and offer predictions. Tools based on data and AI are changing organizations, the way we work, and what we work on. But we also need to be careful about arriving at incorrect conclusions from data, amplifying bias, or relying on AI opinions or predictions without thoroughly understanding what they are based on.

We want to think through what data goes into workplace decisions, how AI and technology affect those decisions, and then come up with fair principles for how we use data and AI.

What Are Data Ethics Principles?

Ethics is about acknowledging competing interests and considering what is fair. Ethics asks questions like: What matters? What is required? What is just? What could possibly go wrong? Should we do this?

In trying to answer these questions, there are some common principles for using data and AI ethically.

  1. Transparency – This includes disclosing what data is being collected, what decisions are made with the assistance of AI, and whether a user is dealing with bots or humans. It also means being able to explain how algorithms work and what their outputs are based on. That way, we can evaluate the information they give us against the problems we’re trying to solve. Transparency also includes how we let people know what data an organization has about them and how it is used. Sometimes, this includes giving people an opportunity to have information corrected or deleted.
  2. Fairness – AI doesn’t just offer information. Sometimes it offers opinions. This means we have to think through how these tools and the information they give us are used. Since data comes from and concerns humans, it’s essential to look for biases in what data is collected, what rules are applied, and what questions are asked of the data. For example, if you want to increase diversity in hiring, you don’t want to only rely on tools that tell you who has been successful in your organization in the past. This information alone would likely give you more of the same rather than more diversity. While there is no way to completely eliminate bias in tools created by and about people, we need to understand how the tools are biased so we can reduce and manage the bias and correct for it in our decision making.
  3. Accuracy – The data used in AI should be up to date and accurate. And there needs to be ways to correct it. Data should also be handled, cleaned, sorted, connected, and shared with care to retain its accuracy. Sometimes taking data out of context can make it appear misleading or untrue. So accuracy depends partly on whether the data is true, and partly on whether it makes sense and is useful based on what we are trying to do or learn.
  4. Privacy – Some cultures believe that privacy is part of fundamental human rights and dignity. An increasing number of privacy laws around the globe recognize privacy rights in our names and likeness, financial and medical records, personal relationships, homes, and property. We are still working out how to balance privacy and the need to use so much personal data. Law makers have been more comfortable allowing broader uses of anonymized data than data where you know, or can easily discover, who it’s about. But as more data is collected and connected, questions arise about how to maintain that anonymity. Other privacy issues include security of the information and what people should know about who has data about them and how its used.
  5. Accountability – This is not just compliance with global laws and regulations. Accountability is also about the accuracy and integrity of data sources, understanding and evaluating risks and potential consequences of developing and using data and AI, and implementing processes to make sure that new tools and technologies are created ethically.

As organizations develop their own internal ethical practices and countries continue to develop legal requirements, we are at the beginning of determining standards for ethical use of data and AI.

ADP is already working on its AI and data ethics, through establishing an AI and Data Ethics Board and developing ethical principles that are customized to ADP’s data, products and services. Next in our series on AI and Ethics, we will be talking to each of ADP’s AI and Data Ethics Board members about ADP’s guiding ethical principles and how ADP applies those principles to its design, processes, and products.

Read our position paper, “ADP: Ethics in Artificial Intelligence,” found in the first blade underneath the intro on the Privacy at ADP page.

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ADP speakers at CES

Creating human-focused solutions in today’s product strategy

ADP Business Anthropologist Martha Bird sat down with Daniel Litwin, the Voice of B2B, at CES 2020, discussing a wide range of topics related to how her anthropological work and research impacts businesses and consumer needs.

Bird has worked for numerous companies in the field of business anthropology since the early 2000s, working to create human-focused solutions to business needs.

Bird and Litwin touch on their CES experience, a modern focus on human-centered and human-responsive products and how those concepts affect consumer product development, consumer longing for personalized experiences, and more.

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Diverse group of multicultural ADP employees

We All Want to Belong at Work

https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/10/we-all-want-to-belong-at-work.aspx

 

“Finding commonalities and accepting differences is the key to belonging,” said ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird.

When I started to consider belonging at work, I knew exactly who to call — ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird [MB]. Here’s some of our conversation about why belonging matters and what organizations can do to create and sustain a culture of belonging.

HB: Having a sense of belonging seems so important to how we move through the world and how we relate to our work. What is belonging?

MB: Belonging almost strikes people as poetic. It seems like a feeling, so it can resist the critical lens we need to unpack it.

People think of belonging as a psychological state, but it is actually cultural. It’s the notion of being inside or outside and relates to enacted phenomena like what the cultural norms are around us and how we compare ourselves to those norms.

Everything cultural is nested in other things and is influenced by power, resources, how things have been done in the past, and what the expectations are for the people involved.

Kids can feel like they don’t belong because of their clothes. New employees can feel like they don’t belong because of the jargon used in the organization. I’m a social scientist surrounded by tech people and it’s not surprising that my sense of belonging is tested from time to time. Ultimately, I’m privileged to feel I’m part of something bigger than myself.

HB: What makes a culture of belonging? It seems like belonging is relational. It’s partly how I perceive the circumstances and culture, how people already in that culture see it, and what’s actually going on regardless of our individual perceptions and opinions.

MB: There are so many ways to feel like you don’t belong — socially, economically, intellectually, emotionally. It’s that sense of other. To make sense of it, we can look at othering, break it down, and pick it apart to see what’s happening. We identify the discreet instances where someone feels alienated and read the cultural cues about what is happening. This gives us information about the culture.

There is no universal recipe for what makes a healthy culture. There are many good and right ways to do things.

It partly has to do with a culture’s view of the individual and how the individual should relate to others. In the United States, belonging often evokes family, but we also have strong cultural values in individuality and being recognized and valued as an individual. In other cultures, a sense of harmony is highly valued and working toward common goals is more important than individual achievement.

A culture of belonging fundamentally has to do with common goals and values, respect for each other, and a sense of our shared humanity.

HB: How can we help people feel like they belong at work?

MB: We want workplaces where people feel like they can be themselves, but are also working with others to do the work. It’s less about fitting in and more about complementing. There has to be room for difference. It’s like an orchestra where the manager is the conductor and we have all these different instruments playing different parts in the same piece of music. We don’t want just the violins or the tubas. We need all the different sounds, rhythms and harmonies.

Belonging at work starts with leaders modeling the values and behavior for their teams. Is it comfortable to embody those values? Sometimes that means being vulnerable and asking for help.

I recently gave a big speech to a large group of people in a setting where I felt anxious. Walking up to the stage, I decided to tell the audience that and ask for help. So I explained how I was feeling and asked them to tell me, “It’s okay, Martha!” It was great, so I asked them to do it again. And they did! I felt so much better and they were all on my team at that point, because I was vulnerable and asked them to help me in a way they could.

In cultures of belonging, it’s okay to be honest about what’s going on, even if it’s that you don’t feel included.

HB: What are some specific things that managers or leaders can do to foster belonging at work?

MB: At the organizational level, it’s essential to ensure that the values of the organization exist at every level and in every manager without exception. It’s also important to consider how to structure teams and make sure they can communicate effectively, based on where and how people work.

At the team level, good manager training is key. Managers need skills in working with teams, allowing for different views, and figuring out how to handle disagreements and how decisions get made. When people can weigh in on something, there is a sense of being in it together.

It’s important to see each other as people, not work roles. Connecting in person and outside of work makes a difference. We need to tell and know each other’s stories and create opportunities for sharing. Have lunch, have informal video meetings where everyone gets to tell something about themselves. I was in a meeting recently where we all told the story of our names. I learned a lot and felt like the people who heard my story knew me a little better, too.

We need more awareness and cultural consciousness by design. People are fundamentally creative and want to learn. We all have different experiences and different lives.

Finding commonalities and accepting those differences is the key to belonging.

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Girls Who Hack group photo

ADP Partners with Girls Who Hack on an all-female Hackathon

Female coders were encouraged to put their own self-doubt aside and to relentlessly pursue their education and dreams.

On a crisp autumn Saturday, 110 students arrived early to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) campus center in Newark, New Jersey. They gathered to participate in the first-ever ALL-women 24-hour hackathon (where ADP was the diamond-level sponsor). There was a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air, both from the attendees and the Women in Computing Society organizers.

Don Weinstein, ADP Corporate Vice President and Chief Product and Technology Officer, kicked off the hackathon with a rousing keynote speech touting the importance of creating an inclusive work environment.

“I’m proud of ADP’s ability to continue to innovate as we lead the way in supporting the global workforce. Our edge comes from including varied perspectives and talent as demonstrated through events like this one,” Weinstein said. “We genuinely believe that diversity and inclusion will continue to fuel the future of work, and we remain committed to empowering a workforce that truly represents all walks of life.”

Next up was Isabel Espina, Vice President of WorkMarket Product Development (WorkMarket is an ADP company). Isabel shared her inspiring journey through the obstacles she had to overcome as one of a small handful of female engineering college students in a male dominated field. Her experience is familiar and relatable to many women in the STEM field. Isabel described how ADP has supported her career, as a technologist and as a mother, and that helped her find balance between both worlds.

Seema Murthy and Foram Shah from ADP’s enterprise architecture team conducted a very well-received hands-on workshop called Design Your Own API. The students found the material informative and immediately put their real-world coding skills to work in creating their projects. Lisa Schmidt from ADP’s college recruiting team brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm as students visited with her to learn more about internship opportunities at our company.

The judges evaluated the projects and had the difficult task of choosing the top five teams. The top five teams presented their ideas, and each team’s project was evaluated on the quality of the code, design appeal, functionality and creativity.

The first-place team, four NJIT computer science graduate students, created a Sign Language Alphabet Prediction Translator application. The application takes American sign language images, predicts what alphabet the image is depicting, and prints the predicted alphabet along with the confidence score. The use case and inspiration for the team was a fellow classmate who is deaf and mute. The team wanted to create an application for the specially-abled student to communicate more easily with professors and her classmates. This application would eliminate the need for a human translator to help the student make the technical language used in class understandable. The students used Google Cloud Platform’s Auto ML API with Tensorflow and Python for coding. It was a very creative idea!

In addition to winning cool prizes, the first-place team was invited to visit the ADP office to learn about the next generation of award-winning ADP solutions and experience our workplace culture. At the close of the event, I encouraged ALL student participants to put their own self-doubt aside and to relentlessly pursue their education and dreams. I reminded them that they alone have the biggest impact on their own education and career.

Through this Hackathon sponsorship (and the ones we plan to sponsor in the future), and our significant partnership with Girls Who Code focused on closing the Gender Gap in tech, ADP demonstrates our commitment to promoting and supporting women in technology careers.

Learn more about internship and career opportunities at ADP.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Meet Anshuman: ADP’s Inventor of the Year


Inventor of the Year, Voice of our People, Career Path

Through ADP’s patent program, Anshuman’s name appears as an inventor on ten patent applications filed within the last five years, seven of which have registered.

Anshuman Gaur

Anshuman Gaur was named ADP’s Inventor of the Year. Through ADP’s patent program, his name appears as an inventor on ten patent applications filed within the last five years, seven of which have registered.

Since joining ADP 11 years ago in Hyderabad, India as a Test Analyst, he’s been an amazing contributor to our organization. We recently caught up with Anshuman to ask him about the patent process, his advice for other inventors, his cricket experience, and more!

What different roles you’ve had during your time at ADP?

I started as a Test Analyst in the Next Gen PayExpert team. From there, I moved to a business analyst role, and then a Sr. Business Analyst role within the same group. By this time, PayExpert had transformed into a single database Workforce Now (WFN) solution with HR, Payroll, Time & Benefits all running on the same platform.

In 2014, I moved to Alpharetta, Georgia, as a Product Manager for WFN shared products such as reporting, analytics, PaaS, etc. In this role, I had the opportunity to work on the launch of DataCloud, an HCM analytics product targeted at mid-market clients. After a short stint with the DataCloud product team, where I had the opportunity to pilot ADP’s compensation benchmarking and predictive analytics features, I went back to the WFN team as a Director of Product Management in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Video call with the team

In early 2018, life came full circle when I received the opportunity to lead the WFN Next-Generation product. We work on the future of work and pay every day, including some cool features like on-demand pay, punch to pay real-time calculations, etc. We have an awesome opportunity to challenge the status quo and lead in the market with a competitive next-gen offering.

In a nutshell, I’ve had so many roles and so much fun! 🙂

What did you think when you first learned you were ADP’s Inventor of the Year?

It was quite surprising, to be honest! Many great products and features are being built across the organization, so it’s an honor to be recognized with this award. Also, being on the same list as Frank Villavicencio, VP, Product Management, is an absolute privilege.

What’s your process for coming up with ideas that would be great for a patent?

That’s a great question, and something we focus on quite a bit in our day-to-day work. It’s a combination of client need awareness, market and competitive awareness, and problem-solving skills. I am lucky to have a great team of developers, UX designers, and product owners who bring these skills to the table. We look at how we can solve problems that give the customer a delightful solution and, at the same time, gives us a competitive advantage.

We recently filed a patent for a solution that not only eliminates some key challenges and pain points but also exceeds the competition. It’s worth securing those features with a patent.

What is the patent process at ADP?

It’s quite straight forward. Once you have identified a feature or an idea for a patent, you can submit an invention brief on our internal associate portal under the ADP Patent Program. In this document, you provide a brief summary of the invention, the problems it solves that couldn’t be solved before, and how the solution is unique.

Once this is submitted, IP lawyers make the magic happen coming up with claims, preparing the filing documentation, etc. You need to participate in reviewing these documents during the process. Once the application is submitted, you can easily track progress on the portal.

What advice do you have for other inventors?

We solve many large-scale problems here at ADP. Our inventions are unique to our size and our business, and so I encourage everyone to take a moment to ask a couple of questions as they discover new ways to solve problems:

“Am I creating an intellectual property?” If the answer is yes, “Does the solution solve a problem in a unique way that can be secured by a patent?”

These questions are a simple way to guide inventors through the decision-making process of securing IPs. There is no doubt that inventions are happening here. We need to take the additional and essential step in securing it.

What do you like best about working at ADP?

There are many things, from passionate people to amazing culture to great opportunities. But if I were to pick one, I would say it’s the large-scale problems that I love to solve working with various cross-functional teams.

What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Don’t ever stop playing cricket no matter how hard and busy life gets! For the cricket fans out there, I used to bowl right arm, medium-fast.

What is your must-have app? Yelp & YouTube

Anshuman Gaur is a Senior Director, Product Management at ADP based in New Jersey.