“As a leader, I’m outgoing and have strong opinions. But when it comes to the team, I want people to feel comfortable challenging me. I want to create an environment of empowerment with diversity of thought and perspectives.” – Laurie Liszewski, VP Product Development
If you tell Laurie Liszewski she can’t do something, she will do it, take pictures, and show you how well she did it. “It’s my mantra!”
Laurie grew up in New Jersey and isn’t afraid to try or learn anything. She’s been a real estate agent, an emergency medical technician working on an ambulance, and now is a vice president of product development at ADP.
“Find what drives you. We all work so hard. You have to love what you do and work for people where you feel comfortable being yourself,” she says.
Coming to ADP
Laurie says she fell into a job at ADP. Her husband worked for the company in the “Total Time” area as a customer service rep. Laurie’s family had grown to three children and it was time to pursue a new work opportunity. So, she applied to work as an administrative assistant at ADP and says, “It was a great way to learn the business and get experience from the ground up.”
She started as an assistant to the business systems analyst team that managed ADP’s Autopay solution. “I was in awe of the people I worked for,” Laurie says. “They had such deep knowledge of both tech and business. I asked how they got there; it turns out no one there went to school to be a business systems analyst. It evolved from a core skill set.”
Above: Laurie Liszewski
For people who don’t know what business systems analysts do, Laurie explained, “they bridge the business need with the technology and design. You have to understand and speak both tech and business. Today, the title isn’t as prevalent as it was in the 1990s. The position has evolved more into product management, although we have a few core areas like compliance where the role is vital.”
It wasn’t long before the vice president in that area noticed and was impressed with Laurie’s work. She told Laurie she was very analytical and had a unique perspective, then asked her to consider a three-year training program to become a business systems analyst. Laurie jumped at the opportunity and says, “That’s where my true tech career started.” Laurie’s vice president was Bernie Sussina, her first mentor and sponsor. “I always aspired to be as well respected and valued as Bernie. She was truly an icon to me, an inspirational woman in leadership in a predominately male world of tech. To this day, I am forever grateful to Bernie for the opportunity.”
Laurie completed the program and moved into an associate systems analyst role, then worked her way up to senior systems analyst.
When ADP began working on the new platform for small business services (SBS), many people on her team moved over to the new product. Laurie ended up following them and took a role working on the design of a client-facing user interface.
“I learned so much because I was at the front end working with clients,” she says. “You can see how they actually used the system. I was able to attend trade shows and client user groups. I also had the opportunity to do ride-alongs with the sales team. It opened a whole new world for me and so much clicked. I realized that what they were doing was much more than just a series of tasks. I learned and understood what they needed to accomplish to run their business.”
Becoming a manager
When Laurie started thinking about the next steps in her career, she began to pay attention to how people were chosen for different roles. “ADP is great at seeing people’s potential rather than just their experience,” she says.
“I had great leaders who inspired me to become a leader. But it’s a big shift. You move from controlling your own destiny to your success depending entirely on the success of your team.”
She applied for her first leadership role and was pretty sure she wouldn’t get it because she didn’t have management experience.
“I scheduled a one-on-one with Rich Wilson, the senior vice president of SBS product development, and asked why I wouldn’t be qualified for the job. If I wasn’t qualified, I wanted to know what I needed to do. He had no idea who I was and was a little taken aback. I wondered if I had made a mistake. But he was impressed, and I got the position. I chuckle to this day because he loved to tell that story. Rich was my second huge supporter, mentor and sponsor.
“Don’t get me wrong, he was tough. I attribute much of my success to his rigor. As I reflect on my career, Rich pushed me to stretch and grow in ways I never had before. He always put me in roles I wasn’t sure I was ready for. It was the best preparation for my future because I kept learning the tools and skills I needed for the next step on the journey. I am forever grateful to Rich for believing in me.
“I was also very inspired by Regina Lee, division president for SBS, who explained it is a leader’s responsibility to help people grow in their ADP careers. Our obligation is to not only hold people to their current goals but also to empower our teams to hold us to the career goals they set for themselves.”
Next, an opportunity opened on the ADP retirement services team. Laurie talked to the new senior vice president about it, and he encouraged her to apply.
“I had my payroll wings, but only had a small idea of what the retirement business was based on my own personal experience with 401(k) plans,” she says. “That role gave me the opportunity to learn that part of the business and a new product. While I was there, one of my key responsibilities was to help the organization move from a waterfall development life cycle to the more modern agile methodology since we had done the transition on the backend of the RUN Powered by ADP® payroll solution a few years before.”
The above photo was taken in October 2019, at the GPT conference in Miama, FL. ADP associates shown, left to right, are: Karen Stavert, Erin Moss, Manish Bhatnagar, Laurie, Mike Ruangutai* and Ranjan Aggarwal. (*No longer at ADP.)
About the same time, ADP moved as an organization from business systems analysts to product managers.
“I had a choice to be the Senior Product Manager for ADP’s retirement services division or go back to the RUN team,” Laurie says. “I scheduled a meeting with Don Weinstein, ADP’s chief product and technology officer, and asked where ADP needed me most and where I could make the greatest impact. After talking with him about it, I decided to go back to the RUN team as a senior product owner.”
Eventually, Laurie moved from product management back to product development, where she focused more on compliance and statutory requirements and worked as a liaison with the legal team. Additionally, she led portfolio management for the Autopay solution and loved her team and work there.
For Laurie, it was like going home. At the same time, she could see how far she had come.
“I went from ordering pencils to leading the team I was in awe of when I started this journey,” she says. “I wondered how I would ever measure up and whether I would be strong enough to lead these amazing people. Earning their respect was the best thing I’ve done. I also love compliance work, and this gave me the opportunity to lead that for the major and national account services payroll engine.”
She landed in her current role as vice president of product development when the senior vice president of ADP’s small business services division took a role in compliance services. Laurie loved working with him because of his transparency and honesty. It was also an opportunity to learn something new, particularly employer tax compliance, reporting, filing and payments.
“Tax is a whole other level of complexity,” Laurie says. “In every group I’ve had the honor to work in across ADP, each team thinks their systems are the most complex. And it’s true! It’s all complex.”
The above was taken at a Girls, Inc. event in June 2019. Shown left is Alyssa Liszewski (ADP La Palma, CA office) with Laurie.
Laurie loves the challenge and responsibility.
“Here I am. Never, ever would I have thought that I would be leading a division responsible for managing all the tax liabilities for the clients we service,” she says. “It’s enough to keep you up at night, thinking about the impact you have on people and the economy. The value ADP brings to the economy and each individual we pay and employer we service has never been more amplified than these past 13 months with the pandemic. The number of stimulus plans and tax law changes all of the compliance teams had to react to are like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my career.
“As a leader, I’m outgoing and have strong opinions. But when it comes to the team, I want people to feel comfortable challenging me. I want to create an environment of empowerment with diversity of thought and perspectives. We need people who understand our clients and know what it’s like for employees as well as businesses – out of the box thinkers who evolve with the market.”
Ready for more?
The above was taken at a team building event in October 2019. ADP associates pictured left to right are: Victor Mak, Erik Kachmarsky, Mike Plonski*, Laurie, Margo Dear, Ajit Kumar, Jordi Conrado, Maya McGuinness, Mat Saunders*, Mike Ruangutai* and Arjun Hegde. (*No longer at ADP.)
Take inspiration from this Vice President of Product Management of National Accounts who says she wasn’t one of those people who knew what she wanted to be at the age of 5. She’s learned to just figure out that one next step.
Margaret Tuohy grew up the oldest of three in Brooklyn, NY. Her parents, both immigrants, still live there. “My parents are the classic immigrant story. They independently came to the US from Ireland when they were 17. They both sent money home. I learned early on to admire their work ethic and even as a child, I respected the sacrifices that they made for my brother, sister, and me.”
She went to college at SUNY Albany in upstate New York. Thinking she wanted to be a lawyer, she majored in English and Political Science. After some summer jobs working for law firms, Margaret changed her mind.
Finding the Path to Product Management
She still loved the analytic and methodical thinking of law. So, she explored other graduate programs and continued at SUNY Albany for an MBA with a concentration in Management Information Systems. “It was a pragmatic decision. I enjoyed technology and they had a great program. I was awarded an assistantship that would cover tuition and I knew there were job opportunities when I graduated.”
Margaret found the classes fascinating, especially information systems. “There was quite a bit of statistics and math, operational problems, and field projects. I enjoyed the work.”
She was recruited by GE and entered their Information Management Leadership Program. Margaret was attracted to the opportunity to rotate throughout different GE businesses utilizing different technologies. An added benefit was the ability to move to a different geographic location every six months. “I had a lot of exposure to different business concepts, ways of doing things, and technologies. About midway through the program, I rotated to the San Francisco Bay Area by myself for what was supposed to be six months. I loved the area so much, I ended up living there for several years. In addition to work opportunities, the Bay Area is where I met my husband and bought my first house. It was an exciting time.”
During the last part of Margaret’s GE tenure, she spent her time working as a developer on a data warehousing project where she managed a team focused on data conversions and integrations. One technology Margaret developed expertise in was Informatica. A friend knew someone at the company and Margaret learned they were recruiting.
Margaret joined Informatica as a sales engineer where she was doing demos, traveling to client sites, and implementing proof of concepts in short engagements. “The pressure was pretty intense. As a sales engineer, you need to be able to install, run, and develop programs in an unfamiliar environment, all with the client looking over your shoulder.” She loved working with clients and understanding tech from their perspective, as well as working with the product managers in the company. Margaret stayed in the business intelligence space for a few more years, managing larger development teams. After eight years in California, Margaret’s husband, an environmental scientist and professor, had a job opportunity in Atlanta and they decided to move back East.
Margaret with her husband, Derek Shendell, hiking on vacation in Sonoma, California.
Margaret moved to Atlanta and quickly found a position with CNN, supporting a data warehousing effort. About 7 months into that role, another opportunity opened with CNN in the New York bureau. The role was responsible for product managing digital media for CNN’s business coverage. Margaret applied and was in NY within a couple of weeks. “That time was a bit of whirlwind. In the space of 16 months, I had lived in the Bay Area, Atlanta, and then then New York. Fortunately, my husband quickly found a position with Rutgers University, so the move was good for both of us.”
Margaret was in the newsroom, working with editorial and developers to build more effective ways to report business news and financial data across digital, social, video, and mobile. “I loved the job and being in the newsroom. It was fun to be part of something new in an environment where we could get things done quickly. I had great executive support and resources in a unit that was very nimble. And I had a lot of autonomy to roll things out on the site.”
Best advice: When you’ve made the decision, be at peace with that decision. Trust yourself enough to not second-guess.
– Margaret Tuohy, VP of Product Management, ADP National Accounts
Although she had managed teams before, CNN was the first place she could build a team from scratch. “I knew what I was looking for in the first person, but it was not the same as what I needed in my fifth hire. As the team grew, the work and people were evolving. So, we needed new personality traits and skills sets that weren’t part of the picture at the beginning.”
After eight years with CNN, an opportunity arose with a start-up, Business Insider (BI). Margaret joined as the SVP of Product Development, running product management, launching international versions of the website, and using analytics to build an audience.
Coming to ADP
She had hoped BI would be more like CNN, but it was a different organization in a different stage of development. “I remember being on vacation and while I was hiking, I came to terms with feeling like the job was not a fit. So, I gave myself permission to leave. I went home and started putting out feelers. This time I cast a wider net beyond media. I was looking at companies that sold software products and solutions. I was still open to media, but I was also willing to explore something new.”
At the time, ADP had several open roles that looked interesting. Margaret checked her LinkedIn connections and found someone happy to pass on her resume to the right person.
Then she got a call and interviewed with Don Weinstein, who hired her. She started out in a product portfolio and strategy role, which was perfect for learning about HR technology and ADP. Eager to get back into Product Management, Margaret moved into her current role, VP, Product Management of National Accounts. “It was the natural next step and there was a lot to learn. In National Accounts, we work with large clients with complex needs and high expectations. I was also learning the market while at the same time, structuring my team.”
“In the last couple of years, I really feel like I’ve gotten to practice Product Management at scale. National Accounts has many products within the portfolio, we have a good number of Digital Transformation projects in flight that will deliver strong business outcomes, and the Product Management team has really evolved. It has been exciting to see product managers that are relatively new to the organization develop confidence to not only manage product backlogs, but also become the experts on client webinars. Likewise, there have been opportunities to tweak or develop roles so more tenured associates can continue to grow.”
Margaret with her family after a dinner out in Brooklyn, New York.
Find and Be a Mentor
Margaret strongly advocates finding a mentor and then being a mentor to others. “I was lucky to have a sponsor at CNN who understood me. He had my back and helped handle the politics so I could focus on the work. It was really valuable. Even now, I text him once in a while and ask for advice.”
“Find someone who knows you in a professional context and can give advice. At CNN, I was a Sr. Director and needed someone who supported and challenged me at the same time. Earlier in my career, I had a mentor who was more of a teacher who could provide expertise and encouragement. They were the right mentors for different stages in my career.”
The best advice Margaret received along the way was from a trusted teacher in high school when she was trying to figure out where to go to college. She was weighing options, making tentative decisions, and then second guessing. The teacher advised, “You’ve made the decision, now be at peace with that decision. Trust yourself enough to not second-guess.”
Her advice to others is related. “I’ve always been a little envious of people who knew exactly what they wanted to do since they were 5 years old. I’m just not that person, and I’ve learned to be ok with that. I often tell others, you don’t have to decide your life plan; just decide what you’re going to try next. Figure out that one next step. Just ask yourself whether the opportunity you are going after will take you in the right direction, and then trust your decision.”
Ready for more?
Read why ADP was named the “2020 Top Companies Winner for Women Technologists” by AnitaB.org.
Related Video: How ADP Walks the D&I Talk
One way ADP encourages diversity and inclusion (D&I) among its associates is through business resource groups (BRGs). ADP’s iWIN BRG is the company’s largest with 5000+ members (male and female) from 19 countries across the business. Learn how iWIN engages, equips and empowers its members to achieve personal and professional success through networking, professional development, and other educational opportunities. iWIN is an internal organization open only to ADP associates.
At Urvashi Tyagi’s first job after college, there were no other women in the company. None. ADP’s Chief Technology Officer knows first-hand how challenging the path can be for a woman in STEM.
Urvashi Tyagi grew up in India. She and her three sisters are all engineers; her oldest sister paved the way. When her sister told the family she wanted to become an engineer, Urvashi’s parents, aunts and uncles were worried no one would want to marry a woman engineer. And besides, it wasn’t even a good career choice with barely any job opportunities for female engineers. After an extended family meeting resulted in an unfavorable outcome, her parents had a change of heart and let Urvashi’s oldest sister join the engineering program. When it was Urvashi’s turn, no one questioned the decision. (And she and her sisters are all happily married and enjoying their professions.)
The Only Woman
While both technology and culture had changed a lot, there were still many challenges for women engineers. When Urvashi was a college undergrad, she was one of only four women in a class of 90 engineering students.
As she was graduating, most companies were not interested in recruiting women. So, she didn’t get a job from campus interviews. But Urvashi noticed an ad in the newspaper at a company that developed machine tools and wanted to hire college grads with design and computer numerical control programming experience. She was invited to interview and was delighted to get the job.
Show up, keep learning, and often it works out better than you could have imagined.
– Urvashi Tyagi, Chief Technology Officer at ADP
When she showed up on her first day, there were no other women in the company. There had never been a women’s bathroom. “Someone printed out a sign that said, ‘Women Only’ and taped it to one of the bathrooms for me,” She says. Grateful, Urvashi overlooked the fact her bathroom was in a different building than where she worked. “I had to figure out how to co-exist on the shop floor and focus on the work. Most of the time it was good. I learned a lot about solving complex engineering problems.”
Later, she found out the hiring manager never had the permission to hire her. He sent the offer letter because she was one of the top two candidates selected based on test scores and interviews. His boss was not entirely pleased. “I got the job because of one individual who did not see things in a stereotypical way and was focused on finding the right person for the role.”
While working full time, Urvashi went back to school to earn her MBA. From there, she decided to teach operations management and information systems. As an academic associate for a couple years at the premier Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, she had the opportunity to work and connect with top professors all over the world. But she realized she enjoyed solving problems more than being in a classroom. One of her colleagues encouraged her to apply to a master’s of science program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA. Urvashi wasn’t sure she wanted more school or how she was going to pay for it, but she looked up the program. The customizable curriculum and the focus on applied learning swayed her. She learned that the deadline to apply had already passed, but after speaking with a professor at the school, she submitted her application and was admitted.
Her family didn’t want her so far away. Once again, her older sister supported her and encouraged her family to let her go. Urvashi’s sister was also moving to the United States with her husband and promised to keep an eye on Urvashi. Her parents scraped together the money to purchase their first-ever airplane ticket and a couple months of living expenses. She arrived in Massachusetts with two bags, one full of snacks.
Learning and Solving Problems
Since graduating from WPI in 2001, Urvashi has worked for many of the big names in technology, including IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon. She’s led global engineering teams doing product strategy, architecture, and development. When you download an audiobook or send an Outlook email, know that Urvashi was involved with the engineering and teams that made that possible.
Lockdown birthday celebration at home (left to right): daughter Riya, husband Shishir, Urvashi and son Tanish.
Today, she is ADP’s Chief Technology Officer, taking on that role in 2019. “I had no idea that I would be a CTO three years ago,” she says. “I didn’t plan it. I try to live in the moment and put all my energy into what I am doing and the problems I am working to solve. That drives the next things that happen.”
Urvashi’s approach is to make sure she is always learning and delivering in her role. “While the foundations of engineering and technology may not change that often, the applications are evolving constantly,” she says. “The only way to keep up is to be a lifelong student.”
It’s also essential to understand your own value to the organization. “Always know how the work you do will impact the company’s bottom line and how your work is adding value and taking the company forward.”
This can be challenging for women of color who often experience more scrutiny of their work, more criticism, and less credit for their accomplishments. “The one area where I have experienced unconscious bias is with criticism,” Urvashi says. “I have to listen carefully and know when the feedback is genuine and when it is more about the person giving the feedback. When I understand that, I can embrace the situation and not take it personally.”
Urvashi’s best advice is to live in the moment. “Things don’t have to be planned or the way you think they should be. Show up, keep learning, and often it works out better than you could have imagined.”
Ready for more?
Related Video: How ADP Walks the D&I Talk
One way ADP encourages diversity and inclusion (D&I) among its associates is through business resource groups (BRGs). ADP’s iWIN BRG is the company’s largest with 5000+ members (male and female) from 19 countries across the business. Learn how iWIN engages, equips and empowers its members to achieve personal and professional success through networking, professional development, and other educational opportunities.
ADP supports events such as this in an effort to encourage more young women to pursue STEM careers.
During a global health event with social distancing in full swing, is there any group better prepared to embrace a 48-hour virtual gathering than tech-savvy female students? Probably not. For the second time, ADP sponsored the Major League Hacking (MLH) Hack Girl Summer Hackathon to encourage female software engineers to pursue their dreams. But this was the first time the event was not held in person.
The June 19-21 virtual hackathon attracted more than 200 participants and at least 50 ADP associates volunteered as organizers, mentors, judges and participants for this event.
Daina Bowler, ADP Vice President of Sales and iWIN board chairperson, kicked off the event, delivering her remarks via streaming platform. Daina told viewers that the ADP iWIN business resource group is comprised of 5,000 ADP women from around the world who are dedicated to encouraging and preparing women and young girls to achieve successful careers in STEM.
After the welcome, participants quickly organized into 70+ teams and then started the creative process and coding effort to develop the best application. The popular gaming chat application Discord was used to find team members to work with and to find mentors to chat with while hacking.
ADP volunteer mentors had their own active Discord channel where coders could ask for guidance on project ideas or pose technical questions to troubleshoot issues. As the corporate sponsor, ADP also presented two well-received workshops.
Aini Ali, ADP Vice-President, SBS Operations and iWin Empower Board Chairperson; and Laura Colon, Senior Program Manager – SBS Operations; conducted the first workshop, “Up and Coming Technology” which described all the amazing ways technology has changed the world. She described the incredible advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation that will drive future innovation. It is a very exciting time to be a techie!
Ellen Hongo, ADP Senior Director of Strategy GSS, conducted the second workshop “Crafting a Chatbot People Want to Use.” Ellen described what goes into designing and creating chatbots using IBM Watson technology, and how they are used at ADP to improve client experience and support. Ellen’s workshop opened a new area in automations for the young women to consider as they prepare to enter the workforce of the future.
The ADP challenge “Happy at Home Presented by ADP” was to create a hack that helps folks stay happy at home. The participants’ project could be designed to tackle at-home productivity and entertainment, make working remotely easier, or help users connect with friends and family remotely.
After 48 hours of intense coding and a long sleepless weekend, it was time for the judges to see all the application demos and presentations by the students. There were 27 terrific submissions on DevPost for the ADP challenge. DevPost is a global community where software developers share their projects to inspire and learn from one another. The ADP volunteers on the judging panel evaluated and rated the projects on originality, technology, design, completion, learning and adherence to theme. There were so many fantastic projects made by women, for women. It was no easy task to choose the winner of the ADP challenge.
During the closing ceremony, Aini Ali announced the ADP challenge winner which was the application called “Inspiration.” This creative iOS application was developed by a high school student who wanted to empower other young women to pursue their interests in STEM because diversity is important in the STEM field. The Inspiration app allows young girls to explore different STEM careers through simple objects.
Users point their phone’s camera at an object and take a picture of it. Using machine learning and object detection/image labeling, the app detects what object is in the photo. It then displays relevant careers in STEM involving the object and prompts the user to view an influential woman in the same career. Every day, the app’s home page displays a new influential female for girls to learn about.
The iOS app was built using Xcode and SwiftUI. For the front end, the student designed all the UI using Sketch. For the backend, she used machine learning API and Firebase. The machine learning API uses the ML Kit Image Labeling’s base TensorFlow model in order to predict the objects in the photos. The Inspiration app was truly a very creative and innovative application!
The Major League Hacking Organization (MLH) organizers truly appreciate ADP’s sponsorship and partnership. We look forward to doing many more hackathons together in the future. Thank you to all the ADP volunteers for the outstanding energy they brought to this event. We all learned so much about new technologies used to conduct a virtual event of this magnitude and it was an amazing experience.
ADP is proud to support women’s hackathons to encourage more young women to relentlessly pursue their dreams of changing the world using innovative technology. Through this hackathon sponsorship and our significant partnership with Girls Who Code – focused on closing the gender gap in tech — ADP demonstrates our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion by promoting and supporting women in technology careers.
Learn about STEM career opportunities at ADP by visiting tech.adp.com.