“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.)
In this second blog in a series focusing on breaking barriers and influencing social change, we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities and offer ideas for promoting disability inclusion in your organization and in our communities.
December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The annual observance was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness and disability inclusion in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and places that are open to the general public to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
You are no doubt familiar with the need to comply with the ADA in all areas of your business, but disability inclusion reaches far beyond compliance with the law. Proactively supporting inclusivity in your organization can have important and meaningful impact for your employees, customers and communities. CEB, now part of Gartner, found that highly diverse and inclusive organizations had a 26% increase in team collaboration and an 18% increase in team commitment. A study by Harvard Business Review showed that companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. So, how can you effectively and respectfully promote disability inclusion in your organization?
These are our clients, prospects, coworkers, and employees. How can your organization think about greater equity and inclusivity, especially during these times?
– Giselle Mota, board member of the ADP BRG, Thrive
Be sure that your staff and leadership includes a diverse a range of employees and perspectives. When developing anything from internal policies to new products to client-facing marketing campaigns, getting input from employees and clients with disabilities helps ensure that you are addressing their needs rather than operating on assumptions. Martha Bird, Chief Business Anthropologist at ADP says, “It is important to design WITH excluded and diverse communities, not FOR them. Seek their expert input in the process.”
Representation is key to meaningful and genuine inclusion. If you have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Business Resource Groups (BRGs) in your organization, you can partner with them on inclusivity initiatives to get valuable firsthand perspectives. At ADP, the Thrive BRG has a mission to understand the diverse impact of disabilities, end the stigma, and bring awareness and education to ADP associates about people living with disabilities. Susan Lodge, a Thrive board member and mother to a son with a genetic disease says, “This BRG has given me a new appreciation for the company I work for and the people that I work with. I no longer feel like I am the only one who faces the challenges that disabilities can bring. We are all in this together.”
Work to overcome bias
Inclusivity isn’t an “issue” just for people with disabilities; it’s important for everyone in your organization. Once you set the goal and expectation for a diverse and inclusive organizational culture, follow up with education aimed at promoting understanding and awareness of unique challenges of people with disabilities as well as the importance of inclusion. For example, adopt a policy of using people first language (PFL). People first language is a way of communicating that shows respect for people with disabilities by focusing on the individual and not their disability. For example, if you were discussing modification to your retail space for your clients, instead of saying “disabled customers”, you would use “customers with disabilities.” This recognizes that they have disabilities and allows you to be inclusive and respectful in your planning but doesn’t use their disabilities to define them entirely.
Disability inclusion in post-COVID business
Inclusion is particularly important right now. The global health crisis has highlighted inequities for people with disabilities. Routine healthcare needs like diagnostic testing and therapies are no longer as easy to access. Virtual and masked communications also present challenges that disproportionately affect people with disabilities. As Giselle Mota, board member of ADP’s Thrive BRG, Principal Consultant at ADP on the Future of Work and moderator of an ADP webcast on disability inclusion said, “These are our clients, prospects, coworkers, and employees. How can your organization think about greater equity and inclusivity, especially during these times?”
Register for or replay this webcast for more discussion of this question and tips from ADP experts: Disability Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices for Engaging and Supporting ALL of Your People.
To learn more about ADP’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit our Corporate Social Responsibility site.
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.
By SPARK Team
It’s not enough to have a lot of data and some good ideas. The quality, quantity and nature of the data is the foundation for using it effectively.
We asked members of the ADP® DataCloud Team to help us understand what goes into selecting, gathering, cleaning and testing data for machine-learning systems.
DataCloud Team: The first thing to figure out is whether you have the information you want to answer the questions or solve the problem you’re working on. So, we look at what data we have and figure out what we can do with it. Sometimes, we know right away we need some other data to fill in gaps or provide more context. Other times, we realize that some other data would be useful as we build and test the system. One of the exciting things about machine learning is that it often gives us better questions, which sometimes need new data that we hadn’t thought about when we started.
Once you know what data you want to start with, then you want it “clean and normalized.” This just means that the data is all in a consistent format so it can be combined with other data and analyzed. It’s the process where we make sure we have the right data, get rid of irrelevant or corrupt data, that the data is accurate and that we can use it with all our other data when the information is coming from multiple sources.
A great example is job titles. Every company uses different titles. A “director” could be an entry-level position, a senior executive, or something in between. So, we could not compare jobs based on job titles. We had to figure out what each job actually was and where it fit in a standard hierarchy before we could use the data in our system.
DataCloud Team: There’s a joke that data scientists spend 80 percent of their time cleaning data and the other 20 percent complaining about it.
At ADP, we are fortunate that much of the data we work with is collected in an organized and usable way through our payroll and HR systems, which makes part of the process easier. Every time we change one of our products or build new ones, data compatibility is an important consideration. This allows us to work on the more complex issues, like coming up with a workable taxonomy for jobs with different titles.
But getting the data right is foundational to everything that happens, so it’s effort well spent.
DataCloud Team: We are extremely sensitive to people’s privacy and go to great lengths to protect both the security of the data we have as well as people’s personal information.
With machine learning we are looking for patterns, connections or matches and correlations. So, we don’t need personally identifying data about individuals. We anonymize the information and label and organize it by categories such as job, level in hierarchy, location, industry, size of organization, and tenure. This is sometimes called “chunking.” For example, instead of keeping track of exact salaries, we combine them into salary ranges. This both makes the information easier to sort and protects people’s privacy.
With benchmarking analytics, if any data set is too small to make anonymous ― meaning it would be too easy to figure out who it was ― then we don’t include that data in the benchmark analysis.
DataCloud Team: The essence of machine learning is more data.
We want to be able to see what is happening over time, what is changing, and be able to adjust our systems based on this fresh flow of data. As people use the programs, we are also able to validate or correct information. For example with our jobs information, users tell us how the positions in their organization fit into our categories. This makes the program useful to them, and makes the overall database more accurate.
As people use machine-learning systems, they create new data which the system learns from and adjusts to. It allows us to detect changes, see cycles over time, and come up with new questions and applications. Sometimes we decide we need to add a new category of information or ask the system to process the information a different way.
These are the things that both keep us up at night and make it exciting to show up at work every day.