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.”
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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.
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.
Let’s talk about you and me and how we used to find unique items before ES6. We really only had two ways to do it (if you had another one let me know). On the first one, we would create a new emtpy object, iterate through the items we wanted to deduplicate, we would create a new property using the item as the key and something like “true” as the value, then we would get the list of keys of that new object and we were done. In the second way, we would create a new empty array, iterate through the items, and for each item, check if the item existed in the array, if it was already there, continue, if not, add it. By the end the array would contain all the unique items.
ES6 introduced Sets, a new data structure with a very simple API to handle unique items that is not just convenient but also very fast. The intention of this article is to introduce you to some new methods coming to Sets soon that will make them even more useful, but before, let’s remember the basics.
To create a new set we only need to use the constructor. We can optionally pass any iterator, such as an array or a string, and the iterated items will become elements of the new set (repeated items will be ignored).
const emptySet = new Set();
const prefilledSet = new Set(['
Since Lifion’s inception as ADP’s next-generation Human Capital Management (HCM) platform, we’ve made an effort to embrace relevant technology trends and advancements. From microservices and container orchestration frameworks to distributed databases, and everything in between, we’re continually exploring ways we can evolve our architecture. Our readiness to evaluate non-traditional, cutting edge technology has meant that some bets have stuck whereas others have pivoted.
One of our biggest pivots has been a shift from self-managed databases & streaming systems, running on cloud compute services (like Amazon EC2) and deployed with tools like Terraform and Ansible, towards fully cloud-managed services.
When we launched the effort to make this shift in early 2018, we began by executing a structured, planned initiative across an organization of 200+ engineers. After overcoming the initial inertia, the effort continued to gain momentum, eventually taking a life of its own, and finally becoming fully embedded in how our teams work.
Along the way, we’ve been thinking about what we can give back. For example, we’ve previously written about a node.js client for AWS Kinesis that we’re working on as an open source initiative.
AWS’s re:Invent conference is perhaps the largest global cloud community conference in the world. In late 2018, we presented our cloud transformation journey at re:Invent. As you can see in the recording, we described our journey and key learnings in adopting specific AWS managed services.
In this post, we discuss key factors that made the initiative successful, its benefits in our microservice architecture, and how managed services helped us shift our teams’ focus to our core product while improving overall reliability.
The notion of services sharing databases, making direct connections to the same database system and being dependent on shared schemas, is a recognized micro-service anti-pattern. With shared databases, changes in the underlying database (including schemas, scaling operations such as sharding, or even migrating to a better database) become very difficult with coordination required between multiple service teams and releases.
As Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels writes in his blog:
Each service encapsulates its own data and presents a hardened API for others to use. Most importantly, direct database access to the data from outside its respective service is not allowed. This architectural pattern was a response to the scaling challenges that had challenged Amazon.com through its first 5 years…
And Martin Fowler on integration databases:
On the whole integration databases lead to serious problems becaue [sic] the database becomes a point of coupling between the applications that access it. This is usually a deep coupling that significantly increases the risk involved in changing those applications and making it harder to evolve them. As a result most software architects that I respect take the view that integration databases should be avoided.
Applying the database per service principal means that, in practice, service teams have significant autonomy in selecting the right database technologies for their purposes. Among other factors, their data modeling, query flexibility, consistency, latency, and throughput requirements will dictate technologies that work best for them.
Up to this point, all is well — every service has isolated its data. However, when architecting a product with double digit domains, several important database infrastructure decisions need to be made:
When we first started building out our services, we had a sprawl of supporting databases, streaming, and queuing systems. Each of these technologies was deployed on AWS EC2, and we were responsible for the full scope of managing this infrastructure: from the OS level, to topology design, configuration, upgrades and backups.
It didn’t take us long to realize how much time we were spending on managing all of this infrastructure. When we made the bet on managed services, several of the decisions we’d been struggling with started falling into place:
On our Lifion engineering blog, we’ve previously written about our Lifion Developer Platform Credos. One of these speaks to the evolutionary nature of our work:
When we started adopting managed services, we went for drop-in replacements first (for example, Aurora MySQL is wire compatible with the previous MySQL cluster we were using). This approach helped us to get some early momentum while uncovering dimensions like authentication, monitoring, and discoverability that would help us later.
Our evolutionary architecture credo helped to ensure that the transition would be smooth for our services and our customers. Each deployment was done as a fully online operation, without customer impact. We recognize that we will undergo more evolutions, for which we intend to follow the same principles.
“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.