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All-Female 48-Hour Hackathon Attracted 200 Virtual Participants

All-Female 48-Hour Hackathon Attracted 200 Virtual Participants

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.

ADP workshops

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.

ADP happy at home challenge

Challenge Winner

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.

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Manjula Ganta Headshot

ADP Women in STEM Profile: Manjula Ganta

Manjula’s mantra: “Don’t focus on fitting in; figure out how to stand out.” After reading about her hard work, success and leadership, you’ll see Manjula walks the talk — and encourages others to do the same.

Growing up, Manjula Ganta wanted to be a doctor. She loved science and biology and was fascinated by how the body works as a machine. But med school was financially out of reach, so she chose a career in mathematics. Manjula’s mother encouraged her and her sisters to learn computers.

“My mother was a visionary and could see technology evolving even before the internet existed,” Manjula said. “From her experiences and struggles as a homemaker, forgoing a job opportunity due to culture constraints, my mom inspired her four girls to be independent and encouraged us to pursue our careers. She is the greatest influence on who I am today.”

From India to Omaha

Manjula grew up in a small town in southern India near Hyderabad. In school, she was very outgoing, smart, and well-rounded – a trait she carried into adulthood and her career. Manjula pursued a bachelor’s degree, majoring in mathematics. She simultaneously enrolled into a Diploma in Systems Management program that introduced her to computers. Manjula later earned her MBA with a major in finance, and graduated as class valedictorian.

She moved to Hyderabad to work for a financial services company as a management trainee. Manjula was quick to learn the intricacies of the business and even as an intern courageously presented her ideas. Soon she had an opportunity to design the development of an integrated app to better manage the company’s branch reports. “Curiosity and rapid technology changes led me to learn relational databases and the integrated enterprise application software,” Manjula recalls.

A few years later, Manjula married her high school sweetheart, who had moved to Omaha, NE. She moved from Hyderabad to Omaha, and they started a family. “It was a big adjustment for me, both culturally and professionally,” Manjula said, “and it took a while to figure out how to balance my career and family.”

Manjula began working in Boston as a Peoplesoft consultant for the state of Massachusetts, going home only every couple of weeks. “It was a very challenging time in my life, being a young mother with a traveling job – staying away from home and my toddler son,” she recalls.

Manjula then worked as a Peoplesoft technical consultant for a project with General Electric (GE) in New York in variety of roles. She successfully implemented various Peoplesoft modules, leading offshore teams. After a few years, Manjula’s husband took a new job and they moved to Atlanta, where she continued to work with GE remotely.

Have grit and break your own expectations – expectations can be a weight on your shoulders.

– Manjula Ganta, Director of Application & Development, GPT

After her nine-year project at GE, Manjula joined ADP National Accounts Services (NAS) Outsourcing (COS) division as a senior business systems analyst. “It was a big shift going from development to a business systems analyst role,” Manjula recalls. “I would still get into the code and give the developers inputs about the issues.” She laughingly added, “I think they got frustrated sometimes, but it also helped improve our communication.”

Manjula’s role soon expanded to managing the same development team across analytics, robotics process automation (RPA) and other web/cloud tools and technologies, and she was tasked with managing diverse virtual teams as a single global team. “I was responsible for helping the team see and execute the vision, removing any roadblocks and partnering with other leaders to make it successful,” she recalls. Manjula’s ability to combine business acumen and technical competency, along with her pragmatic approach, enabled her to be decisive and impactful across the COS business.

Manjula then became the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the NAS Tools & Technology Operations, where she worked on several technology and transformation initiatives to develop, support, and enhance ADP’s internal and client-facing tools.

Manjula says she’s taken this approach throughout her career: “As a thoughtful leader, I strive to create a positive and collaborative work culture with emphasis on employee recognition – helping teams to look beyond their differences. Celebrating associate birthdays, work anniversaries and key project milestones helps everyone feel valued and included.”

Currently, Manjula is a Director of Application Development, Global Product & Technology (GPT), where she takes an even broader responsibility for building ADP’s core products from a technology architecture, design, quality and user experience standpoint, to make them more effective for ADP’s clients.

Developing Self and Others

“ADP has a unique culture in which they put their associates first,” she says. “Prior to ADP, most of my development was self-initiated, but here we have many career development opportunities, mentorship programs, stretch assignments, networking events through employee resource groups, technical workshops, etc. You just need to be motivated and find the time to develop yourself.”

Manjula had the opportunity to enroll in an external Pathbuilders mentorship program. “The program helped me to become more self-aware, building my own personal brand inside and outside of ADP,” she says. Manjula is thankful to the leaders, mentors and sponsors who invested their time by providing her exposure at the business unit level.

Carrying it forward, Manjula helps mentor others at ADP and through various non-profit organizations. She is an active volunteer for Women in Technology based in Atlanta, which helps girls and women succeed from the classroom to the boardroom. Manjula recently joined the ADP GPT Women in Technology Leadership Mentoring Initiative (WiTL) that helps develop a diverse leadership talent pipeline through a formal mentoring program. She also volunteers for the American Heart Association, Special Olympics of Georgia, and leads several ADP business resource group events in the Alpharetta location, creating awareness and raising donations for causes she cares about.

Best Advice

Manjula offers this advice for women starting their careers in STEM: “Have grit and break your own expectations – expectations can be a weight on your shoulders. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; it’s important to learn. Life is not just about success; it’s also about failure, difficulty, and learning to recover. Focus on the present, stay positive, and keep going.”

Manjula also recommends finding a mentor. “Mentors have helped me realize my worth and have inspired me to speak up, be myself, and encouraged me to take on the next challenge. One of my leaders would say, ‘I wish you had had your voice earlier.'”

“Always find your support system, family, friends or coworkers and don’t be afraid to seek help or delegate,” Manjula said. “You don’t have to be a perfectionist or do it all.”

She is very grateful for her husband, Ranjith, and two sons, Abhitej and Ritvik, who have always supported her career, helped at home, and offered new and different points of view.

“Have fun, no matter how hard things can get. Humor and fun can always make the journey (personal or professional) easier.”

Through all the learning and big changes as an Asian Indian immigrant and a woman in STEM, Manjula’s best advice is: “Don’t focus on fitting in; figure out how to stand out.”

Read about other ADP Women in STEM and learn about careers at ADP.

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Women in STEM

Forging an unconventional career path

The career path for a mechanical engineer doesn’t typically lead to becoming a vice-president of HR. Here’s how Caron Cone boldly created her own path.

As a Human Resources leader, Caron Cone strongly believes that your career journey doesn’t necessarily have to look like anyone else’s. This advice – says Caron – isn’t taken from an HR manual. It’s the real-life story of her own unconventional career path.

Caron, who leads HR for ADP’s National Account Services division, started out as a mechanical engineer. She’s the perfect example of coupling courage and unconventional career choices, ironically an engineering term, to discover the power inside each of us.

“Solving complex business problems and being a champion of new ideas feels right at home,” Caron says. “By tapping my engineering, operations and project management skills every day, the STEM field forever stays with me. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

While Caron jokingly says engineers sometimes get a bad rap for not having the best communication skills, so she’s very intentional about going beyond data points and digging deeper to tell stories that simulate conversation, engagement and action amongst ADP leaders and associates alike.

My life’s purpose is to help surface greatness in other people; I love connecting people with their aspirations and goals.

– Caron Cone, DVP of HR, ADP National Account Services

The Power of Mentorship

The youngest of four, Caron grew up in Tennessee where her mom stressed strength, toughness and resilience, and her dad, an electrical engineer, instilled hard work. The combination of her parents’ focus on education is what ultimately led Caron to study mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee.

Right out of college, Caron landed an engineering job a petroleum pipeline company in Atlanta. At the time, she was one of a few women and the only African American woman working on pipeline maintenance and construction projects. It was at this very point that she realized the importance of advocacy and mentorship.

The COO for the company had four daughters and was committed to ensuring that women could be successful in the workplace. “He taught me about being impactful, knowing the business, and having presence,” Caron recalls. Little did Caron know, mentorship would also make way for her next career path.

The pipeline company started a formal mentoring program allowing employees to select mentors. Caron watched as a senior HR executive worked with and influenced the executive team and her decision was made. “I chose her as my mentor. Her presence was amazing. People gravitated toward her,” Caron says.

Eventually, Caron decided to return to school, juggling computer models by day as an engineer and classes at night as she pursued a master’s in HR. She also earned an MBA to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It wasn’t long before Caron received a call offering her a role on an HR team – working for the same mentor who inspired her journey to HR.

Caron also had the opportunity to participate in the Pathbuilders program, an external, formal mentoring program where she was paired with another HR executive. That mentor and program have had a tremendous influence on her, both professionally and personally.

“I would not be where I am today without the influence of my mentors,” Caron says. “Two of them are now Chief HR Officers. I remain in touch and trust their input and advice.”

Caron Cone

Caron Cone, Division Vice President of HR, ADP National Account Services

HR Matters

The opportunity to positively impact people and the overall business is what still gets Caron excited about HR today. It’s a unique perspective that allows insight into people, their capabilities and needs.

“My life’s purpose is to help surface greatness in other people,” Caron says. “I love connecting people with their aspirations and goals.”

Her engineering and business background allow for a greater appreciation of how things work and the value of analytics. “Data can help us figure out a number of key things about talent, the business and how to predict success for both,” Caron says. “Reports give you data; insights come from people.”

Caron firmly believes that the human aspect of HR will always be important: the big picture, culture and developing strong leaders.

Coming to ADP

Caron’s HR expertise spans multiple leading industries, including media, but now she calls ADP home. “I love learning how different businesses work,” she says. “People tend to have similar HR and talent needs no matter the industry or the organization.”

The opportunity to work for National Accounts at ADP was a perfect combination of Caron’s love for how things and people work and for helping people find their own path to greatness. This is further demonstrated through Caron’s close partnership with the President of ADP National Account Services, Debbie Dyson.

“I get to partner with an amazing executive who is leading this journey,” Caron says. “Debbie is extraordinary at figuring out how to move things forward and give people what they need to be successful. Every decision has our associates at the core.”

“My experience at ADP is that in every conversation and decision, people talk about the impact on associates,” Caron says. “And it’s not just the decision, but also how to help people understand and make sense of change. When people at ADP say, ‘Every person counts,’ they mean it.”

While Caron’s HR role is mostly internally focused, ADP’s position as a marketplace leader in the HR industry frequently affords her opportunities to share internal best practices with ADP clients who are experiencing change and transformation.

Find Your Voice and Help Others

Transparency and honesty are two HR must-haves that Caron can’t live without.

“Be clear about what’s ahead and why,” Caron says. “Share the journey. Every person plays a role in driving success no matter the title. Help people understand that they are needed and why they matter.”

Best advice she’s received? “Find your voice. Figure out what you can contribute to a situation and share it. Ask questions, learn and contribute with confidence. You belong.”

And – never forgetting where you started. Her unorthodox career path may have seemed like a long shot to some. But with strong parental guidance and caring mentors, Caron is now doing her part to pass it on.

“My husband and I have a wonderful partnership … and just as my parents did, we’re preparing our daughter to be a positive force in this world,” Caron says. “The most important thing we can do is help her believe in herself and her capabilities.”