Tech & Innovation Blog

Podcast Launch: Life @ ADP


Life @ ADP, What We Do, Voice of Our People 

Life @ ADP Podcast

Always Designing for People.

Life @ ADP will give you a look into our associates’ stories, our culture, and our company.

Podcast Launch: Life @ ADP

ADP is proud to launch its monthly podcast Life @ ADP, sharing with you our associates’ stories, featured interviews, and working culture. Season One is scheduled to have six episodes with content from technologists, talent acquisition, and industry leaders.

We released Episode One – Life @ ADP on September 22, introducing hosts Kate and Ingrid with their ideas behind launching the podcast. Episode Two celebrates Grace Hopper and Hispanic Heritage Month, featuring Giselle Mota. As the Principal of ADP’s Future of Work, Giselle shares with us her journey to ADP, experience with the company, and impacts on the community.

Our podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google, and Amazon Music. Don’t forget to subscribe to both the show and the blog!

Learn more about what it’s like working for ADP here and our current openings.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Discovering Tech Bootcamps


Career Advice, Bootcamps, UX

Video: Considering a career in Tech? Try a Bootcamp

As a technologist at ADP, there are many different ways you can find yourself working in one of our innovation centers. One of those ways is by being recruited through a technology Bootcamp. Our Associates share how they found their first job in their technology careers at ADP through Bootcamps. Added bonus- the networking they were able to do through the program!

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Urvashi

Women in STEM Profile: ADP’s CTO, Urvashi Tyagi

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.”Urvashi-profile-pic

Urvashi Tyagi

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.

Urvashi-With-family

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?

Explore the stories of these and other ADP Women in STEM, and learn about careers at ADP.

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.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Nice to meet you, virtually speaking through your R.E.S.U.M.E.


Women in STEM, Voice of Our People, Career Advice

Jyotsna M. offers her upbeat and positive approach to building a resume that gets results and showcases the one and only unique you.

A laptop computer, pen, and clipboard with a piece of paper that reads, My Resume, with a column of bullet points


The sun shines brightly, and we look to a new day where the world of work is digitally and virtually connected. If you are a recent college graduate looking for an opportunity or someone looking to change the career path to try something new, this is an exciting time to research, explore, and reach recruiters.

A signpost with the words “Possible” and “Impossible”The unfortunate side effect of the pandemic is that the world is now predominantly virtual, temporarily suspending shaking hands and making connections over coffee. It is still too early for in-person career fairs at the fancy convention centers to resume, or the opportunity to walk up to a recruiter and talk to them. The world has changed, a bit too fast for comfort. For the opportunities posted, there are a lot more applicants.

Now more than ever, your RESUME creates the first impression about you and your skills for recruiters and hiring managers. Your resume will determine if you are a “possible candidate” for an opening with their organization!

A resume is not an itemized bullet list of everything you’ve studied, where you’ve worked, or volunteered. Chances are recruiters will not have time to read, review, and recap all of that to determine your candidate eligibility. So, let your resume do the job it was meant to do!

Something to think aboutWhen was the last time anyone read a full newspaper? Yes, every row and column on every page, to get the news? You only scan the highlights, right?

Your resume has one objective: To make highlight your skills and make an impression on a recruiter, so that you get invited for an interview! That’s it!

A pyramid of 9 triangles with text in each triangle: “About You, Relevant Skills, Recent Results, Work Experience, Education, Power Words, Expertise, Internships & Projects, and Leadership SkillsYour R.E.S.U.M.E. needs to highlight accomplishments that are relevant to the job posted. So, you may need to customize it if you plan to apply for jobs in different fields. Start thinking of your elevator pitch in document form. Easy, right?

It’s OK to showcase your skills. You are the only person who can present your talent. You are the builder of your aspirations, and the driver of your career.

Visualize yourself walking up to receive an award, and the greeter announcing your specific accomplishments that led to the award. This is about you, so why hide your skills in a bulleted list? Shine your skills brightly enough to be seen.

Now, start writing your two-page resume to present yourself as a “possible and strong candidate.” Use the pyramid to guide your way. If it’s been a while since you last updated your resume, for creative ideas, be sure to check out the new resume templates on Microsoft Word or a similar editing tool. Give it a try, please.

Next, connect your resume with your digital presence on LinkedIn. Download the LinkedIn mobile app. In a few easy steps, you can create your digital signature with a QR code and save it with your photos.

Smart tip:  When a recruiter scans your “Unique QR code,” they can see your accomplishments and connect through LinkedIn Messaging. Super cool!

We live in a digital world, yet the resume is still a PDF or even a paper copy. No problem! Simply, add your QR code to your resume.

Invest in yourself, keep learning, and add your skills to your LinkedIn profile. Show the world skills that make you a dream hire for any organization!

Do all these things, and, yes, soon, you will have that email or in-mail message from a recruiter asking to call you for an interview. That next opportunity is just around the corner. Believe in yourself.

Best of Luck!

Jyotsna

Jyotsna Manikantan is a Lead Product Manager, Portfolio Strategy & Operations, and is celebrating her 13th-year @ADP

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Women in STEM

Girls Can Do Anything

https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/08/adp-women-in-stem-profile-kanyatta-walker.aspx

 

This inspirational woman in STEM lives by a four-word personal mantra: girls can do anything.

Kanyatta Walker’s unapologetically fearless outlook began when she was only three years old. A boy cast as Santa in her preschool Christmas play did not enjoy being on stage and kept missing lines. Kanyatta offered to step in, but the teachers said she couldn’t because Santa was a boy. When it turned out none of the boys knew the lines and Kanyatta did, the first female Santa debuted in the play. The crowd loved it.

In high school, Kanyatta was interested in occupational therapy and planned to major in it in college. Then she did some aptitude tests with a good friend who wanted to join the marines. The recruiter told her she was excellent at math and could pretty much do anything she wanted – except be an engineer.

Kanyatta graduated from college with a degree in software engineering technology and has never looked back.

“I always loved math,” Kanyatta said. “My aunt was a math teacher and the way she explained it just made sense to me. I love that there is always a precise answer. But there is also always more than one way to get to that answer and lots of trouble shooting.”

Management math

She was recruited by Accenture, a multinational consulting firm, where she worked in a variety of roles from sales to program manager and development manager. By 25, she was leading a team with a significant budget. “I learned by trial and error. There was so much I did not know and I made a lot of mistakes. But I also knew that teams are a mirror of their leaders. I worked at a grocery store when I was 16. When it got busy, the managers would leave their office and come help wherever needed. After the store was bought by a chain, the new managers didn’t come out of their office to help. I learned how important it is for leaders to understand what people need and show up for their team.”

As her career progressed, Kanyatta realized that there are multiple roles for leaders too. “It’s like a baseball team,” she said. “There are coaches and general managers. Coaches assemble the teams and knows who to play to bring out their best. The general manager deals with the overall strategy and choosing the right coaching staff to create the win.

“To be an effective leader, you don’t personally have to play every position. When I see something I want to do, I work to understand the underlying skills. I see how to unravel things and figure out what I know, what I need to know, and how to learn the skills I need. With core skills and ability, you can do anything.”

The desire to understand executive strategy led Kanyatta to an MBA program at Emory University while she was still working full time leading product managers, business analysts and program managers for a large telecom company. She discovered the perfect combination of math and business in her finance courses. “I can look at a company’s finances and tell you what their strategy is,” she said.

Coming to ADP

After finishing her MBA, a friend helped recruit Kanyatta to ADP in Atlanta. She was excited at the opportunity to combine her business skills with her software engineering experience. She started out as Vice President of Operations working in National Accounts on outsourcing operations. Today, Kanyatta is Vice President of Global Product and Technology – Client Product Support, where she leads teams providing product and technical support for ADP’s business units and clients.

“I love the ability to transform here. As the company is transforming, so are the opportunities for people within the company and our clients to grow. I love helping people connect the dots and see where we are going from process to technology to culture, Kanyatta said.

“I also appreciate seeing women executives at ADP and how women help each other here. I met ADP business unit presidents Debbie Dyson and Maria Black within my first six months, and they always find time and make themselves available to help others.”

Helping others succeed

Kanyatta is also committed to helping others grow and achieve their dreams. She is involved in Women in Technology International and Emory’s Executive Women of Goizueta —while also mentoring and coaching rising leaders in her role at ADP. She loves helping women figure out what they want and how to get there.

“Connecting with others can be scary, but it’s important so you can understand the playing field,” Kanyatta said. “You have to lift your head up to see and for people to see you. There’s no way for people to know how amazing you are if your head is down all the time.

“There are not many women of color in tech, so I always try to say yes when people ask me to speak. It’s important to build bridges and for younger women to see people who look like them doing the things they want to do.”

Kanyatta is quick to say that she does not do it all alone. Her husband is very supportive and encourages her to connect with others and volunteer. Together, they manage a busy family schedule with their 12 year old daughter who is playing softball on a traveling team. “I love being a softball mom and spending time with my family,” she said.

Walker family at softball field

Kanyatta, Kya and Kevin Walker enjoying time as a softball family.

Kanyatta’s advice to others

  • Be careful how you treat people because you never know who you may need or who may need you. God works through other people.
  • Be a dream giver, not a dream killer. Build authentic relationships with people. Give your perspective, but show them what it takes and how to progress instead of telling someone they can’t or shouldn’t.
  • Follow your heart and trust that it knows. Stay optimistic, be persistent and keep going. Give up the spirit of fear for the power of love.

Kanyatta Walker

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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.

Tech & Innovation Blog

Why I think ADP is one of the best places for ML engineers and Data Scientists


Why ADP, ML and Data Science, Careers

When first asked to write an article for ADP’s tech blog, I had flashbacks to working on my dissertation, and it was, to put it delicately, one of my worst nightmares.

a digital illustration of two hands

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my work and forever thankful to my advisors for pushing me, but writing is not one of my natural abilities. Nevertheless, the request came at a rather interesting time for me, so I said yes. But let me take a step back.

“One day, the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”

From one of my all-time favorite movies, that quote has been stuck in my head for more than half a decade. The first time I heard it, the quote resonated with the young geek in me and triggered my curiosity and desire to understand Artificial Intelligence (AI). That, in turn, pushed me to pursue a master’s degree and kickstart a career as an ML engineer. My years of research taught me that we are far from AI overlords, but the quote changed the lens with which I view the world.

So, I mentioned above that the request to write this article came at an interesting time for me. Why? I’m currently building a language model that can write meaningful phrases and sentences—as if written by a human being (where was this when I was writing my dissertation?!)

Natural Language Generation captured my interest at ADP when I discovered all the time and effort our client service associates put into crafting documents for our clients. I asked myself, “If we’re building machines to converse with us, why can’t we have them write for us, too?” Not only would that yield consistency in the quality and tone of our client responses, but for people like me, it may reduce an associate’s angst over a potentially time-consuming task and improve job satisfaction. That sounded like a win-win.

As I worked on the model, a friend joked that I was probably wasting my time on a project that my organization may never adopt. I disagreed. I’m blessed to work for wonderful, supportive leaders. Since I started at ADP, both my director and vice president have always encouraged me to challenge the status quo. Did I always succeed? Nope, but they created a safe space where I could take risks. Sometimes I fail, and that’s OK. It’s worth it to try.

I started working for ADP’s Retirement Services organization almost two years ago, thanks to a fantastic director who believed in me and gave me an opportunity despite my minimal experience. It was at a time when ADP ambitiously sought to build AI-centric products to make our client experience better. As a budding ML engineer, this was my happy place.

Although ADP has been around for over seven decades, a few years ago, we refocused on incorporating AI into our core strategy. This shift presented engineers with Machine Learning and Data Science backgrounds a unique opportunity. Sadly, for my peers at other companies, things they tell me they often face are a lack of opportunity, lack of problems to solve, and a limited scope due to the maturity of their company systems. You won’t find those things here.

We are still in an evolving space and actively innovating, which creates a ton of opportunity. I may be biased, but I think ADP is one of the best places for ML engineers and data scientists that love to innovate to grow their careers. Why? Besides a strong support system from senior leadership, we have a corporate focus to infuse AI into our products along with an unending stream of potential products and solutions to create.

Some parts of our company are still in the nascent stages of leveraging machine learning to improve our products. You may not find a lot of opportunities to build products from the ground up (although we are working on several!) inside a Fortune 500 company like ADP, but many also don’t have what we uniquely offer. ADP pays over 20% of the working population in the United States, giving ML engineers and data scientists a rare chance to work with some of the industry’s biggest datasets.

As an ADP ML engineer, I get the best of all worlds. I get to research and implement solutions for relevant problems and issues that impact the working world. For example, my team is currently tackling one of the biggest financial challenges in the country: retirement preparedness. We’re using comprehensive datasets from different organizations to enable us to teach people better financial planning habits and demonstrate the impact of those lessons on their financial future. I love to say we are, “Helping America Retire Better.” Every extra year of planned retirement that we deliver to people makes me happy. Impacting people’s lives through my work is what motivates me to come to work every day.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. This article wouldn’t be complete and would be slightly disingenuous if I didn’t talk about the challenges. Let’s be realistic. Everyone faces challenges at work.

One problem I see is that people love the hyper buzzwords: AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Data Science, oh my! But often, people don’t always see the value in the ideation phase. One of the great things about ADP is our culture of encouraging innovation that helps engineers move forward. Yes, maybe there were times people were wary of an idea, but no one ever discouraged me from working on a proof of concept.

Another challenge has to do with our scale, which is sometimes a blessing and a curse for ADP. Because of it, we need to work with teams across the organization and deal with conflicting opinions and priorities. Leaning into our core value of working as “One ADP,” many times, this helps us to resolve these issues, but it might take a few less-than-fun meetings or calls. These challenges can sometimes be annoying, and they take resilience to navigate through, but thanks to my amazing team and leadership support, I’ve never felt helpless or demotivated.

So, what do you say? Does this sound like a place for you? I’ll end by simply saying: give us a try. Apply and interview. I promise, once you meet us, you’ll understand why people stick around for a long time. I mean a really long time. Some of the smart and awesome engineers I work with had the pleasure of seeing the original Star Wars…in the movie theatre (no, I mean the first time!). Our multigenerational workforce is one of the things that makes this place culturally rich and diverse, but no less fun.

Ciao!

PS: The natural language model I’ve been working on wrote this article, so I hope you enjoyed it!

PPS: Just kidding. The model did generate some of the sentences I used in this piece, and hopefully, someday, it will be able to write an entire blog post for me!

Sanjay Varma Rudraraju is an Application Developer at ADP based in New Jersey.

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Paper boats in a triangular pattern

Being a first-time Engineering Leader

“You did a great job as a senior engineer. You are now promoted to a manager to lead the new team that we just formed. Congratulations on your new role!”
It is something on these lines that most people get promoted or at least that is how I remember when I was promoted to a manager. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with promotions such as this. The key though is in recognising that the expectations change when this happens. As we moved up the individual contributor (IC) ladder we learnt to solve harder technical problems. This change in role, though changes the operating field a little. It is in this context that I am listing out a few things that would have helped me transition into my role as a manager better, when I started out.
Transition from a maker to manager schedule
Staying hands on — in other words writing production quality code is a reality for most first time managers making this transition. It is also likely the first time where you end up navigating both kinds of schedules on a daily basis and it is a hard thing to do. Learn to be protective of your calendar. You could do this by:
Blocking your time in the calendar where you need to stay heads down. I’d suggest at least 3 hours at a time and then adjust up or down depending on what is an ideal chunk of uninterrupted time for you to get something meaningful done
Being ever more mindful of how you now schedule time with your direct reports. Just because you have moved onto a different schedule does not mean they should have to. If you are conscious of how you set up these meetings, that is one more thing you are doing for your team
Doing what you can to string your meetings into one contiguous block. Better yet, define your meeting times and agree with your peers. With a little back and forth, this usually works well for everyone and is another barrier for folks who gatecrash into your time with unplanned meetings
If you want to know more about different types of schedules, Paul Graham’s article explains it quite well.
Stay hands on
You are most likely a manager of a team with highly opinionated ICs. You need to be able to have a conversation with them, ask the right questions, pressure test their approach.
Pressure on your time as an IC will only increase as you grow and if you don’t strive to stay hands on, very soon you will find yourself too far from where the action is. You don’t necessarily have to pick up the most critical problem to solve but do what you must to stay relevant and make a meaningful contribution.
Impediment remover, not always a problem solver
After years of being an IC where you are used to solving problems yourself, it can be hard to take a step back.
Be the person who helps your teams get over the hump even if you are not the one who identified the problem or fixed it. Serve the team in the capacity that is best needed at the time and avoid being a seagull manager. With a young team, it could mean leading with a solution while with more mature teams, it could just be about asking the right questions. And in some other cases, maybe it is just carrying pizza!!
Carve out time for career development
A key reason you choose to be a manager is that you genuinely believe that you can have a greater impact on your purpose by developing a strong team. Be interested in each member’s aspirations, be on the lookout for their strengths and biases. Provide timely feedback. Help identify opportunities that will help them hone their newly acquired skills. These are all things perhaps any standard course on “New Managers” will refer to. There are many talks and articles out there to drive home the point that when you can align aspirations with the organisational goals that is when you are likely to have the most impact, but also derive personal satisfaction. Do the most you can to make this a practice.
Bar raiser
You have to do this at every opportunity you get, not just when hiring someone into the team. You have to be the cheerleader during your team’s journey towards excellence. Raise the bar when it comes to technical excellence; be the torchbearer when it comes to upholding your organisations credos and values. Often in the quest for an organisation’s immediate imperatives culture takes a back seat. Protect, sustain and improve your organisation’s culture like your organisation’s life depends on it; because it actually does.
Manage upwards and sideways
Managing upwards or to the side is typically seen by engineers as an ugly part of organizational politics. Other than the typical activities that are required to manage information, the biggest reason to do this is because software development is a collaborative activity. Managing in its purest sense is about aligning priorities across teams. You will be able to achieve your goals better if you can influence your peers to row in the same direction and are aligned with the direction your manager has in mind. At the same time, this is also about course correcting if need be and ensuring people on the impacted teams understand why a correction is better for everyone.
Conclusion
Doing some or all of these things will not turn you into a super manager overnight. I like to compare this to going to the gym. You will not notice any change after your first day at the gym, but keep at it long enough and the results will be clear for all to see.

Tech & Innovation Blog

When things go South, you go North, East or West!


Career Advice, Culture, Women in STEM

Sometimes, it is obvious. Sometimes, it is subtle. Yet, in all cases, there are early warning signs. If only we could pause to take it in!

Bird's eye view of highway interchange at night

Where is that time anyway? When we are pursuing a Ph.D., juggling life as a student or mid-career professional, so often, we only catch ourselves off course a bit later than we would have liked.

The world of work, as we have known it has been changing for a long time now. If you are in the United States, the change has been visible…

  • The highways we paid tolls on used to have people manning booths and giving out change. Now, we have EZPass and exact change lanes!
  • The supermarket and grocery store checkout lines had cashiers and more lanes open. Now, we have self-checkouts!
  • The number of supervisory (aka people management) roles are decreasing. A great example, next time you go shopping, look out for the robots (yup, I am serious) that now perform repeatable tasks of checking “status” and reporting up.
  • And so many more…if only we paused to take it in.

Thanks to much-needed automation and business process improvements, essential for the evolution and optimization of business, the current workforce (yes, that is us!) are directly or indirectly in the path of changing work models that offer significant growth opportunities and yes, challenges.

The way I like to think about it is this: a challenge is an opportunity to rethink and reimagine the possibilities previously undiscovered.

Silhouette of a raised hand in the air

As individuals, we spend a tremendous amount of time at work and put our hearts and souls into doing our very best to deliver stellar results, and look to grow with and within the organization. Passion, purpose, and growth are essential contributors to happiness. Happy employees find intrinsic motivation to explore, experiment and excel in their work through moments of Flow. That work happiness is abundantly positive and contagious in a way that radiates through every interaction with every person.

In the landscape of robots, robotic process automation, and AI that look to optimize work environments, there are naturally fewer vertical job opportunities as organizations realign to provide abundant lateral growth opportunities and training for their employees.

In the fast-changing world of work, it is natural to feel disappointed and frustrated when conversations with the manager on career-growth prospects either do not exist or are bland and uni-directional. We are human. It’s natural to want recognition and additional responsibilities that offer growth to learn something new.

Neon-lit word,

When things go South, there are early warning signs in conversations such as “why you are not qualified” rather than “how you can acquire skills needed.” Then, out of the blue, that position you aspired to have and worked very hard to get goes to someone else.

Yes, it happened. You just got passed over for a promotion, and the only thought that fills your mind is that you must quit and find a new job on the internet!

How about we change the situation to our advantage? It is in moments of utter despair that we are closest to finding our success. But that can only happen if we can recover fast and find our inner strength to ReEmerge stronger and more resilient than we have ever been before.

  • Easier said than done, yes, but why not consider this event as a welcome sign for us to get out of our comfort zone and try something new in another part of our organization?
  • Start by identifying your passion and your purpose. Find alternative applications in emerging fields and cool new projects. The human mind has unlimited potential, so believe in yourself. You will be amazed at the strengths you discover within yourself.

We are amazing Individual Centers of Excellence (I.C.O.E.), and we own and drive our career to define our success.

We can grow in any direction we want and go as far as we choose to and do so at the pace that works for us.

Retrain your mindYes, take that vacation time off or mental health day to relax, recharge, and reactivate the inner core strengths that propel you forward. Identify new areas of growth within yourself and the organization.

You can leverage your tenure, experience, and expertise to your advantage and help support your organization’s business goals. Cross-pollination provides an excellent opportunity to add your uniquely human perspective.

Continuous learning is critical to personal and professional growth and helps to future proof your career, so keep learning! There are so many free and low-cost online options including Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and also check for learning options within your organization.

Yes, there is hope, and there are new areas of growth…just not where you expected to find them.

  • Go North! Yes, get out of your comfort zone and explore opportunities in other areas of the business operations using your translatable and scalable skills.
  • Go East! Look at job opportunities posted on your organization’s career portal. Set up a quick 15-min conversation with that hiring manager to discuss their expectations of skills, responsibilities, and business outcomes to see if the opportunity is for you. Is that not cool?
  • Go West! Quickly learn a brand-new skill that is in demand and explore lateral movement in your group by asking your manager to expand your role to increase your responsibility.

Please, invest in your career success. Build on your tenure and grow with and within your organization.

So, have you identified any early warning signs? If so, have you looked at your career portal to initiate a conversation with another hiring manager?

Oh, the places you can go, if only you keep driving. Best of Luck!

(Originally published on LinkedIn November 4, 2019. Republished with permission.)