Posts

« All Blogs

Women in STEM

ADP’s Tashina Charagi shares her STEM Journey

ADP Women in STEM Profile: Tashina Charagi

ADP Women in STEM banner

« All Blogs

Women in STEM

ADP’s Margaret Tuohy shares her STEM Journey

Take inspiration from this Vice President of Product Management of National Accounts who says she wasn’t one of those people who knew what she wanted to be at the age of 5. She’s learned to just figure out that one next step.

Margaret Tuohy grew up the oldest of three in Brooklyn, NY. Her parents, both immigrants, still live there. “My parents are the classic immigrant story. They independently came to the US from Ireland when they were 17. They both sent money home. I learned early on to admire their work ethic and even as a child, I respected the sacrifices that they made for my brother, sister, and me.”

She went to college at SUNY Albany in upstate New York. Thinking she wanted to be a lawyer, she majored in English and Political Science. After some summer jobs working for law firms, Margaret changed her mind.

Finding the Path to Product Management

She still loved the analytic and methodical thinking of law. So, she explored other graduate programs and continued at SUNY Albany for an MBA with a concentration in Management Information Systems. “It was a pragmatic decision. I enjoyed technology and they had a great program. I was awarded an assistantship that would cover tuition and I knew there were job opportunities when I graduated.”

Margaret found the classes fascinating, especially information systems. “There was quite a bit of statistics and math, operational problems, and field projects. I enjoyed the work.”

Margaret Tuohy

Margaret Tuohy

She was recruited by GE and entered their Information Management Leadership Program. Margaret was attracted to the opportunity to rotate throughout different GE businesses utilizing different technologies. An added benefit was the ability to move to a different geographic location every six months. “I had a lot of exposure to different business concepts, ways of doing things, and technologies. About midway through the program, I rotated to the San Francisco Bay Area by myself for what was supposed to be six months. I loved the area so much, I ended up living there for several years. In addition to work opportunities, the Bay Area is where I met my husband and bought my first house. It was an exciting time.”

During the last part of Margaret’s GE tenure, she spent her time working as a developer on a data warehousing project where she managed a team focused on data conversions and integrations. One technology Margaret developed expertise in was Informatica. A friend knew someone at the company and Margaret learned they were recruiting.

Margaret joined Informatica as a sales engineer where she was doing demos, traveling to client sites, and implementing proof of concepts in short engagements. “The pressure was pretty intense. As a sales engineer, you need to be able to install, run, and develop programs in an unfamiliar environment, all with the client looking over your shoulder.” She loved working with clients and understanding tech from their perspective, as well as working with the product managers in the company. Margaret stayed in the business intelligence space for a few more years, managing larger development teams. After eight years in California, Margaret’s husband, an environmental scientist and professor, had a job opportunity in Atlanta and they decided to move back East.

Margaret Tuohy and husband Derek Shendell

Margaret with her husband, Derek Shendell, hiking on vacation in Sonoma, California.

Margaret moved to Atlanta and quickly found a position with CNN, supporting a data warehousing effort. About 7 months into that role, another opportunity opened with CNN in the New York bureau. The role was responsible for product managing digital media for CNN’s business coverage. Margaret applied and was in NY within a couple of weeks. “That time was a bit of whirlwind. In the space of 16 months, I had lived in the Bay Area, Atlanta, and then then New York. Fortunately, my husband quickly found a position with Rutgers University, so the move was good for both of us.”

Margaret was in the newsroom, working with editorial and developers to build more effective ways to report business news and financial data across digital, social, video, and mobile. “I loved the job and being in the newsroom. It was fun to be part of something new in an environment where we could get things done quickly. I had great executive support and resources in a unit that was very nimble. And I had a lot of autonomy to roll things out on the site.”

Best advice: When you’ve made the decision, be at peace with that decision. Trust yourself enough to not second-guess.

– Margaret Tuohy, VP of Product Management, ADP National Accounts

Although she had managed teams before, CNN was the first place she could build a team from scratch. “I knew what I was looking for in the first person, but it was not the same as what I needed in my fifth hire. As the team grew, the work and people were evolving. So, we needed new personality traits and skills sets that weren’t part of the picture at the beginning.”

After eight years with CNN, an opportunity arose with a start-up, Business Insider (BI). Margaret joined as the SVP of Product Development, running product management, launching international versions of the website, and using analytics to build an audience.

Coming to ADP

She had hoped BI would be more like CNN, but it was a different organization in a different stage of development. “I remember being on vacation and while I was hiking, I came to terms with feeling like the job was not a fit. So, I gave myself permission to leave. I went home and started putting out feelers. This time I cast a wider net beyond media. I was looking at companies that sold software products and solutions. I was still open to media, but I was also willing to explore something new.”

At the time, ADP had several open roles that looked interesting. Margaret checked her LinkedIn connections and found someone happy to pass on her resume to the right person.

Then she got a call and interviewed with Don Weinstein, who hired her. She started out in a product portfolio and strategy role, which was perfect for learning about HR technology and ADP. Eager to get back into Product Management, Margaret moved into her current role, VP, Product Management of National Accounts. “It was the natural next step and there was a lot to learn. In National Accounts, we work with large clients with complex needs and high expectations. I was also learning the market while at the same time, structuring my team.”

“In the last couple of years, I really feel like I’ve gotten to practice Product Management at scale. National Accounts has many products within the portfolio, we have a good number of Digital Transformation projects in flight that will deliver strong business outcomes, and the Product Management team has really evolved. It has been exciting to see product managers that are relatively new to the organization develop confidence to not only manage product backlogs, but also become the experts on client webinars. Likewise, there have been opportunities to tweak or develop roles so more tenured associates can continue to grow.”

Margarets extended family

Margaret with her family after a dinner out in Brooklyn, New York.

Find and Be a Mentor

Margaret strongly advocates finding a mentor and then being a mentor to others. “I was lucky to have a sponsor at CNN who understood me. He had my back and helped handle the politics so I could focus on the work. It was really valuable. Even now, I text him once in a while and ask for advice.”

“Find someone who knows you in a professional context and can give advice. At CNN, I was a Sr. Director and needed someone who supported and challenged me at the same time. Earlier in my career, I had a mentor who was more of a teacher who could provide expertise and encouragement. They were the right mentors for different stages in my career.”

Best Advice

The best advice Margaret received along the way was from a trusted teacher in high school when she was trying to figure out where to go to college. She was weighing options, making tentative decisions, and then second guessing. The teacher advised, “You’ve made the decision, now be at peace with that decision. Trust yourself enough to not second-guess.”

Her advice to others is related. “I’ve always been a little envious of people who knew exactly what they wanted to do since they were 5 years old. I’m just not that person, and I’ve learned to be ok with that. I often tell others, you don’t have to decide your life plan; just decide what you’re going to try next. Figure out that one next step. Just ask yourself whether the opportunity you are going after will take you in the right direction, and then trust your decision.”

Ready for more?

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

Read why ADP was named the “2020 Top Companies Winner for Women Technologists” by AnitaB.org.

Related Video: How ADP Walks the D&I Talk

One way ADP encourages diversity and inclusion (D&I) among its associates is through business resource groups (BRGs). ADP’s iWIN BRG is the company’s largest with 5000+ members (male and female) from 19 countries across the business. Learn how iWIN engages, equips and empowers its members to achieve personal and professional success through networking, professional development, and other educational opportunities. iWIN is an internal organization open only to ADP associates.

Tags: Leadership Trends and Innovation Professional & Technical Services Articles Career Management

« All Blogs

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

« All Blogs

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.

« All Blogs

Women in STEM

From Art to Tech

Margot Dear’s advice to creative people interested in tech: Be curious and ask great design questions, but also always figure out how to explain your value.

When Margot Dear decided she wanted to learn French, she got on a bus in Vancouver and moved to Montreal. It took three days to get there, but that was part of the adventure.

C’est une aventure depuis.

It’s been an adventure ever since.

From Art to Tech

She loved Montreal and decided to go to university there, where she studied art history and studio art. After college, she also learned graphic design and opened up her own design firm for print, graphics and independent film design.

Around that time, Margot realized that art was going digital, so she focused her efforts on computer digital design. She also began working on web design. While she was learning, one of her favorite tricks was to hide her mouse so she would be forced to find another way to get the same result. She has been bridging the gap between the logic and structure of computers and the art and experiences of people ever since.

Understanding Design, Tech, and Relationships

When a friend invited her to come to London — “Because things are happening here!” her friend exclaimed — Margot left her web design position and moved to the U.K. She was able to get a work permit there because her grandfather was a British citizen, and she immediately started working as a freelance graphic and web designer.

She first worked to create online tools for a finance company, then she helped the British Post Office develop their online portal. The Royal Mail needed someone who understood both technology and design to create a central portal while managing relationships across distinct postal brands: Royal Mail, Post Office and Parcel Post. This was a pivotal position for Margot, as her role became less hands-on and more managerial, which meant that understanding people would be a key skill.

After the project was complete, LexisNexis recruited Margot to develop an online presence for their products and services outside the United States. This involved working with teams around the world from many disciplines, including academics, library science, taxonomy, tech, art and design. Margot says, with a laugh, “It was hard to recruit the creative team, because tax and legal compliance is not exactly sexy. But fortunately, complex problems attract great people.”

Coming to ADP

After about 10 years in London, Margot and her husband moved to the United States, where she joined Citrix to work on the Go to Meeting/Go to My PC interface. A friend there began working for ADP and told her about an opening at the ADP Innovation Center in Pasadena, California.

When she went for the interview, the Innovation Center was just starting, and the meeting was in empty office building. Despite the “Sopranos moment,” Margot found that they were so passionate about their work in design and UX that she decided to move to L.A. and take the job.

Now, Margot is the Senior Director of User Experience for Compliance Solutions at the Innovation Center, where she continues to focus on the connections between people, tech and work. In a recent talk at Enterprise UX, she explained: “Delivering products is not enough. We must also communicate the needs of our audiences, the value of our practices and the unique skills we bring to the enterprise table.”

She loves the Innovation Center and the opportunities to connect with others through the meetups and hackathons they hold there. Margot also appreciates the opportunities and challenges of constantly answering new questions and solving new issues. She especially enjoys going into the field and researching with customers to better understand how to design software interfaces in support of their work.

“Our work is getting into the hands of customers and we get to see what happens,” Margot says. “It’s exciting to see a large company invest in UX as an important part of their technology.”

Creating Value

Along the way, Margot has learned a lot about working with people and managing teams. “Give people enough time, space and trust to do great work,” she says. She has found that this is especially important when working with creative people.

“Roadmaps are linear. Creativity is nonlinear,” Margot says.

As a leader, Margot also had to figure out how to explain the value of the creative work she and her team were doing so they would have the resources they needed. This also helped senior leadership understand what they were getting for their investment in UX. Margot and her team are currently exploring how to measure and quantify the value that UX brings to both ADP and its customers by regularly measuring and reporting these metrics to stakeholders across the organization.

Margot has the following advice for creative people interested in tech: be curious. Ask great design questions, but also always figure out how to explain your value.

Parce que vous le valez bien.

Because you’re worth it.

« All Blogs

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.”

« All Blogs

Women in STEM

From Horses and Manatees to Coding

Best advice Samantha ever received? “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Samantha Ortiz started out as a zookeeper. Then she went into marketing. Now she’s a software engineer at ADP’s Innovation Lab working on its NextGen Platform. Her ever-present curiosity, creativity, and passion for understanding behavior and solving problems have been common threads throughout her varied life experiences.

From Horses to Manatees …

Samantha was born and raised in the Bronx and was comfortable in the city, but she always had an interest in the natural world around her. Her older brother raised tropical poison dart frogs at home, and she was mesmerized as a child while observing them in their terrariums. She also spent most of her free time riding and training horses at Riverdale Riding Center in the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park, expanding the interest she had in animals.

After spending most of her life in the city, her family moved to Florida, and she was suddenly surrounded by agriculture. She made the most of her new journey in life. Sam joined the local Future Farmers of America, becoming the chapter’s student advisor and showing a pig at the county fair. Sam also continued her love of riding horses by finally fulfilling her dream of owning a horse and practicing dressage. “My mother was always so supportive of my adventures with animals,” she says. “Even if she felt a little out of place on the farm – she is a New York native, after all – she was there for me every step I took.”

Her passion for understanding living things continued in college as she studied psychology at New College of Florida, focusing on animal behavior and conservation. She spent her undergraduate years working with a wide range of animals, from studying manatee sensory behavior to handedness preferences in lemurs. Sam also conducted research on numerous species of fish, including Indian Mudskippers (an amphibious fish), and Stoplight Parrotfish. She spent several summers in Panama working on her thesis research on Parrotfish’s feeding behavior and its effects on coral reefs. She was also introduced to design, exploring zoo and aquarium design, its effects on animals, and how it fosters conservation behaviors in visitors.

… and from Reptiles to Coding

After college, she worked as a zookeeper in Florida, caring for animals and presenting reptile educational programs to visitors. “So many people were curious about alligator behavior, especially since we were in Florida,” Samantha says. “I shared with them how human actions, particularly humans feeding wildlife, would contribute negatively to the animals’ natural behavior, making them more dangerous as they’d become acquainted to people. Everyone’s actions and behaviors affect something or someone else.”

Samantha’s natural interest in behavior took her down a winding path beyond the natural world and into technology.

A relationship took her to Texas, where she worked for a digital marketing consultancy. While she worked as a copywriter and copy editor, Sam also started to combine her knowledge of behavior with the tools of technology. The marketing campaigns she ran combined multiple applications, and she realized she wanted a deeper understanding of the software she was using. How did it target specific demographics? What data did it use to determine which campaigns would trigger actionable behavior in users? “Where I went to college, they encourage you to be an independent thinker and deeply analyze things,” she says. “That’s how I have always approached everything.”

Samantha started to explore coding by teaching herself web development through an online program. After relocating back to New York, she applied to Hack Reactor, an intensive, full-time coding boot camp

“At first, I was telling myself I’m not ready, maybe it’s too late, I don’t know if I can do this,” she remembers. “So, I started with some prep classes before deciding that software engineering was what I wanted to do.”

Coming to ADP

While Samantha was at Hack Reactor, she built applications with classmates, and two of them went on to work at ADP. She was invited to a networking night at the ADP Innovation Lab, where “I met lots of fun, intelligent people who love what they do. I started talking to Yaara (Katz) and we just clicked. It was so great to meet another female software engineer with a passion for her work. We laughed and I really felt comfortable. I knew I was home.”

Samantha loves software engineering, noting, “It’s such a creative process. I have loved writing my whole life, and designing programs and coding is similar. We notice the audience, figure out how to present the information and design the task, and focus on the user. Building software is writing; refactoring code is editing.”

Continuous learning is another part of the job Samantha loves. “Every day is a different challenge,” she says. “I get to work with new technologies, learning more every step of the way. I am part of a team with great people, and I always feel valued. I started around Christmas a few years ago, and they invited me to their holiday party before I even started. Any idea I have is considered by my team. That’s been true from the first day I walked in the door.”

The best advice Samantha has received was from one of her software engineering instructors, she says: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Keep learning. Stay open — even if you’re scared or not feeling confident.”

Samantha’s advice to people considering a career shift is, “I wished I had jumped into coding earlier, when I was first drawn to it. Making a change doesn’t have to be a scary obstacle. Take it in steps, and know that everyone is learning all the time.”