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August/September 2010

Diversity/Careers August/September 2010 Issue




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Diversity In Action

Prudential is reaching out to encourage diverse IT people

"You can have a thriving career here," says HR VP Michele Alcazar. "From IT and other perspectives, Prudential is an attractive place to work."


Michele Alcazar: for a data center in Japan, helpdesk, engineering and architecture people who are also bilingual.When so many IT jobs were going offshore, parents advised their kids not to enter the field. Now companies like Prudential are seeing a "significant decline" in new IT grads and job applicants, says Michele Alcazar, HR VP for the corporate IT office.

In response, Prudential's CIO has launched an outreach program to address this disparity and boost awareness that Prudential would like to be an "employer of choice" for IT pros. "As a global financial services company we have a lot to offer when it comes to technology careers," Alcazar says. "You can have a thriving career here. From IT and many more perspectives, Prudential is recognized as a leader and an attractive place to work."

Prudential offers a variety of products and services including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management and real estate services. The technology organization supports all Prudential's global businesses. It handles infrastructure, network architecture engineering and application development work, "which is primarily done within each of our lines of business," Alcazar explains.

An understanding of the financial services industry is important but not always necessary for potential candidates. If you understand the technology, you can learn the business side, Alcazar says. "We're working internally on developing well-rounded technologists. Of course, if your goal is to be the CIO, you'll need a working understanding of all the businesses, as well as being specialized in one. Candidates for leadership positions must bring more to the table and have a broader base of knowledge."

Prudential is seeking some IT specialties in the grid technology arena. For example, it wants IT people who understand the impact of cloud computing. Virtualization is another area where the company hopes to attract new talent.

"Prudential is also considering all the possibilities associated with a new data center we are building for our Prudential businesses in Japan," Alcazar notes. "We've done significant hiring in Japan as well as here in the U.S. We're bringing in people who are bilingual, can manage cross-cultural relationships and have the skills to run a data center: helpdesk, engineering and architecture people."

The U.S. team is twelve hours behind Japan and has had to learn to work differently as the domestic operation moves to a global one.

Open positions at Prudential right now are mostly for experienced technologists. Current hiring is generally limited to replacing turnover, although it also includes a small number of positions for people familiar with new technologies. The company is endeavoring to recruit from a pool of diverse candidates.

"As we continue to attract new and diverse talent, we're particularly proud of our partnership with the Workforce Opportunity Services program, offered through Columbia University (New York, NY) and Rutgers (Newark, NJ). It's a certification program for high school students from urban enterprise zones who may not have the opportunity to go to college," Alcazar says. In the most recent class, all ten students were from diverse backgrounds.

The students get classroom training and onsite work at Prudential. At the completion of the program they're certified in areas like Java programming and legacy application support, and have learned some business skills as well.

Prudential recruits from HBCUs like Hampton University (Hampton, VA) and colleges in areas where the company has operations. In the last four years, professional organizations like BDPA, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology (LISTA) and Women in Technology International (WITI) have also been tapped for candidates.

Diversity training is mandated by some Prudential business groups. There's a Web-based course that people are strongly encouraged to take, and managers are trained in hiring techniques and other diversity-related areas.

Some business groups at Prudential have local diversity councils. Because of the expansion work in Japan there will soon be a global diversity council in the operations and systems community. "This will be a way to bridge gaps between employees," Alcazar says.

Prudential has six business resource groups open to all employees: the Black Leadership Forum; Asian Pacific Islander American Association; Employee Association of Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Employees; Able and Disabled Associates Partnering Together; Hispanic Heritage Network; and VETnet for military veterans. There's also a Women in Finance group which provides networking and professional development for women across the company. The groups serve as resources to the company, offer mentoring programs, and also focus on professional development and community service.

The company wholeheartedly sponsors programs to support families, Alcazar declares. In fact, Prudential's CIO is a working mother herself and advocates strongly for work-life balance.

"A lot of what we do and the technology tools we build make it easier for people to have workplace flexibility," Alcazar says. "We provide and build tools that enable employees to work remotely from anywhere in the world. We even launched a new 'soft phone' tool that routes calls through your computer to whatever phone you've designated."

D/C



Prudential
www.prudential.com

Headquarters: Newark, NJ
Employees: 38,000 worldwide
Revenues: $3.4 billion in 2009
Business: Insurance and
financial services

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