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Diversity In Action

Chicago Fed focuses on technology and diversity

The Fed payments system transports about $4 trillion a day, so it’s no surprise that a range of experienced IT pros is needed to oversee its efficient delivery


The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Chicago Fed) is one of twelve reserve banks in the Federal Reserve System. The banks are jointly responsible, with their board of governors, for implementing U.S. monetary policy set forth by the Federal Open Market Committee.

“Our core activities are maintaining the nation’s financial stability, providing banking services to financial institutions, providing banking supervision, and enforcing regulations,” says Jeremy Lewis, AVP of information technology. “Just like other regulatory organizations, we have robust IT needs.”

Building a strong, diverse workforce
Technicians who are strong in application development, using such tools as SharePoint and Java, are strategic to the IT department, Lewis says. “We also value information security professionals.

“Other important areas include website development and services for work we perform on behalf of the Federal Reserve System, technical support for our internal clients, information management for efficiency and cost savings, and network systems support.”

“The Federal Reserve System moves about four trillion dollars a day through the nation’s payments system. That’s an astronomical amount of financial data,” says Cheryl Hillman, HR manager of recruiting. “We have some of the best and brightest technology pros in the world here.”

Hillman estimates that Chicago Fed will hire thirty IT professionals in 2018 and another thirty next year. “However,” she adds, “each reserve bank has its own IT needs, as does the national IT infrastructure, which is run out of the Richmond, VA bank.”

System diversity at the Fed
Chicago coordinates the Federal Reserve System’s presence at national diversity recruiting events, a critical component of the recruiting process, according to Hillman.

“The board of governors and the reserve banks plan and participate in national career conferences together,” Hillman explains. “For the past two years, we’ve attended one technical conference. Last year it was the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and this year we attended Women in Technology International.”

The senior technical recruiter in Chicago partners with professional organizations to find experienced IT specialists. Candidates also are identified through social media.

“Although the Chicago Fed mostly seeks experienced candidates, we do have a twelve-week internship program for college students,” Hillman says. “We bring about fifty interns into a variety of functional areas each year. Some may become entry-level hires. We also partner with clubs on campuses that focus on technology, particularly women in technology. We host special events at the bank for college students and conduct mock interview workshops on campus.”

Internal initiatives engage staff
Chicago Fed’s office of diversity and inclusion works with human resources to address needs and gaps, says Valerie Van Meter, senior vice president, equal employment opportunity officer, and director of the office of minorities and women.

“We focus our diversity training on upper management because we believe people model themselves on the behavior of their leadership,” she says. “The training includes structured dialogues and discussions facilitated by outside diversity and inclusion education consultants.”

Employee affinity groups are active at the Chicago Fed. They include groups for African Americans, Latinos, women, Asians, veterans, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They provide diversity awareness and career development to the entire staff through programs and guest speakers, as well as outreach to the community.

“Members may take leadership roles and get some visibility in ways they would not normally get in their jobs,” says Hillman. “Last year, we offered leadership training to members of our affinity groups, and helped them focus on how their groups can help meet the bank’s overall goals,” Van Meter adds.

Mentoring open to everyone
Several mentoring options are available at Chicago Fed. In one program, executive committee members are matched with recently promoted VPs and assistant VPs across functions, “so we can identify and develop talent throughout the entire organization,” Van Meter notes.

A mentee-driven program is available to all staff. Mentees can select from a list of experienced employees who have agreed to be informal mentors.

Improving quality of life
“In the IT department, flex time and telecommuting are available in certain cases, based on business needs,” says Lewis. “Some employees can work nine-hour days and take a day off every other week.”

The Chicago Fed’s tuition reimbursement program also covers 50 percent of book costs.

Educating the community
Employees are encouraged to participate in the organization’s community outreach efforts, which include financial literacy and work readiness education in minority and female-only schools, Van Meter says.

“Our affinity groups have partnered with local schools to provide students with mentors and training,” she says. “We also have a paid internship program for students in private high schools that helps their families with tuition.”

Chicago Fed is involved with nonprofit organizations, including Year Up, an intensive program that provides recent high school graduates and GED recipients with hands-on skill development and corporate internship opportunities.

“At Chicago Fed, they learn client technical support and helpdesk skills,” says Lewis. “Whether we consider them for ongoing employment at the end of the program, or they come back to us after having gone to college, it’s a way to start them on a career.”

Federal Reserve Bank is a mission-driven organization
“Chicago Fed is a mission-driven organization. We are not solely focused on increasing shareholder value,” says Van Meter. “We’re a service organization for the nation, trying to protect the nation’s economy and make life better for all citizens. That mission resonates with the people who stay with our organization. It’s why they do what they do.”

D/C




Federal Reserve Bank Chicago
www.chicagofed.org

Headquarters: Chicago, IL
Employees: 1,503
Business: Central bank for the United States

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