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Urvashi Tyagi is a lifelong problem solver. In engineering school and early in her career, she solved technical problems. Now, as ADP’s CTO, she’s working on problems that span technology, culture, and mindset — from unifying the architecture of the payroll and HR solutions company’s technology platform and improving developer experience to facilitating digital transformation for ADP and its clients.
I recently spoke with Tyagi; the following is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.
MIT Sloan Management Review: You have held technology positions at ADP, Amazon, American Express, Bridgewater Associates, and Microsoft, among other firms. What have you learned about culture from your time spent at those organizations?
Urvashi Tyagi: One of the ways I look at culture is what people do within the company when no one is watching. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen that companies that had a healthy culture continued to thrive and adapt versus companies where culture was more of a work in progress.
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Something I noticed about ADP — and this was true of American Express as well — is that employees tend to work here for a longer period of time. At ADP, part of this longer average tenure traces back to the fact that careers and trajectories are not defined by one’s initial role in the company. Here, there are opportunities to grow, to learn and experiment, to build new skills, to take on different functions and different roles. It is a core part of the culture.
We also have each other’s backs, which creates a safe space to engage in healthy debates — because what we have seen through the digital transformation is that nobody, not one person, really knows the right thing to do next.
Technology is actually a team sport where you build on the ideas of your colleagues. Of course, people need to have technical skills. But you also want them to be great collaborators who support and work efficiently with each other. They have to understand how the code they write drives value for the business and helps clients. Maybe 10 years ago, it would have been acceptable for a rock star developer to just write code, but those days are gone.
Engineers have traditionally been thought of as left-brained subject matter experts whose jobs are task-oriented.
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