As a 203-year-old financial services institution, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH) has thrived on key strategic business decisions, putting clients at the center of everything we do, and persistently embracing change. Being integrated worldwide, we believe diversity of thought is critical when engaging our clients and supporting our colleagues.
Our ability to create innovative solutions stems from our diverse perspectives and propensity to come together as a global team-across backgrounds and borders-to draw upon our collective strengths and expertise. When seeking solutions, we draw on all dimensions of diversity-from gender, race, abilities, and education - to ensure we deliver the best solutions. With our technology leading the way, we leverage our cultural dexterity to advance our innovation - the catalyst for our fuel forward.
BBH's technology department is committed to delivering strategic, agile solutions for our clients while ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of BBH and client data. The organization is focused on harnessing new digital technologies for client use, expanding BBH's ability to retain, analyze, and distribute usable data, and controlling the cyber risk that accompanies these activities. Overseeing this modernization is a cross-trained staff of flexible and variegated technologists.
One of the ways Brown Brothers Harriman has thrived for over 200 years is our ability to evolve - the fulcrum for competing effectively and serving as reliable client advocates across the globe. This includes understanding the vital role diverse voices play in the technology sector. While women are greatly underrepresented in this booming field, BBH seeks to empower them. To increase visibility, grow talent, and create a space for support and career development, we have launched a collaborative circle that champions the contributions of our female technologists. Meet the BBH Women in Technology (WIT) Community.
By bringing employees of varying experience and tenure together to learn from and support one another, the WIT Community encourages personal and professional development while supporting firmwide diversity and inclusion initiatives-including the effort to increase representation of women in technology-related roles. The community is open to all allies within the technology department and seeks to foster collaboration to identify common challenges and share strategies and solutions to address them.
Sarah Holmes, BBH Managing Director, Technology CAO, and WIT cosponsor, sees the value this group has added to our organization. "Women in Systems can step into leadership roles in the community overseeing a particular stream or advising on an initiative. It has provided a great development opportunity for women who have volunteered and are leading the work outside of their day-to-day job."
To ensure all voices are heard, WIT provides support and advancement opportunities for the members of the community, via these streams:
- Mentorship Stream
: Leverages mentoring circle concepts to pair mentors and mentees across various locations, enabling participants to share experience and develop themselves professionally
: Essential for sharing information, building long-term relationships with peers and colleagues of all levels and locations, and serves as an avenue for opportunity
: Champions participation in internal and external forums and events targeting women in technology and showcases the contributions of women
- Career Management
: Helps managers support and develop their direct reports while helping them grow as leaders themselves and leveraging existing forums like Manager-to-Manager to promote manager-targeted awareness and inclusion topics
Nadira Hardial, BBH Senior Vice President, CIO, Application Development and Support for Technology, and BBH WIT cosponsor, stressed that the community is open to all technology employees because "we believe that you don't get inclusion by excluding some." She added, "In the spirit of inclusion, we wanted to pay it forward by creating a community where experiences and challenges related to the pursuit of technical careers can intersect to fuel individual and organizational progress in gender representation at all levels."
Created in June 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community kicked off over Zoom to provide support and learning opportunities, as well as maintain networking, mentoring, recruiting, and career development for women across the organization. With 97% of our workforce in a remote environment, new employees and team members welcomed the inclusivity from the new community. Member Preeti Gupta appreciated this open arms-mentality. "Branching out in a new company is a formidable tribulation, especially during COVID. WIT was a saving grace in creating connections with BBHers." Beyond the ability to establish or maintain connection via the community, the combination of allotted knowledge and experience from the various members allowed for many to upskill their diverse talents.
"Feedback has been that the opportunities to network and engage with others has been invaluable in staying integrated during the COVID work-from-home period," said Nadira, who was recently added to the Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA) Board of Directors for
The remote environment flipped from obstacle to opportunity as it presented us with the ability to rapidly connect with members across the globe for previous unforeseen events. For example, three speed networking events were held via Zoom where members from an array of work experience-levels were split into small breakout rooms to meet with various senior technology leaders. The speakers covered topics like career mobility and progression, diversity and inclusion, working on a global team, and bridging the gap between business and modernization.
Nadira believes these opportunities are key for individual growth. "We've targeted specific areas including awareness training for managers, networking, career discussion panels, and mentorship."
The virtual field allowed members to attend various celebrated conferences for the first time such as the Grace Hopper Conference and Women in Tech World Series - global events previously unavailable due to travel or scheduling restrictions. This past June, the group celebrated its first anniversary. With engagement growing across the department and events popping up month in and month out, the BBH WIT Community has been instrumental in shaping the future of our firm.
"We had a very successful first year," Sarah added. "We are measuring success by the ever-increasing number of members in the community and the participation in our events. In terms of what's next, we're focusing on rolling out a mentoring program, sponsored by WIT, and hosting panel discussions addressing topics of interest to the WIT community. Both efforts will be implemented in the second half of 2021."
While the signs of progress towards gender equity are encouraging, the firm continues to lobby the Diversity & Inclusion Council, Diversity Taskforce, and the Talent Acquisition group to determine how we can attract more talented women in technology, especially at the mid-level of their careers. We continue to pursue the attraction, advancement, and retention of female employees in the field. This is our obligation as global business leaders and the BBH Women in Technology Community is a welcoming space for these voices.
BBH WIT Founding Members
Sarah Holmes is a Managing Director and Technology CAO and oversees IT Finance, Workforce Planning, Communications within the Systems organization.
Sarah joined BBH in June 1995 and has held various roles within the Investor Services Relationship Management and Client Service disciplines. Before joining the Systems team in 2016, Sarah was the Human Resources Business Partner supporting the global Service Delivery division. Sarah is the global co-chair of the Women's Network and participates on various committees including the Investor Services & Systems Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Sustainability Council.
Sarah holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from Boston College.
Nadira Hardial is a Senior Vice President and CIO, Application Development and Support for Technology at Brown Brothers Harriman. She is responsible for the platforms that support the Finance, Compliance, Risk, Human Resources, and Enterprise functions of the Bank.
Nadira joined Brown Brothers Harriman in 2018. Prior to joining BBH, over a span of 25 years, she held roles managing technology solutions for Financial Services firms, including Merrill Lynch, Citibank and Morgan Stanley. Nadira has lead systems teams supporting Institutional, Wealth Management and Asset Management businesses across a range of areas including Risk, Margin and Collateral Management, Fund Services and Tax.
Nadira holds a BBA in Information Systems from Baruch College in New York City.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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