Ever upward. Those are the words that come to mind when we look over the 2019 list of the 100 Best Places to Work in IT and think about the listings of past years.
At this point, there are quite a few to think about. This is the 26th year that Computerworld has surveyed large, midsize and small organizations across the U.S. to find out which ones are the Best Places to Work in IT. Quite simply, the benefits and amenities that companies offer as they compete to hire and retain the top IT professionals in the workforce keep expanding. The best places provide more training, better health insurance options, more generous retirement-fund matching, more flexible time off policies, and better office environments that encourage collaboration. Year by year, the trend is … ever upward.
Over the years, new priorities have emerged. Diversity has become more valued. Policies that support work/life balance have gained prominence as differentiating factors for top employers.
For instance, federal law guarantees no paid maternity leave — or paternity leave of any kind — to new parents; U.S. regulations require companies (with 50 or more employees) to provide just 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Some states have tweaked those requirements in various ways, but the true leaders in parental benefits are individual employers.
The 100 organizations on our list this year are well ahead of the average for U.S. employers in offering maternity and paternity benefits. As of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 15% of U.S. workers were offered any paid family leave. By contrast, over 80% of the Best Places offer at least one week of fully paid maternity leave, and two offer 20 weeks. (One offers 18 weeks of fully paid paternity leave.) Many organizations on the list extend these benefits to adoptive parents as well.
This is just one example of the ways these top organizations increase their attractiveness to IT talent. It’s all part of providing an environment where IT pros enjoy doing their best work together.
Read this special report to see which U.S. organizations are the Best Places to Work in IT and what it is that makes them such desirable places to work.
Go, team: It’s all about people
Cat Anderson worked as an anthropologist, a waitress and manager of an olive oil tasting shop before joining AP Intego as a user experience (UX) designer 18 months ago. It was a friend who referred her to the insurance company, but even so, she had serious doubts about taking a flying leap into anything resembling a corporate job.
“When you hear about corporations, it all sounds so deadly boring, even toxic. But there’s such an absence of that here,” says Anderson, referring to the Waltham-Mass.-based company (the No. 7 small company on our list) that bills itself as a “digital insurance platform” and the 144 employees who work there arranging insurance for small businesses.
“Every single person here is a gem,” she says. “The biggest thing that attracted me — and I know this is going to sound cheesy — is the goodness of the people who work here.”
She’s far from alone. Across the board, co-workers are the primary reason why IT professionals employed by the small, midsize and large companies on Computerworld’s 2019 Best Places to Work in IT list say they like what they do and where they work. Sure, there’s also generous vacation time, flexible working hours and regular opportunities to innovate and contribute, but in today’s highly collaborative work environment, what it all comes down to is the people on their teams.
Molly Berry, a Georgia Tech graduate who went to work at Weston, Fla.-based Ultimate Software as an intern, was skeptical when co-workers said they felt like family to one another. “I thought they were crazy and just trying to sell me on the company,” she recalls. Now a developer with the $1 billion HR and payroll software and services company, she says, “I’m having a blast. Ultimate is so good at hiring — not just good engineers, but good people.”
That means people who make excellent teammates and can work collaboratively, says Adam Rogers, who joined Ultimate (the No. 1 midsize company) 22 years ago as an intern and is now CTO responsible for all product development as well as corporate IT.
“One of the things we did in the early days, back in 2002, is decide that the way we’d get all work done is collaboratively through teams,” Rogers says. Among other things, doors and walls were physically torn down to create an open office environment. Information transparency became and remains a cultural hallmark of the company. “We have visual displays with all of the work that has to be done, plus daily standups [meetings]. It’s all out there in the open,” says Rogers.
“Being in IT, there are no heroes. There isn’t one person who can know everything or do everything. If you can’t work on a team, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you won’t be successful,” he says.
At Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (No. 15, midsize), IT collaborates with virtually every other part of the Durham-based enterprise. One very visible example is the open concept design of the IT department itself. IT and the company’s facilities department jointly designed and arranged the space, which CIO Jo Abernathy describes as “inspirational.”
“The teams worked together for six months, designing a space they liked. Now, the second you get off the elevator, you see so much collaboration and can feel the energy,” she says.
Collaboration is so critical at Raytheon (No. 37, large) that the $25.3 billion defense and aerospace company counts it among its five core values, along with trust, respect, innovation and accountability. The Waltham-based company has deployed the latest cloud-based collaboration technologies, including augmented and virtual reality capabilities that enable highly flexible work locations and schedules for 100% of IT employees. Removing limitations on employees’ working hours and location enables the company to form project teams based on individual strengths rather than availability, according to CIO Kevin Niefert.
This kind of flexibility has helped project manager Susan Horting get through a divorce, single parenthood and caring for a parent with cancer, all the while advancing her career through various business units and roles over the past 25 years.
“There are quite a few reasons I’ve stayed this long,” Horting says. “We have incredible work/life balance and the ability to move around within the company.” But in the end, she adds, it comes down to the people she has worked with on various teams. “Teamwork is critical to everything we do. We have to be very team-oriented because everything IT does touches everyone.”
Collaborative relationships across the company are the foundation of how IT teams deliver business value, Niefert says. “We don’t operate in functional silos either,” he adds. “When you come to work at Raytheon IT at any level in the company, you are on a cross-functional team on your second day of work.”
Raytheon’s RM2 Augmented Reality Initiative is a prime example, notes Mona Bates, CIO of the Integrated Defense Business Unit.
“If we have a radar system in the desert of Saudi Arabia, we have people in the desert supporting that system, but we also have subject-matter experts and other experts here in the Northeast who can communicate via audio and video in a secure fashion [via RM2] to troubleshoot and resolve problems,” Bates says. The system has been so successful at Integrated Defense that now the company is looking to elevate RM2 to an enterprise capability, she adds.
At San Jose-based Align Technology (No. 5, midsize), there is no distinction between IT and the business. In fact, says CIO Sree Kolli, “If you walked into the company, it would be hard to tell who works in IT and who doesn’t. Everyone is working together.”
Throughout the company, which makes custom medical devices, including a line of invisible dental braces, employees are divided into cross-functional product- and service-based agile teams. Each team has eight to 10 people, including representatives from each of the various technologies involved. Everyone sees the same data, drives toward the same goals and shares what they’ve learned with other teams across the globe.
“In general, the culture is very entrepreneurial and innovative,” Kolli says.
This was precisely the appeal for Georgianne Young, a project manager who was recruited by the company a little more than two years ago to launch a project management office in North Carolina.
“I was told new ideas are welcome in meetings, and that if you don’t give new ideas, they think something’s wrong. That got me very eager to work here,” she says.
Young continues to run projects for the company, but she is also now coaching teams in agile work methods. “One of the things I love is that we’re encouraged to use our passions to help build Align, and my passion is agile. You put teamwork and collaboration together and it equals agile.”
Asked about her very first impressions of the company, she says what so many Best Places employees replied to the same question: “It felt like family. We truly do want to help one another. There’s very little politics — or anything else — that gets in the way.”
Julia King is a freelance writer and editor based in Pennsylvania.
Profiles of five Best Places
Want to know what it’s like to work at a Best Places organization? Read these in-depth profiles of five outstanding IT employers:
- CarGurus holds its own in tight labor market
- In-house training lets Accelirate grow
- Illumina shines through IT empowerment
- At JPL, IT ‘dares mighty things’
- Owens Corning: Small IT shop with a ‘big jobs’ approach
Click to the next page to see the complete list of 2019 Best Places, divided by company size.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.