Corporate culture

Ascensus and Owners Genstar Capital and Aquiline Capital Partners Welcome New Investors, Led by Atlas Merchant Capital LLC, to Ownership Group

Dresher, Pennsylvania—Ascensus—whose technology and expertise helps millions of people save for retirement, education, and healthcare—is pleased to announce that owners Genstar Capital and Aquiline Capital Partners have welcomed new investors to their ownership group. Led by Atlas Merchant Capital LLC, the new investors will acquire just under 25% of Ascensus. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter, following regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Atlas Merchant Capital has deep operating and technical expertise within the financial services industry. Its philosophy is rooted in long-term commitment and partnership. The Atlas investor group includes GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

“We’re extremely pleased that the Atlas investor group has chosen to invest in Ascensus,” said Bob Guillocheau, chairman and chief executive officer of Ascensus. “We’re also grateful to have the continued support of our owners Aquiline and Genstar as we continue to focus on delivering exceptional service to our clients and boost our future growth.”

“Strong support from our existing and new financial sponsors is critical as we continue to pursue our passion, which is helping Americans save today for a better tomorrow,” continued Guillocheau.

David Schamis, founding partner and chief investment officer of Atlas, was a previous chairman of Ascensus. “We admire Ascensus’ robust technology platform, industry-leading expertise, and unparalleled service model,” said Schamis. “Ascensus has experienced significant growth and has a strong track record of continued success. The Atlas investor group has confidence in Ascensus’ management and the company’s future growth trajectory. I am personally thrilled to be back in business with Bob and the excellent team at Ascensus.”

“Aquiline and Genstar believe that Ascensus has a strong management team and significant ability to create value and drive continued growth as a leader in savings and retirement. We fully support Ascensus’ strategy, mission, and vision and are pleased to help them maintain this positive momentum in conjunction with the Atlas investor group,” Aquiline and Genstar jointly stated. “Together, we stand behind Ascensus and their commitment to helping individuals, businesses, advisors, financial institutions, and governments.”

Barclays acted as the lead financial advisor and J.P. Morgan acted as financial advisor to Ascensus in connection with this transaction. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP acted as legal counsel to the company. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP acted as legal counsel to Atlas Merchant Capital and Sidley Austin LLP acted as legal counsel to GIC.

About Ascensus
Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. The firm delivers technology and expertise to help millions of people save for what matters most—retirement, education, and healthcare. For more information about Ascensus, visit ascensus.com. View career opportunities at careers.ascensus.com.

About Aquiline Capital Partners LLC

Aquiline Capital Partners, founded in 2005, is a private equity firm based in New York and London investing in businesses across the financial services sector in banking and credit, insurance, investment management, and financial technology and services. For more information about Aquiline, its investment professionals, and its portfolio companies, please visit: www.aquiline.com.

About Genstar Capital LLC

Genstar Capital (www.gencap.com) is a leading private equity firm that has been actively investing in high quality companies for 30 years. Based in San Francisco, Genstar works in partnership with its management teams and its network of strategic advisors to transform its portfolio companies into industry-leading businesses. Genstar currently has approximately $10 billion of assets under management and targets investments focused on targeted segments of the financial services, software, industrial technology, and healthcare industries.

About Atlas Merchant Capital LLC

Atlas Merchant Capital LLC was founded to participate in compelling market opportunities in the financial services sector. Based in New York and London, Atlas Merchant Capital was founded by Bob Diamond and David Schamis, who together with their partners form a complementary partnership with extensive operating and investing expertise across the financial services landscape. For more information about Atlas Merchant Capital, please visit www.atlasmerchantcapital.com.

About GIC

GIC is a leading global investment firm established in 1981 to manage Singapore’s foreign reserves. A disciplined long-term value investor, GIC is uniquely positioned for investments across a wide range of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, private equity, real estate, and infrastructure. GIC has investments in over 40 countries. Headquartered in Singapore, GIC employs over 1,500 people across 10 offices in key financial cities worldwide. For more information about GIC, please visit www.gic.com.sg.


Ascensus Receives Top Honors for Exceptional Support from Retirement Plan Clients and Advisors

Firm Receives Most “Best in Class” Awards in <$50MM Segments in PLANSPONSOR Defined Contribution (DC) Survey and Wins 2018 PLANADVISER Adviser Choice Award

Dresher, PA—Ascensus—whose technology and expertise helps millions of people save for retirement, education, and healthcare—is pleased to announce that it has received the most “Best in Class” Awards among all providers for the under $50 million plan segments in the 2018 PLANSPONSOR Magazine Defined Contribution (DC) Survey. Overall, the firm won a total of 45 awards across the under $5 million, $5 to $25 million, and $25 to $50 million plan segments. Ascensus was also announced as a winner of the 2018 PLANADVISER Adviser Choice Award for recordkeeping services.

For two decades, PLANSPONSOR’s annual DC Survey has been a significant retirement industry benchmark, measuring and evaluating 401(k) and other DC providers according to feedback from their own plan sponsor clients. Major providers are rated in the various client categories they serve, and benchmark information is collected for plan sponsors to gauge their plans against their peers.

Ascensus received the following “Best in Class” recognition from PLANSPONSOR:

  • 16 awards in the under $5 million Micro Market segment;
  • 16 awards in the $5 to $25 million Small Market segment; and
  • 13 awards in the $25 to $50 million Small-Mid Market segment.

The firm received “Best in Class” status across the three market segments listed above in every possible category for Plan Administration and Sponsor Service/Support. Ascensus’ participant call centers were also recognized with top honors across all of these segments, highlighting its service team’s exceptional expertise and ability to consult with employees on their savings plans.

Ascensus has also been named a winner in the recordkeeping category of the 2018 PLANADVISER Adviser Choice Awards. The Adviser Choice Awards recognize the firms that retirement specialist advisers favor most as indicated in PLANADVISER’s annual Retirement Plan Adviser Survey. Ascensus received top rankings in the following categories:

  • Best Overall Service, Micro Plans (under $5 million)
  • Value for Price
  • Fee Structure for Plan Sponsors
  • Fee Structure for Advisers

“We’re delighted to receive this recognition from our plan sponsor clients and advisor partners,” states Rick Irace, chief operating officer of Ascensus’ retirement division. “It validates the work that we do every day to enhance our services based on their feedback.”

“These phenomenal results and the industry recognition we’ve received further strengthen our commitment to delivering the technology and expertise that our clients and their employees need to plan for the future,” concludes Irace.

Ascensus will be honored as a 2018 PLANSPONSOR DC Survey Standout and 2018 Adviser Choice Award winner at the 2019 PLANSPONSOR/PLANADVISER Excellence in Retirement Awards on March 28, 2019.

About Ascensus
Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. The firm delivers technology and expertise to help millions of people save for what matters most—retirement, education, and healthcare. For more information about Ascensus, visit ascensus.com. View career opportunities at careers.ascensus.com.


Ascensus IT Leaders Tami Evanson, Ravi Vedala Receive 2019 Ones to Watch Awards from IDG

Honorees Recognized for Exceptional Contributions to Firm’s Continued Innovation and Key Initiatives

Dresher, PA—Ascensus—whose technology and expertise helps millions of people save for retirement, education, and healthcare—is pleased to announce that Tami Evanson, senior vice president of IT, and Ravi Vedala, director of IT applications and engineering, have been named honorees of the 2019 Ones to Watch Award from IDG, the publisher of CIO Magazine, Computerworld, and Infoworld. This prestigious award spotlights rising technology leaders who have what it takes to become the strategic, C-level business technology executives of tomorrow.

Tami Evanson has worked in Ascensus’ IT organization for over 15 years and has contributed to many of the technology initiatives that have propelled the firm’s business forward. In her previous role, she helped Ascensus transition to a DevOps methodology, defining and executing the firm’s software development culture and toolsets. Most recently, Tami has spearheaded M&A due diligence and IT roadmap development. To date, she has successfully integrated 20+ acquisitions into Ascensus’ technology ecosystem.

“Tami approaches every situation looking for win-win outcomes and leverages her knowledge and expertise to find solutions with maximum benefit to all involved. This strength made her uniquely qualified to lead our M&A technology and integration efforts,” states John Schroeder, Ascensus’ chief information officer. “People who work with Tami know that she genuinely cares about them, which helps her establish a strong connection and sense of mutual respect.”

Over his ten-year career at Ascensus, Ravi Vedala has led the development of technology for the firm’s government savings division, working with government partners to build and support websites servicing millions of residents. Most recently, Ravi played an integral role on a high-performing team that was tasked with building a purpose-built technology platform for state-facilitated retirement programs. Today, Ascensus is at the forefront of this technology, supporting dedicated employer and employee websites for participants in existing state programs.

“Ravi brings the perfect balance of expertise, humility, and open-mindedness,” says Schroeder. “His work ethic is truly contagious and motivates his team to do whatever it takes to get the job done. We’re grateful for his continued leadership and his dedication to helping Ascensus and its technology enter an entirely new market in such an impactful way.”

“As CIOs become more involved in corporate-wide decisions and objectives, reliance on qualified and talented people within their IT organizations to manage key projects is critical to overall business success,” notes Tim Scannell, director of strategic content at the CIO Executive Council. “The Ones to Watch Awards are an effective way to acknowledge the success of those individuals who have the right mix of technology and management skills to maintain continuity, drive innovation, and lead solutions teams.”

Evanson and Vedala will accept their awards at the IDG AGENDA19 Conference held March 18-20, 2019.

About Ascensus

Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. The firm delivers technology and expertise to help millions of people save for what matters most—retirement, education, and healthcare. For more information about Ascensus, visit ascensus.com. View career opportunities at careers.ascensus.com.

About the Ones to Watch Awards

The Ones to Watch awards spotlight rising technology leaders who have what it takes to become strategic, C-level business technology executives of tomorrow. Candidates have a track record of success, an essential blend of communication and collaboration skills and a keen understanding of business goals.

About CIO

CIO focuses on attracting the highest concentration of enterprise CIOs and business technology executives with unparalleled peer insight and expertise on business strategy, innovation, and leadership. As organizations grow with digital transformation, CIO provides its readers with key insights on career development, including certifications, hiring practices and skills development. The award-winning CIO portfolio provides business technology leaders with analysis and insight on information technology trends and a keen understanding of IT’s role in achieving business goals. More information on CIO is available at cio.com.

About the CIO Executive Council

Believing in a members-first approach, CIO Executive Council, a division of IDG Communications, Inc., provides strategic leadership development for the transforming C-suite at the world’s most influential and evolving organizations. The CIO Executive Council offers each member a custom engagement experience that draws upon a wealth of programs and services, including: peer-to-peer interactions, a deep industry knowledge base, a range of professional development programs, and media/public relations opportunities that are tailored to an individual’s strengths and career goals. For more information on joining the CIO Executive Council, visit council.cio.com.


Defining a Service Culture

Interview with Rick Irace, Chief Operating Officer

How would you describe the Ascensus service philosophy?

Our retirement plan service team rallies around four key concepts:

  1. Trust is the most important factor. Particularly among smaller, start-up plans, our services must be transparent and understandable and delivered through language and concepts that clients readily understand. Many clients chose us because our values resonate with those of their organizations. That’s an expression of trust.
  2. Keep a client-based perspective. While client goals have always been a key aspect of the dialogue, we need to understand client needs today in greater depth than ever before.
  3. Consult with employees on a personal level, considering their complete picture. We recognize that plan participants’ lives also revolve around non-financial factors, such as their family, health, and home. When we help them make decisions about their savings strategy, we need to take a more holistic approach. Our view must be broader than simply the financial returns that our savings plans can provide.
  4. Focus on simple, intuitive interactions. Platforms should focus on the needs of their end users: advisors, plan sponsor clients, and employees. Our digital experiences and approaches to plan design and relationship management are simple by design. It helps that Ascensus has a broad range of investment options, offered through an open architecture platform and via simplified savings tools that help clients to track their progress on the road to retirement readiness through tangible benchmarks.

How does Ascensus present itself to the market? 

It’s a service culture. Every activity is completed with the client in mind. We prioritize quality and integrity as core values. We encourage our team to be bold. From the top down, we are an entrepreneurial culture and our team believes and executes proactively with this in mind.

Of course, we have different levels of service. Our elite advisors and TPAs benefit from additional support and access, just as in any customer loyalty program. These clients get dedicated service teams, additional levels of consultation, greater access to our senior leadership, early access to product roadmaps, and strategic account managers that act as trusted advocates for the advisor or TPA inside of Ascensus.

Describe Ascensus’ expertise servicing startup plans.

We have a broad range of experience, but we do have a “sweet spot” with smaller plans and massive expertise supporting new plans. We offer an attractive price point for startups and we use our scale to deliver quality client service and a solid investment lineup. Startup plans have access to the same open architecture as everyone else.

We are particularly adept at plan establishment and onboarding and we can take many of the administrative burdens off the shoulders of new plans. Small business owners are incredibly busy and we take them through the startup process step-by-step online, working with their advisors and TPAs. Most of what we do is automated, so there is very little paperwork. We use a dedicated service team that stays with new clients throughout their first year, including through discrimination testing and the filing of their Form 5500 with the Department of Labor.

What sets Ascensus apart from other companies that work with start-up plans?

We have deep expertise, onboarding 5,000 plans per year. And recordkeeping isn’t a means to some other end for us. We’re not an investment firm looking to drive investment flows; we take a consultative, educational approach. We help small firms to understand that many goals that they thought might elude them–like providing an employer match to workplace savers–may in fact be achievable.

Connect the dots between technology, expertise, service, and retention.

We use a series of metrics to judge all of these elements. Does the technology work?  Are clients satisfied with our expertise? We measure client satisfaction in several ways and consistently score high on surveys for service, onboarding, and overall satisfaction. As of September 2018, our Net Promoter Scores for these areas hovered around 91%.

Our relationship managers, empowered with custom-built predictive analytics, continuously assess how well we’re serving our plan sponsor clients and what kinds of questions or issues are most prevalent. This enables us to be a step ahead, proactively consulting with our clients, financial advisors, and TPA partners to ensure their plans stay on track.

How do you keep associates positive and engaged?

I truly believe that there is a clear value chain between satisfied employees and satisfied clients. At Ascensus, we put associates first. There is an entrepreneurial spirit inside the company–an opportunity to be bold, think bold, and make changes if one discovers a better way to service clients.

To recognize associates’ expression of our core values, we bestow a peer-to-peer I-Client award every month. From top to bottom, everyone knows what our core goals are.  By helping our clients and their employees to save for life’s most important moments, I believe that our firm serves a noble purpose. And this belief is widely held from the C-suite, throughout the organization.

 


Women in Technology Spotlight: Brandy Blum

Business Integration Lead, TPA Solutions

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I attended St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’ve always enjoyed working. Throughout high school and college, I held a variety of service positions. During my college years I worked at Fingerhut, an online retailer, as a trainer and call center lead.

How did you start your career at Ascensus, and how long have you worked here?

Shortly after college I moved up to Brainerd, MN, took a position with Ascensus, and have been here ever since! I started out in the Client Service call center and quickly transferred to an operations role where I helped with reconciliation and complex operational problems. From there, I continued to move within the company, working as a supervisor of our Participant Call Center and then onto managing our New Business/Transition Services Team. I enjoyed the challenging nature of this roll and appreciated that it involved both service and operations. After a number of years, I transitioned into a Business Development role, where I worked closely with our external sales team by assisting our top tier advisors. I was then asked to take the position of director of Strategic Partners. For the past few years, I have been the director of Digital Programs, primarily working on our plan website. Recently I have been promoted, and am excited to join TPA solutions as Business Integration Lead. At Ascensus, I have had the opportunity to work in service, operations, relationship management, and technology, all at one company.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?

Technology found me. I used to be hesitant of anything technology-related, but I have found through my role, technology is not what it used to be. Technology is heavily intertwined with service and operations. In order to build websites and create self-service on the web, you need to be able to understand user needs. I bring a different aspect to our technology side of the business because I work with our customers to understand their needs and offer web solutions. I help design our website in a simple and easy way to provide our users with the information they need.

Another reason why I like the tech industry is that it’s very fast paced and things are constantly changing. I like to be busy and feel challenged.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

We have a very diverse group of individuals, which helps us understand our users better. We have different backgrounds and think about a user perspective differently, which allows us to build items with a more diverse group of people in mind. The culture at Ascensus is great, we all come together and act in the best interest of our clients.

Looking back five or ten years, what career advice would you give your younger self?

Take the chances, learn new things, and continue to learn. For me, I wish I wouldn’t have been so intimidated by technology years ago. I think you should put yourself in uncomfortable positions to learn and grow personally and professionally.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge women face in the technology industry?

I think many woman feel similar to how I felt, technology is intimidating. I had a different perception of what technology was, I think many females feel that same way. This perception that myself and many other females have is what technology used to be many years ago. Technology today has evolved, it’s about customer interaction, having empathy for our users, and being able to understand them and their needs.

It’s great to see the push in STEM and mathematics for girls and young women, it’s important that they are exposed to technology early on.

Are there any current technology trends that emerging technologists need to know about?

I think the trend is really listening to your users’ wants and need. Users want to be given information that they need, they don’t want to try and find it. Technology is no longer in the background and separated from the rest of the business, it’s now a front-end client service role.

Who is your biggest role model and how did they inspire you?

I have a number of role models for various reasons. Growing up, my mother was by far the most patient and open-minded person I have ever known, and my father is very driven, detailed, and organized. I feel like I was able to learn and grow from both of them for very different reasons. I’m very fortunate to have very supportive, driven, and wonderful people in my life. My husband and mother-in-law are two people that have inspired me to be the best person that I can be. They have given me the confidence to move into different aspects of the business, including technology.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save for life’s most important events?

There are many reasons why I like working for Ascensus–the tools that we’re building are made to help educate and help individuals prepare for life’s most important things. We’re helping over 8 million Americans currently, and are growing that number all the time.

 


Women in Technology Spotlight: Tami Evanson

Senior Vice President, IT Management

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I went to the University of Minnesota where I majored in Women’s Studies. After school I expected to pursue a career in human or health services. A series of opportunities led me on a different path.  Technology was fascinating and rapidly evolving at the time. I decided to pursue technical certifications, and held several roles including network design consultant, field engineer, Microsoft and Novell technical instructor, and technical writer.

How did you start your career at Ascensus, and how long have you worked here?

After moving to Brainerd I was consulting, which in a small town was not always challenging. In 2003, I started as a technology site manager for BISYS and have been here for the past 15 years. Along the way, there have been so many opportunities to continue to evolve within Ascensus as we’ve grown and changed as an organization; I’ve been fortunate to work in nearly every aspect of IT.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?

In college I worked at an IT help desk; it paid well and was flexible. I didn’t think it was going to be my career. Timing was perfect – seeing the rapid advancement in the adoption of technology to change business process and service delivery for both large and small organizations – it was an exciting time and I wanted to be a part of it.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

Tremendous growth and investment in technology provides for exciting opportunities, which makes Ascensus an attractive company for people wanting to grow in their careers. We have consistently been an IT organization that values everyone’s input and allows for creativity and risk taking.

Looking back five or ten years, what career advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to be open minded and take more risks. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, because this is where the exciting opportunities exist.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge women face in the technology industry?

Statistics highlight the challenges for women in technology; women hold roughly 25% of tech jobs overall and about 10% of executive IT leadership positions. Having said that, throughout my career I’ve seen positive changes in the experience for women, with more advancement opportunities and a changing work environment that provides more flexibility, which I’m hopeful will steer more women toward a career in technology.

Are there any current technology trends that emerging technologists need to know about?

Narrowly focused AI leveraged for specific tasks is in play for our industry today. It will be very interesting to see a broader application of AI solutions and how this changes the customer experience.

The other area to watch is around Blockchain technology and the practical application across various industries. It will be interesting to see how this could reduce inefficiencies especially in the financial marketplace. Though not new, the practical application and adoption is in very early stages.

Who is your biggest role model and how did they inspire you?

I’ve been blessed with a lot of great role models, but the most influential is my father. He is a great success story and has never let it change who he is or how he treats people. He taught by example the value of hard work, and understanding when to sacrifice, and when not to, to move forward.

What kind of projects do you work on?

I work closely with the Corporate M&A and Integration teams to support various acquisition and integration activities. We are also developing and executing an IT roadmap to support our growing lines of business to scale and fully leverage available corporate services.

 

 


Rick Fitzer Discusses St. Cloud State University’s Software Engineering Programs

In a recent article published by St. Cloud State Today, VP Rick Fitzer discusses St. Cloud State University’s software engineering programs and his role on their advisory panel. ​“A thirst for learning is a necessity in IT,” Fitzer said. “People who have the skills and are passionate about it are already in high demand and that is only going to grow.”​


Women in Technology Spotlight: Jasmine Dedhia

Director, IT Quality Assurance

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I grew up in Mumbai, India, and received a Bachelor’s in engineering and computer science at the University of Mumbai. I have 14+ years of experience as a technologist in the financial services industry. In the United States, I worked as quality assurance lead at Fidelity Investments. I then continued to pursue other opportunities at companies like Upromise Investments, CGI, and Merrill Lynch.

How did you start your career at Ascensus, and how long have you worked here?

I worked at Upromise Investments for 3 years, between 2006 and 2009. I rejoined the company in 2014 after it had been acquired by Ascensus.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

Cultural diversity is what makes the IT team at Ascensus unique and exciting to be a part of. It’s amazing to work with highly-skilled individuals on cutting-edge technologies. Such diverse cultural perspective inspires creativity and drives innovation.

Looking back five or ten years, what career advice would you give your younger self?

Never stop learning. Especially in technology, there’s always something new to explore. It’s important to stay on top of the newest technologies available. Self-growth is the key to living a fulfilling life and to having a successful career. My second piece of advice is to remember that the only constant in life is change. Never get too comfortable. Whether it’s organizational, technological, or even meteorological, any change can impact your life and career.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge women face in the technology industry?

Women require much more confidence and courage to play the same leadership role as men. A higher standard is expected of women. We have come a long way, but it still remains a male-dominated industry. Women tend to bring more communication, collaboration, expert coaching, and passion to the workplace, in addition to technical and problem- solving skills.

Are there any current technology trends that emerging technologists need to know about?

Blockchain, internet of things, quantum computing, and immersive technology should be on technologists’ radar. In the financial industry, blockchain will have a significant impact on security. Quantum computing will heavily influence the way statistics are generated and data is analyzed. Lastly, immersive technology will transform the customer experience across various industries.

Who is your biggest role model and how did they inspire you?

My aunt is my biggest role model. She’s a physician at Beth Israel Medical Center and is a part of the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Her leadership, confidence, and humility have touched me in many ways. I am impressed by her dedication to her career and ability to maintain work-life balance. Another role model of mine is Peg Creonte, our senior vice president of business development here in the Ascensus government savings division. Her passion, leadership, and commitment to the organization is an inspiration for many of us. I look up to Peg’s winning attitude and her humble personality, both of which have helped her make strides at Ascensus.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save for life’s most important events?

Saving money is incredibly important for financial well-being. It gives me the immense satisfaction that I am able to help people improve their financial health by supporting the technology behind college, retirement, and health savings accounts.


Women in Technology Spotlight: July Perham

Product Owner, Product Management

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I received a Music Degree from Smith College in Northampton, MA. My well-rounded liberal arts education helped me sharpen my analysis skills, since I learned how to analyze music and sharpened my writing skills. After working at a music store for some time, I realized I wanted to work in an industry with more opportunity.

How did you start your career at Ascensus, and how long have you worked here?

In 2004 I was hired by Upromise, and we merged with Ascensus in 2014. When I first joined Upromise, I started working in the Client Services department. While working in Client Services, I became interested in learning about the software program we had been using. I saw that there was a job opening on the user acceptance testing team, so I jumped at the chance to learn testing.

After learning about testing, I noticed that business system analysts encountered many opportunities to grow. I was able to participate in a job sharing agreement, which allowed me to stay in user acceptance testing while learning how business systems analysis worked. For 6 months I was able to spend half of my time as a business systems analyst and the other half of my time as a tester. Since early 2009, I’ve been doing Business Systems Analysis full time. Now, I’ve been with Ascensus for 14 years.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

I love working here because of our core value that people matter. All of the IT is done in-house and I get to build strong relationships with the testers and developers working on my projects on a daily basis.

Looking back five or ten years, what career advice would you give your younger self?

If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to believe in myself. Over the years, one thing I’ve gained is confidence. If you just remind yourself that you know what you’re doing, you’ll have the confidence to face all kinds of challenges.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge women face in the technology industry?

Women in technology positions may have to prove their ability above and beyond their male counterparts. We can reverse those attitudes by encouraging more women to apply for technology leadership positions.

Are there any current technology trends that emerging technologists need to know about?

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are a couple of trends future technologists should learn more about. We integrated UX into our project design process, in order to get more users onto our site. It’s also very obvious when a company hasn’t used UX design, because their site is hard to navigate. Users are more likely to come back to your website if you invest in your technology.

Who is your biggest role model and how did they inspire you?

My mom is my biggest role model. In the 1980s, she started attending night classes for Computer Science. She always loved working as a programmer, and passed down her passion for technology onto me.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save for life’s most important events?

I enjoy working for a company whose mission is to help people, opposed to just making money. Helping our clients gives me a higher purpose when I come to work every day. I care about people, and I enjoy working at a company that allows me to help others.


Women in Technology Spotlight: Zina Ilchenko

Senior software engineer

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I started my career teaching world history at a high school in Ukraine. When I came to the U.S., I barely spoke English, and I had never touched a computer in my life. I started working at a daycare, where the other teachers taught me the language. When I realized everyone was going to business and technical school, I decided to attend school in northeast Philadelphia, while working full-time. In 1998, I was hired by Ascensus.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?

When my daughter entered high school she needed a computer, so I bought her one. I started exploring on it and ended up teaching myself how to type. Computers were a big trend back then and an emerging industry. I thought if other people could do it, then I could do it too.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

The type of work we do at Ascensus is special. We serve a large portion of our nation—more than 7 million Americans! Without our help, they wouldn’t be able to contribute to their retirement, education, or health savings accounts.

What advice would you give someone who wants to land a job in the technology field?

Learn what you can as early as possible. Talk to people who are in this industry and be interested in ongoing innovations. I never imagined that I’d go down this career path, but truly anyone of any age can do it.

What woman is your biggest inspiration and why?

One of my good friends who still lives in Ukraine really inspires me. We’ve been friends for more than 30 years and she has always overcome struggles in her life.

Did anyone or anything help you to get to where you are today?

There are many people who have helped me to get to where I am today. Especially, all of the women who taught me how to speak English at the daycare, and all of my teammates here at Ascensus. I have more of a business background, so when I need help understanding something technical, everyone always takes their time to help me.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save?

Life has taught me that in order to survive, you need to save. I like that we help people save, so they have some sort of safety net in their lives. It’s so important to save for yourself, for your family, and for your future.