ACI Worldwide 5/18/17 05/22/17 10:31:07 AM
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Donna Cody has been with ACI Worldwide from the beginning and was showered with praise at a celebration of her 40 years with the company.
ACI Worldwide Has Track Record Hiring Women,
Starting With the First, Donna Cody
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
Traditionally, technology has been a man’s field, but that’s changing, thanks to companies like ACI Worldwide. From its beginning, it has hired women like Donna Cody, who joined ACI (Applied Communications Inc.) in 1977. She was the company’s first female hire and is the longest tenured person at ACI.
At a recent celebration of her 40 years with the company, Cody explained that over the years, she and one of the company’s founders, Jim Cody – he would later become her husband – had kept in touch. During one conversation, he told her about a company he was developing, and, for many reasons, the opportunity sounded too good to pass up.
“In 1977, the corporate world was more structured,” she said. “A lot of the things we have today – casual dress – were unheard of.”
But ACI was different, she added. They allowed employees to dress anyway they wanted – flip flops; jeans, her favorite item of clothing; and short shorts were not uncommon – and they didn’t have set hours. It was more a “as long as you got the job done” kind of thing, she said. Another perk was Friday social hour in the Old Mill complex. “What wasn’t to like about that,” she asked. By the time she joined – she had been working for an ad agency in Lincoln – she was ACI’s seventh employee.
In the beginning, there weren’t any set departments. Cody worked primarily in sales and support, then marketing. In the 1980s, she moved to the legal department. Now she’s a senior software analyst, or as one person put it: “She’s the queen of document delivery.” And even after 40 years, she shows no sign of slowing down or stopping.
On her 40th anniversary with the company, Cody’s accomplishments were recognized with cake and refreshments, a video and a crystal bowl. Many of those who worked with her came up to her for a hug, a joke and lots of congratulations.
In her commemorative video, everyone offered a surfeit of praise: “She was instrumental in laying ACI’s foundation.” “She was a pioneer.” “She is dedicated, has the ability to make people feel comfortable and she pitches in when something needs to be done.”
“She has a great sense of humor.” “She’s the most professional person. She’s calm and patient.” “She’s outlasted all the founders and lots of the CEOs. She’s a walking history book. She has a willingness to take on any challenge. She’s conscientious, caring and always has a smile. It’s a joy to work with her.”
Cody may have been the first female employee, but she certainly hasn’t been the last. Today, the Omaha office boasts a very close ratio of male to female employees – of the 520-plus employees, 47 percent are women – and a number of the company’s longest tenured employees are women.
ACI makes a “conscious effort to tap into female talent by posting to job boards, such as Monster, that target minority groups,” said Sampy Gajre, a senior recruiter in human resources at ACI. “In fact, one of my goals for 2017 is to attract female talent using local and national minority-centric resources.”
ACI also “leads by example,” she added. “Many of our senior-level female employees came up through the ranks. Employees like Shelley Ahlers, Eve Aretakis and Carolyn Homberger have come up the technology stack as industry leaders and are great role models for girls.”
Coding for Girls
One way that ACI is helping to grow future female technology leaders is by offering the Coding for Girls Initiative. Launched last summer, the program was piloted over three weekends with the middle-school-aged children and grandchildren of employees. Thirty girls participated, learning Java, HTML and CSS programming languages.
The program was such a success that ACI did it again in mid-April with 30 middle-school aged girls – sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Millard and Elkhorn Public Schools – participating at the Peter Kiewit Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Fifteen ACI employees volunteered to coordinate efforts. The camp was free and offered a pizza lunch.
“We’re hoping to do it every quarter,” said Gajre, who leads the Coding for Girls Initiative, “but with some changes.” For instance, ACI may increase the age range of participants to high-schoolers, expand to other cities in which ACI has offices and, in September, offer a new curriculum.
“Women are underrepresented in technology, so ACI wants to introduce girls to coding at a younger age,” Gajre said. “My hope is that they will develop an interest in the field, so that 10 to 15 years down the road, these Coding for Girls campers will consider joining ACI full-time, which would take our program full circle.
“I firmly believe that girls need an introduction to coding and other STEM areas at a young age,” Gajre continued. “Nearly every job touches tech in some way, so if these girls can be comfortable with the coding language, they will have a huge advantage. Through these camps we also want to address any inhibitions girls have about math and science as core subjects to enter tech fields. And we want to address the stereotype that technology jobs are for men.”
After the camps concluded, ACI sent surveys to parents. “We’ve gotten some really good feedback,” Gajre said. “We’ve been very encouraged.”
In the last 40 years, ACI Worldwide has grown to more than 4,500 employees, generating more than $1 billion in annual revenue, with more than 50 offices in 30 countries worldwide.
The company powers electronic payments for more than 5,100 organizations around the world. More than a thousand of the largest financial institutions and intermediaries, as well as thousands of leading merchants globally, rely on ACI to execute $14 trillion each day in payments and securities. Its headquarters is in Naples, Florida. Its Nebraska office is at 6060 Coventry Drive, Elkhorn. For more information about the company, go to aciworldwide.com.