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Illustration: On a dark purple background with mint green outlined stars, a pink rectangular box with a dark purple outlined eye on a white circle splits up the word "Spotlight." Two pink lines portray an arm to the top of a mint green overhead light with a dark purple outlined lightbulb illuminating a light pink area that says "Kevin Riddle, Senior Director - Technology" for this Black and Brown in Technology feature.
People & Culture

Black & Brown in Tech Spotlight: Kevin Riddle

Part of Ally’s Black and Brown in Technology Spotlight Series

Interview by Jeree Spicer

Written by Mashia Tate

“Diversity and Inclusion” are not empty buzzwords at Ally — they are an important cornerstone in the company’s structure and culture. Ally’s Chief Information, Data, and Digital Officer Sathish Muthukrishnan has taken it a step further with the creation of the Black and Brown in Technology (BBiT) resource group in the summer of 2021. As businesses grow across countries and borders, and especially now with remote work, a team can be comprised of people from all over the world with divergent talents, abilities, and backgrounds. In order to lead with great talent and culture, it’s critical to provide a space of belonging and growth for every employee. BBiT’s mission is to advocate for the development, retention, and hiring of black and brown people within the Ally Technology organization, ensuring our employees reflect the diverse customers that we serve.

BBiT hosts spotlight sessions with Ally’s leading technologists. This month, Kevin Riddle, senior director in Banking, Invest, Lending, and Digital Technology (BILD Tech), spoke in this session about his role in technology and the challenges he’s faced as a person of color in the tech space. We caught up with him to talk about these topics and to find out what tips he recommends for increasing representation within any organization.

About Kevin Riddle

Kevin joined Ally in January of 2009 as a test manager during the establishment of Ally Bank. He is currently a senior director in BILD tech, focusing on tech delivery for deposit operations and large-scale third-party integrations.

Kevin has over 25 years of experience in IT and over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to joining Ally, Kevin began his professional career as an artillery and logistics officer in the United States Army. After separating from the military, Kevin managed database operations for one of the three Allstate Insurance production data centers. He began his banking career with First Union (present day Wells Fargo) holding various positions in application design, delivery, and testing.

Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University in physics engineering. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, community service, and spending time doing remodeling projects with his new wife, Pamela.

His story: Q&A with Kevin Riddle

What was your experience like being black in tech within Ally?

I have been with Ally for over 13 years, so my experiences have evolved through not only organizational changes but also social awakening events that have occurred in society. My initial experiences at Ally were of isolation, not fitting in, and being one of a handful of African Americans in technology. During the infancy of Ally there was little diversity in technology and there was little to no discussion or acknowledgment of the importance of diversity. When Jeff Brown became the CEO, he placed an emphasis on diversity and established affinity groups across all of Ally. During his tenure he has also introduced African Americans to the Ally Board of Directors, increased diversity training, introduced external social programs, and improved hiring practices. It has trickled down to the technology space with the introduction of Sathish Muthukrishnan and his championing of groups such as Women in Technology and Black and Brown Technology. As an African American, being your authentic self can still remain a challenge; however, there have been vast improvements and I love the trajectory and journey Ally is on.

Mentorship or sponsorship — What has been most pivotal to your mobility as a black person in the tech space?

I think one of the most challenging things for anyone in a new company or a new role is understanding how to be successful and navigate within the framework of the organization. Having a person to guide you during even simple tasks can be a great help. It is important to have mentors and sponsors that are genuinely interested in your development and align with your vision and goals. As an African American, it is also important to realize not all mentors will look like you. Be open to embracing difference from an ethnicity, background, and life experience. For some it is easy to seek mentors while others struggle. I, myself, fall into the struggle category. Ally has a program already in place to seek mentors that is a great head start on the path to development. One of the most important lessons I have learned from my mentor at Ally is the importance of emotional intelligence. Being able to take emotions out of conversations and make fact-based and informed decisions has served me well.

What can black/brown employees do to be better recognized as high potentials? And what can managers do to recognize their black and brown talent?

As a starting point, embrace the lead core values of looking externally, executing with excellence, acting with professionalism, and delivering results. At Ally, performance is based on “the what” and “the how”; remembering both aspects in your workday is key. Be vocal about your career aspirations and work with leadership on mapping a path to reach your goals. Make sure that you celebrate your victories and tie those accomplishments to the value [created] for technology, business partners, and ultimately our customers. Finally, don’t shy away from stepping out of your comfort zone and willingly accept stretch roles or working in emerging technology. From a management perspective, recognizing black and brown talent should not be any different. There should be one standard that all people are judged against. Managers need to embrace diversity and be open to differences. Ally provides training to all leaders of people. Leading the Ally Way focuses directly on this subject matter.

How do we move out of the “I have to be twice as good to be better” mentality, and rather, move into showing up as my best self?

I honestly grew up with this mentality. The twice as good mentality was instilled in me from parents whose formative years were spent in the South during racial segregation. Personally, I never focused on being twice as good. I focused on being the best that I could be and exerting maximum effort. Living with the constant pressure of being twice as good can lead to an incredible amount of pressure and stress. However, you also have to be honest in your assessment of yourself [and] seek advice or guidance from a mentor on your individual performance and [on] techniques to perform at elevated levels. Ultimately, if you are performing at high levels, delivering impactful results, and your efforts are not being recognized, then the team or company might not be the right cultural fit for you.

What advice do you have for Ally on increasing the number of black and brown people in leadership positions?

This is a tough question and not easily answered. Ultimately, Ally technology leadership has the responsibility to hire and develop the best talent. However, there are areas of focus to assist with the growth in leadership positions. One of the first opportunities is training — ensuring decision makers understand both conscience and unconscious bias and how it may be impacting their decisions. In hiring or promotions, interview panels should be diverse, and the decisions should be based on a consistent and fair set of standards. Ally also must position itself as a welcoming and diverse company to attract top diverse talent. Finally, I will say that the Black and Brown in Technology group was established to advocate for the development, retention, and hiring of black and brown people within the technology organization.

What has been critical to your success?

There have been several factors that have been critical to my success, and I will name just a few.

1. Not accepting “no” as an answer — For many of us we have been told that we couldn’t do something or weren’t a good fit. I have always had self-confidence in my abilities and my ability to learn and adapt to any situation.

2. Understanding my value — Everyone has something to add to any team or company. I understand my strengths and weaknesses and know where I can impact change.

3. Willingness to change and grow — During my IT career and my career at Ally, I have held various positions in multiple disciplines. I looked at each change as an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand my toolkit.

4. Building positive and nurturing relationships — I have built a network and support system both professionally and personally. Mentors, sponsors, peers, and personal relationships are all key to being balanced and your overall success.

Interested in joining Ally's team of talented technologists to make a difference for our customers and communities? Check outAlly Careersto learn more.