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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 "Donna Hart. Ally Chief Information Security Officer" for this women in technology feature.
People & Culture

Women in Technology Spotlight: Donna Hart

Part of Ally’s Women in Technology Leadership Spotlight Series

Interview by Richard Daniels

Ally Women in Technology (WiT) was established in the summer of 2020 to lead Ally as a best-in-class workplace for women. Yet, in the midst of a pandemic and juggling the ‘new norm’ of virtual working and learning (for the working moms), the women of Ally Tech, with the support of Chief Information, Data, and Digital Officer Sathish Muthukrishnan, founded WiT.

One of the strategic pillars in the Ally Tech strategy is to lead with great talent and culture. WiT’s mission is committed to fostering an environment in which women thrive while growing a pipeline for talented women leaders and closing the gender gap.

To demonstrate the value women bring to an organization, WiT offers a quarterly one-hour long Fireside Chat with one of Ally Tech’s top powerful leaders. This Spotlight article is a complement to the Fireside Chat to promote WiT’s honoree and Ally Tech’s commitment to great talent and culture.

photo: Headshot of Donna Hart, Ally Chief Information Security Officer

From the Hart

Donna Hart joined Ally in February 2021 as Chief Information Security Officer. In this role, she leads Cybersecurity, Information Protection, and Risk Management for the company. She brings more than 25 years of experience in designing, building, implementing, and operating cyber security-based technology applications and infrastructure solutions for financial corporations. Prior to joining Ally, Donna served as Senior Vice President, Security Infrastructure Engineering at Wells Fargo.

Donna earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Appalachian State University. She’s married with two sons; the eldest entered college in the fall, while her youngest began his sophomore year of high school. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and playing with the family’s two rescue dogs.

Her story: Q&A with Donna Hart

Welcome! What are your early impressions of Ally’s tech stack?

It is exciting to see tech advancement across every area of our company — the strategy for technology is very exciting and visionary. I truly believe in our strategy and how we can apply cyber controls to them.

Is this the career you thought you’d end up in?

Yes! I sincerely love technology. I never thought I’d have my current title, but this is definitely the kind of work I always wanted to do.

What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

Great leaders are humble, exhibit high ethical standards, and have the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes. They also recognize and accept people’s differences as strengths, not weaknesses. Embracing differences empowers us to see challenges from multiple perspectives, which can help us achieve solutions we might not have considered otherwise.

Can you share some of the strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Don’t be afraid to be brave. This is especially important for women, because we too often become experts in a particular role and use that expertise as an excuse to stay where we are instead of exploring new opportunities. This stifles growth. You can’t be an expert in a role you’ve never had, so don’t fear lateral moves that position you to learn new things and broaden your horizons.

Also, don’t allow yourself to be victimized. If you’re ever disparaged because of your sex, race, or anything else, you can leave the situation or rise above it. As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”

What can we do as an organization to grow more women into leadership roles?

Encourage them to pursue roles women don’t typically apply for or aspire to. For too long, we’ve accepted administrative roles as “women’s work” and the only types of jobs we’d be hired to do and taken seriously in. But there are many technology, leadership, and other roles we’re often more than qualified to assume and thrive in. The glass ceiling will only break if we apply the pressure.

Tell us about any great mentors you’ve had in your career, and what you learned from them.

In my previous role I had two women mentors — ironically both named Patty — who taught me a lot about leadership and compromise. They also shared insights about seeing several steps ahead of where you currently are to avoid roadblocks and obstacles. The best advice I received was, “You can’t control other people, you can only control your reaction to their behaviors and actions.”

What advice do you have for the next generation of women leaders?

Don’t apologize. You earned every opportunity you’ve taken advantage of. Set professional and personal boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Also, don’t feel like you have to be great at everything — it’s OK to get Cs in some subjects. You don’t have to be superwoman. It’s fine to outsource tasks, like using Instacart instead of shopping in person. You deserve to live and work in ways that work for you.

What sacrifices have you had to make both personally and professionally during your career?

I’ve given up a lot of personal time for my professional pursuits and made multiple career jumps to stay in Charlotte. I like this area and want to keep my kids and family here.

How would you describe your leadership style?

In a word, inclusive. I want everyone I work with to feel like they’re a part of the bigger picture and recognize their importance to our plans going forward. But I’m also big on accountability — I have a low tolerance for failure.

How do you motivate yourself?

I’m motivated by challenges. I’m always eager to climb that next mountain. I probably held 12 positions during my tenure at my previous job. I love learning new things.

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