Freddie Mac: diverse options in financial technology
Ample offerings await those who bring their "rounded skill sets" to this organization, which indirectly finances one in every four home loans in the country
'Many technology job candidates aren't aware of the myriad career opportunities offered by Freddie Mac," says Stephanie Roemer, diversity recruiting and learning manager. "The technology group is one of the larger divisions we recruit for, because we deal in data," she says.
"Freddie Mac is actually a unique place to learn, because of its prominent role in the home finance arena," says VP of diversity Suzanne Richards.
Freddie Mac's mission is to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the U.S. housing market. It does not make loans directly to home buyers. It purchases loans from lenders to replenish their funding supplies, making more mortgage loans available for other borrowers.
Freddie Mac has helped more than 7.5 million American families own or rent homes during one of the worst housing crises in history. "We're financing one out of every four loans. We are, in many respects, the engine that drives homeownership," Roemer says.
IT professionals are needed to improve securitization technology, Roemer reports. Mortgage securitization combines a large number of individual mortgages into an investment pool and then uses those pooled loans as collateral to back a security. Investors buy securities from the pool and receive payments proportionate to mortgage payments made by homeowners.
Freddie Mac seeks technical project managers who understand systems lifecycles using Agile methodology, programmers to develop code, and systems analysts to write technical requirements. Network operations engineers are needed, in addition to information security database administrators, Roemer says.
"We have a modest need in other areas, with a fair percentage of our open positions in technology," Roemer estimates.
The organization takes many unique approaches to recruiting diverse candidates. This year it offered internships to four college graduates with Asperger's syndrome, part of the autism spectrum. "It's been a rewarding experience. They're incredibly talented, and bring a completely different perspective to work and technical roles," Richards says.
Freddie Mac has partnerships with the Anita Borg Institute's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the Information Technology Senior Management Forum and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, through which it provided ten scholarships this year. Recruiters visit Georgia Tech and UNC, and recruit virtually at historically black colleges and universities like Howard, Hampton, Spelman, Clark Atlanta and Morehouse.
A 3.0 GPA or above is desired for new-grad recruits, but also a balance of studies with activities, leadership and volunteerism for rounder skill sets. Internship experience or summer work in IT is desired. Technology pros with seven-plus years of experience are also sought.
All new employees must take an introductory course in diversity and inclusion online. Freddie Mac University has diversity courses for managers and employees, including units on cross-generational differences, microtriggers, unconscious bias, and self-efficacy, designed to boost participants' confidence in their own abilities.
Freddie Mac's D&I office also organizes events, Richards says. "The 'Executive Presence' program enhanced the tool kit for women. The company wants to promote women to leadership roles in numbers comparable to men."
In "Women's Cohort," women are nominated to participate in mentoring circles that include employees, directors and vice presidents. "They stay together for six months to build a community of women, to share ideas and help each other grow," Richards explains. "We'll monitor their careers and check retention and promotion rates."
"Mentor Match" pairs mentees with mentors online. "Mentees can look at available mentors' skill sets and identify one or two they'd like to meet," Roemer says.
Freddie Mac has two diversity councils. The Executive Diversity and Inclusion Council (EDIC), chaired by the CEO and the chief diversity officer, includes senior-level employees. The Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee (DISC) has representatives from Freddie Mac's fourteen business divisions. They discuss their divisions' diversity plans, share best practices, leverage resources and plan joint projects, Richards says.
"For instance, roughly sixty-five percent of IT professionals at Freddie Mac are men. There's an opportunity to be proactive in thoughtful career building for women," Richards notes. "Of our 1,200 tech employees, forty percent are white, fifty percent Asian, eight percent African American and three percent Latino.
"This tells us we have an opportunity to be more targeted in recruiting from Hispanic communities. That's why we support the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. We monitor demographic trends very carefully," explains Richards.
There are six employee networks, for women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, employees with disabilities, and the LGBT community. The networks are represented on both diversity councils. During the 2012 open enrollment period, Freddie Mac is enhancing benefits by offering life insurance for domestic partners. Members of the LGBT network went before the EDIC and produced research which convinced the management committee of the need to make the change.
Work-life arrangements are a priority at Freddie Mac, including a compressed work week, telecommuting, flexible work options, an on-site doctor, backup child care and elder care.
Through the company's volunteer program, employees help out in local communities and work closely with a local elementary school.
"Financial literacy is a big part of our mission," Roemer says. Employees work on financial literacy with young people from key neighborhoods. College recruiters are certified in the "Credit Smart" program, and provide credit instruction at recruiting conferences.
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