Walk into the IT department at one of Quicken Loans' downtown Detroit offices and you'll be met by a sea of big heads — not overblown egos, but giant cardboard faces like the ones that fans wave on sticks at basketball games.
Ping-Pong and popcorn are among the perks enjoyed by IT staffers, including CIO Linglong He, Christine Adkins, John Fair (top), Kiran Kumar and Rod Means. Credit: Ray Rushing / Quicken Loans.
"That's everybody's name tag now," says Pat Hartford, an enterprise architect who has been with the company for seven years. "Everybody has a picture of themselves at their desk that you can dress up however you want. It makes it easier to find people when you're walking" through the open office space.
Identifying co-workers became even more challenging in 2012 when the company beefed up its IT staff by 80% to more than 850 technology-related positions, in response to the escalating demands of a business that served more than 1.5 million customers and was handling $70 billion in home loans.
Other than ones of the cardboard variety, you won't find many swollen heads in the IT department at the nation's largest online retail mortgage lender, employees say. "Leaders tend to sit out on the floor with everybody else, because they are just like everybody else," says Hartford.
Employees say there are few barriers — physical or bureaucratic — at Quicken Loans. "I've had conversations with [CEO] Bill Emerson in the hallway," says Tim Brickey, a business intelligence engineer who joined the company in 2009. "The first time, I was terrified. But now I know he's funny and friendly — and he knows my name."
CIO Linglong He says the keys to staying engaged with so many employees are to always walk the floor and to empower rank-and-file staffers. "We give team members the tools, the training and the freedom to grow. They take ownership and actually can make an impact on the outcome," she says.
Teams consist of about five to 10 people, and leaders hold biweekly meetings to make sure that morale is high and that projects are moving along without obstacles. "I always try to figure out where people's passions are and really connect them to that passion," says Noah Ravenscroft, senior vice president of application development. "If we're driving toward that, folks are much more productive and happier."
As CIO, He says that she tries to make sure that "every single team member lives and breathes the same culture." Employees are guided by 19 corporate ideals — or as Quicken calls them, isms — that the entire company lives by. Those isms include "Always raising our level of awareness," "It's not about who is right, it's about what is right," "Yes before no" and "Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped."
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