Innovation hub. It sounds fancy, futuristic, and fun, right? These types of communities have gained popularity in the last few years for their ability to bring experts in different tech sectors together to innovate on the next big things in the industry. So it makes sense that larger companies would want to start their own, tapping into a specialized community where they can quickly test and innovate.
One example: BlackRock’s brand-new Atlanta iHub, whose small team is instrumental in moving the company toward its ambitious technology goals.
“We are taking the best of both the financial and the tech startup worlds and putting them together,” says Shaina Horrell, the Workplace Community Manager for the Atlanta iHub. “Starting our office as a team of five and scaling to 1,000+ gives us the ability to be agile and try new technologies and processes along the way that make us more on the cutting edge in the finance world.”
There are plenty of benefits to being part of an innovation hub. Here’s what draws folks to the Atlanta iHub, straight from the employees themselves.
You Get in on the Ground Floor
An innovation hub is often the place where ideas germinate and get tested before they can be scaled up throughout the company. At BlackRock, for example, the iHub is meant to be a microcosm of the larger company, but with a focus on developing new technologies and platforms and even reimagining client experience (all in service of the company’s purpose, to create financial well-being for more people). So if early adoption of new and creative ways of doing business sounds like an exciting challenge to you, an innovation hub might be just the right fit.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come in and actually use their skills to reimagine technology from the ground up,” says Mohammed Mehdi, Vice President in the Aladdin Product Group, which is responsible for providing the BlackRock developer community with modern tools and technologies to help them develop, test, and deploy applications seamlessly and rapidly.
“It’s a place to work with both old and new technologies and develop a perfect amalgamation of the two,” Mehdi adds. “You get the freedom to actually innovate.” He and his colleagues have been able to reimagine existing DevOps policies and tools and make them future-proof.
“You get to seamlessly test and develop your code and possibly deploy it to more environments from here, you’re at the forefront of developing and implementing new technologies,” Mehdi says. “Working at an innovation hub means you get to build a vibrant roadmap for the future.”
You're Constantly Collaborating
By design, an innovation hub fosters a spirit of imagination and collaboration. Often, great ideas come from unexpected sources, Mehdi says, so innovation hubs encourage open exchanges. Working at BlackRock’s iHub means having an open space (sometimes quite literally) to share ideas to see which ones might stick. And there’s no such thing as a bad idea: “You don’t have baggage when you’re thinking about stuff, you have the freedom to think outside the box," Mehdi says. “You can throw ideas out and debate them.”
At an innovation hub, no idea is a bad idea. The whole point is for people to feel comfortable sharing any and all ideas, and then as a group deciding what to move forward with, while constantly iterating on the initial idea.
“It’s not just me, I am taking the whole group along with me," Mehdi says. “It’s about making everybody feel a part of the process.”
You’re Part of a Community
Trust and a feeling of belonging is especially important at an innovation hub, because collaboration only happens successfully when people feel like they’re a part of the community.
BlackRock’s iHub features plenty of events and activities to help cultivate that sense of connection. The team hosts regular fireside chats and “Standup Mondays,” where everyone shares information about projects they’re working on and introduces new hires and visitors. “It’s a way to build a sense of community and for people to get to know each other,” says Horrell, who as Workplace Community Manager is responsible for establishing office operations and employee experiences. BlackRock iHub employees also connect with the larger Atlanta community via social impact efforts, meet-ups and other learning and development opportunities, and recruiting activities at local universities (just to name a few).
With these relationships as the backbone of the culture, working together is much easier. Says Horrell, “You create a transparency and a culture that drives business and your career to the next level.”