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The No. 1 large place to work in IT: Quicken Loans

A new in-house training program and strong corporate values help IT employees thrive in an atmosphere of accelerated growth.

By Stephanie Wilkinson
June 23, 2014 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Look around the halls at Quicken Loans and you might figure that good times are the reason the financial services firm ranks as Computerworld's No. 1 large place to work in IT for 2014.

Quicken Loans knows how to get around
Quicken Loans' CIO Linglong He (left) leads a workforce of more than 1,100 IT employees united by strong company principles and a culture that encourages risk-taking -- sometimes on two or three wheels. (Credit: Quicken Loans/Ray Rushing)

Sure, employees appreciate the candy counter, the basketball court and the pool table fashioned from a classic Mustang, but it's a core set of corporate ideals that's truly responsible for Quicken Loans' staying power on the Computerworld Best Places to Work in IT list. (The company was No. 1 from 2005 to 2007 and returned to the top spot last year.)

That strong corporate culture has recently guided Detroit-based Quicken Loans through times that weren't so good, owing to a recession and to the fact that the company is in an industry directly tied to that downturn and is located in a city battling bankruptcy.

"We use our core culture to drive decision-making, and we always have," says Anne Way, a 10-year company veteran who is now director of project management. "Everyone knows that the core isms are solid," Way says, referring to Quicken Loans' 19 core principles, or isms, such as "Do the right thing" and "Obsessed with finding a better way." "During the downturn, that's when things were even more consistent. We stuck to who we were, and that saw us through."

Some of the company's hurdles have been homegrown. Over the past four years, Quicken Loans has expanded its IT workforce from 350 employees to more than 1,100. It has moved more than 8,000 staffers from suburban Michigan to downtown Detroit. And it has switched CIOs -- Linglong He took over in 2010.

"It's fast-paced and intense, but team members are genuinely open and available to each other," says Way, a former banker who's been in her current job for four years, overseeing 30 project managers and two team leaders handling high-priority IT initiatives. "It's a culture open to ideas. We'd rather be thinking and trying, even things that don't pan out. There are risks worth taking."

Two big initiatives underscore the way Quicken Loans is handling its rapid IT workforce growth.

First, He recently initiated a restructuring of the IT team. Now each business unit has its own IT team, she explains. Instead of shifting resources from one project to another, team members stay on projects from start to finish. "It's more consistent for the business," He says, "and the teams themselves feel better about it."

Second, last autumn the company launched an in-house training program specifically for IT workers. It's called Quicken Loans Technical University, and training specialist Eric Duby says 10 courses have been rolled out so far, on topics ranging from systems training to soft skills like interpersonal communication and time management. "Whatever kind of course it is, it's about personal growth," Duby says.

Having worked at Quicken Loans for 18 years, He has had a ringside seat for the ever-more-heated battle for IT talent, and she knows that pay isn't the only factor that makes a company a great place to work. "Our salaries are competitive," says the CIO. "But that probably isn't why people choose to work with us rather than General Motors, next door, where the pay can be double. It's all the other factors. We invest in people's careers.

"My personal joy," she adds, "is to see a team work together and to see individuals realize their maximum potential."

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