How Discover's Chatham Technology Hub Teams Are Driving Business Impact on the South Side of Chicago

Learn how a Discover technology hub on the south side of Chicago is reimagining how talent is built at Discover.
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Joe Mills & Margaret Mayer
July 10, 2023
Last updated July 10, 2023

In March 2021, Discover announced plans to open a Chicago-based customer care center in Chatham, a community on Chicago’s South Side. By the end of that year, Discover had employed nearly 200 people with over 85% living within five miles of the center. A year later, we held an official grand opening, and we plan to employ more than 1,000 people by the end of 2024.

While most employees located at the center are customer care representatives, Discover is always looking for ways to support employees to upskill and find pathways to careers that they are passionate about. With this in mind, Discover created the Chatham Technology Hub located inside the center in 2022, to bring STEM education and employment opportunities to the Chatham community. Through a joint effort between our Technology, HR, and Social Impact teams, we’re reimagining how we developed talent.

So far, we have established three technology teams at our Chatham center.

The first team, comprised of three entry-level apprentices and a team leader, focuses on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The team has paired with senior RPA developers to deliver eight process automations to-date, with several more in the final stages of delivery. Through these automations, the team has returned more than 46,000 hours to the business. Several of their use cases support automation of manual and redundant tasks completed by other front line customer care representatives across Discover, allowing agents to focus more time helping our customers and less on administrative tasks. For Maureen Osborne, a technology apprentice who started with the team in June of last year, this opportunity is a dream come true. Maureen who previously worked in operations center jobs says she is now “in a great place financially, personally and professionally and is proud of the work I’m learning and performing.

Our second Chatham Technology Hub team, comprised of four apprentices and a team leader, have been trained in JavaScript and the ServiceNow platform to deliver reporting dashboards and support resources for Asset Management. They actively provide Level 1 support for incident tickets related to our ServiceNow tools and services, and since September 2022, this team has closed/resolved 140 incidents and completed numerous Service Catalog requests. Operating in an agile model, the team continues to get better each day while maintaining a clear focus on value. Allison Smith, a technology apprentice who started in August last year, says that her start in this role has been life changing. In her words, “I had lots of experience in various fields and honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever find a career. My biggest accomplishment to date is the sense of assurance I have acquired in the form of tangible, technical skills.”

Team three, consisting of five apprentices, focuses on Salesforce. This team was created in the fall of 2022, and is progressing through training with experts from the nonprofit organization — Tech Forward, which helps expose marginalized communities to cloud and SAAS based technologies and career paths. These apprentices have already completed their Salesforce foundations training and are now going through a second training wave where they’ll gain exposure to detailed concepts and the application of using them towards solving real backlog use cases. In this wave, apprentices pair closely with an instructor in a smaller setting. Upon completing the second wave of training, all apprentices will be targeting their Salesforce certifications. Thereafter, they will begin contributing to customer relationship management product enhancements across numerous Discover product teams. Lilith Eggleston, one of the apprentices on this team, was also one of the first apprentices to get certified as a Salesforce Platform Developer 1. As Lilith puts it, “it was extremely empowering to get the certification in such a short period of time and I have started making a name for myself in the industry and contributing in a meaningful way to Discover.”

The Chatham Technology Hub has provided entry into a STEM career path for current employees in our Chatham center and residents of this South Side community. Apprentices come from a variety of backgrounds, including talented employees who do not hold formal tech-related degrees or any technical experience, but have an aptitude and interest in technology. The Chatham Technology Hub opens a new door to gaining the knowledge needed for a successful career in technology. Paired with Discover’s amazing learning and development benefits, such as its college commitment program — Shine Brighter U, proprietary tech academy, access to LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsight and more, teammates can work full-time in existing roles in the Chatham center in operations or as a technology apprentice, while pursuing educational opportunities and on-the-job tech experience to further their skills and advance in their careers.

Our apprentices are also sharing their acquired knowledge externally through participation in conferences such as the 2022 National Society of Black Engineers, and internal events to encourage others to enter into a STEM career path! The Chatham Technology Hub also plans to host local community learning events centered around technology skillsets.

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This post was originally published on the Discover Tech Medium site.

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