Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Hiring / Women in tech / Workplace culture

How I Got Here: Why Robin Allen is passionate about the connection between tech and people

In the last year, the DEI-minded technologist switched to a position leading hiring and culture initiatives at KOP's Vertex. Here's how she conquers imposter syndrome.

Robin Allen. (Courtesy photo)

This article appears as part of the Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative and is underwritten by the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce. It was independently reported and not reviewed by this partner before publication.

When Robin Allen left her position in corporate information technology at Vertex for a position in people and culture at the company, some questioned her decision.

Allen has worked at the King of Prussia-based tax tech company for five years, previously in technical roles related to engineering and cloud solutions. But last August, she decided it was time to try something new. She’s now the senior director of global talent acquisition, people and culture.

Even though she’d reached senior IT director status and even served as CIO in a past workplace, “I just decided to take those skills and to try something else,” Allen told Technical.ly.

Allen said she was exposed to technology in high school and knew she wanted to go to college for a related field. Her undergraduate degree from New York’s Iona University is in management information systems. She knew even then she wanted to be in a more people-focused role rather than become an engineer or computer scientist.

Her decision to take on her current role was fueled by a desire to be more connected to people — but also, because she thought she could have some influence over diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from a talent perspective.

The tech industry remains largely white and male, amid national and local efforts to bring in more Black, brown and women technologists. In terms of DEI initiatives, Allen said she’s seen improvement throughout her 30-year career, but believes there’s still progress to be made. There are now more spaces for people to have conversations about diversity — an important first step to moving efforts forward.

“What I’ve seen is progress around beginning to have the conversations, organizations making investments, organizations bringing forward and having people that are responsible for diversity, equity, inclusion,” she said. “Not as someone’s side job, but a responsibility, making it part of your core DNA.”

“I think [my experience] makes me different and I’m OK with that.”Robin Allen Vertex

Vertex has DEI-focused business resource groups and support from leadership, Allen said, and the company makes intentional decisions about what it means to have diverse candidates. She also reviews data about the hiring process, discussing what works and what doesn’t, and adjusting to the feedback.

In her career journey as a Black woman in tech, Allen has found that the higher the role, the less likely you are to see women and women of color. She said it’s easy to get caught in thinking you are only in your role to check a box as a woman or person of color.

Accordingly, she’s had to find her own voice to remind herself that she has the skills to fill the role she’s in. Part of what helped was finding an executive coach, a professional relationship where she could discuss what she wants and how to get there.

In her career, she said, the most important lesson has been that she had to let go of the narrative that women shouldn’t speak up.

“It’s a narrative that has followed me all through my professional life and of course, dips into personal, but it’s always been there,” she said. “It’s always part of it. I think [my experience] makes me different and I’m OK with that.”

She believes people are the most important part of any organization, so she wants to fill Vertex with the best talent — and she wants that talent to want to come to the company not only because of the work, but also because of the inclusive environment.

Looking toward the future, Allen intends to remain open to any opportunity that comes her way, but she knows she likes a challenge, likes technology and likes to see transformation.

“I enjoy the possibility of technology, the change, the transformation, the ease of use, that technology brings,” she said.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Vertex Inc
Series: DEI Progress Month 2023 / PHL: Most Diverse Tech Hub / How I Got Here

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