Cody Rivers grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. “My father was an entrepreneur, and my mother, so it was kind of in my blood.” After graduating from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, Rivers gained experience doing IT consulting for enterprise-level clients. But when he was invited to join AIS a year after its founding, he saw the opportunity to both join an entrepreneurial culture and support other entrepreneurs. “AIS is committed to supporting small and mid-sized businesses with the same quality infrastructure design, security, and management that benefits large businesses,” Rivers explained. “We bring IT structure, organization, and foresight that enables SMBs to grow and compete.” As the Chief Technology Officer of AIS, Rivers’ role focuses on the strategies to deliver secure cloud solutions and other IT services to AIS’ clients as well as internally.
The AIS team, including Rivers, was introduced to Women & Hi Tech through tech sector peer and current Women & Hi Tech President, Rebecca Bormann. “After hearing so many great things, leadership including myself took steps to get involved as male allies.” That commitment started with sponsorship and has since expanded to include event attendance, volunteering, and committee membership. AIS also met its Chief Operations Officer, Darcy Lee, through Women & Hi Tech. “Darcy has been paramount to my deeper involvement and helping me transition what I’ve learned to our workplace,” Cody said.
As part of his increasing engagement with Women & Hi Tech, Rivers is a member of the OperationAll event committee. “OperationAll is a very open conversation forum for Indiana’s male allies in STEM,” he described. “We have a speaker as well as breakout groups that dial down into real-life work situations and management discussions.” He shared that topics ranging from how to run inclusive meetings to organizational strategies that integrate women’s’ perspectives are all on the agenda.
“As compassionate men we may act with our hearts in the right place but still not be well-received by women. I think in part this is because we act in the language we want to receive. This event is an opportunity to get input, not about how we expect to be heard, but how others receive things. Listening is how we can liberate others to be their best self.”
Rivers went on to share how other experiences with Women & Hi Tech have led him to become a better executive. “Coming from a diverse background, I knew I had a diverse perspective, but that wasn’t as well-rounded when it came to gender,” he said. “Through my learning with Women & Hi Tech, I have become a better listener and become more aware of communication, management, and leadership styles.”
He elaborated that this is important for pragmatic as well as ethical reasons. “When diverse populations see that STEM careers and employers mirror their values, it will make it easier to attract more talent to STEM. But we don’t just want to speak to values that will attract talent—we want to live those values with a genuine commitment. At AIS that includes our commitment to inclusion and equity. Our work is done best when there are a wide variety of perspectives in the room to challenge assumptions and innovate solutions.”
Rivers observed that Women & HI Tech embodies the principle of expanding the seats at the table, not eliminating some in favor of others. “The goal of increased diversity, equity, and inclusion is to move the needle to the middle, not swing in the opposite direction,” he said. “I think it’s so cool that Women & Hi Tech reached out to me to become involved as a male ally because they value my advice and perspective. Getting more women represented at all levels of STEM companies is an incredible goal, but it can’t be a one-way conversation. Women & Hi Tech knows that. They are wise enough to recognize that inclusion is the best way to build momentum and achieve lasting change that truly makes STEM better for all.”
When asked what he would say to skeptics of the need for male allies in STEM, Rivers responded with an invitation. “We can’t grow by all thinking alike. But at the same time, no one is above hearing more information. Whatever the subject, hearing stories and new perspectives is what keeps your beliefs in alignment with reality.” He added that one of the things he loves most about Women & Hi Tech is the constant programming and invitation to keep refreshing and expanding learning. “Everyone wants to discuss diversity but then after the discussion you leave and the learning fades out. I love that Women & Hi Tech engages members year-round and meets everyone at their level. They are active on every channel, for every STEM field and career level, and provide events that are comfortable for both introverts and extroverts.”
He hopes the organization continues to expand this reach in coming years. “The curriculum and programming they offer is so interactive. It’s not just listening to numbers and percentages and putting it on the audience to act on what we’ve learned. These events let attendees try on different experiences in a safe environment to ask questions, or even fail--and in STEM that’s very important.”