ENGINEERING FIRM SAYS ACHIEVING DIVERSITY ISN’T HARD IF IT’S INTENTIONAL

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Rashod Johnson, CEO and President of Ardmore Roderick

Ardmore Roderick is challenging the industry’s diversity gap with their inclusive culture model

Chicago-based infrastructure engineering firm Ardmore Roderick (AR) is changing the diversity model in their industry. Their team of 225 employees is nearly 60% diverse, over three times the industry average. While many firms express difficulty in trying to achieve adversity among their hires, AR CEO and President, Rashod Johnson, says “it’s really not that hard, if it’s intentional.”

Thoughts of limitation may also taint the concept, assuming hiring diversely means making certain sacrifices when it comes to quality.

“A lot of people, especially in the engineering industry, like to say that diversity is very difficult to achieve, but the model we created shows, that’s not true,” said Johnson. “Almost 60% of our employees are of diverse backgrounds. We do that very purposefully and quite frankly, it has not impeded us in any way. It has not degraded our quality. In fact, I would say it’s improved our quality quite a bit. In terms of diversity from sex, race, social and economic backgrounds, we pride ourselves on being a very diverse and inclusive firm in an industry that hasn’t been traditionally diverse. We’re changing the model.”

AR recruits outside of the normal college pool than others in the area. They target candidates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) with solid engineering programs. Other firms may be missing out on untapped talent and innovation due to their rigid recruiting methods. Johnson likens it to fishing in a trout pond, where you know you’ll find trout. If you expand your pool, you expand your options.

“We go and recruit outside of the norm of where a Chicago firm would typically recruit from and we’ve found significantly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds because of it,” Johnson said. “I would say, increase your pool. Really start to look at other places outside of the standard group of schools that you would typically look to recruit from. Also, strive to understand the whole person, not just their GPA. A diverse student from a Big Ten engineering program has likely had a more difficult path to graduation than their counterparts. Their perseverance and grit may not always show in their grades. These graduates are often overlooked and yet are extremely talented. I should know, I was one of them.”

AR is the largest Black-owned infrastructure engineering firm in Chicago and in the top 5 of the US. Their team is diverse by design, and that design has been the key to much of the firm’s success. The U.S. is continuing to shift in demographic composition which means the industry should move in that direction based on statistics, yet it doesn’t seem to be accelerating in that area as much as it should be. AR prides themselves as being advocates for inclusion and equality and they don’t just claim, they commit, and this commitment is evident in the team they’ve built and are continuing to grow.

About:

Ardmore Roderick is a full-service infrastructure engineering firm providing design, construction management, project/program management and surveying services to public and private clients.

Born and raised in Chicago’s Jackson Park, Rashod’s community involvement is in part due to his deep roots in the south side of the city. He selectively serves on boards which grant him opportunities to share his time and finances to address community needs. He has collectively raised over $5 Million in unrestricted funds and in-kind donations over the past 10 years supporting minority students who are focused on STEM careers.

He is a Life Member of the University of Illinois Alumni Association and provides students of color hands-on academic and career guidance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with an emphasis on minority engineering programs. He also serves as a mentor and established a scholarship for African-American male students at St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School in Chicago, where he is a distinguished Alumnus. He is on the Board of Directors for the South Side YMCA, and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the oldest and largest Black Greek lettered fraternal organization in the nation.

A licensed professional engineer in eleven states, Rashod founded The Roderick Group, Inc. in 2005, an infrastructure engineering firm, in his attic on the South Side of the city. After significant growth and viable success, The Roderick Group acquired Ardmore Associates in 2017 and is now one of the largest African American-owned infrastructure engineering firms in the state. He successfully manages and directs the highly sought-after firm which has experienced exponential growth over the past five years. Ardmore Roderick now employs over 225 staff members in five offices in the Midwest, East Coast, Southeast, and Puerto Rico.

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