All indications are that Mastercard’s vision for creating teams built around the so-called “Five Cs” – community, common vision, cross-functionality, culture, and Cutting edge – works.
Two years after its opening, the 230 employees at Mastercard’s Global Intelligence and Cyber Centre of Excellence in Vancouver have already submitted 30 patents and some of their products are in use around the world, helping to protect both commercial businesses and consumers from cybercriminals.
CIOs don’t always have the opportunity to build such a large team in one fell swoop. But the same principles that guided hiring at Mastercard’s Vancouver, British Columbia, tech hub (the eighth such centre for the company including those in Ireland, Australia, the US, and others) can help build IT teams of any size.
Nicole Turner, Mastercard senior vice-president, technology hubs, explains the Five C principle, and how IT leaders can use them to guide their own work.
Like all companies, Mastercard is looking for the best possible talent. “But ideally, we try to hire local people, those who have a presence in the community. For us, that’s a plus,” Turner says.
She believes that people involved in their community are more likely to establish contacts with local businesses and help find more talent down the road. Even if a company is targeting the international market, having nearby partners can provide a host of benefits, generating new product development, for example.
For Mastercard’s technology centres, the community aspect is not only related to hiring but to the company itself. The new facility in Vancouver operates an exploration centre that holds co-creation workshops involving the company and its customers.
Mastercard also regularly invests in the regions where it’s located. Last year, the company donated $6.3 million to various local programs, such as Tech-Up, which is linked to helping young Canadians learn about technology. Employees who are present in their communities can help build such connections with local organizations.
These relationships are not only beneficial and motivational for local teams but have a positive impact on the company as a whole down the road.
Each of Mastercard’s eight technology centres has its own personality and specific mission. For example, the Vancouver centre focuses on intelligence and cybercrime, while the Sydney, Australia, hub concentrates on artificial intelligence and machine learning. As for Dublin, Ireland, the centre there specializes in e-commerce.
“These hubs are independent, but Mastercard is a global organization, so everything has to be aligned on a common vision,” Turner says.
She has implemented a clear structure to coordinate the work of the various centres. “As an employee in a tech hub, I work with a local manager – but that manager has to operate with the global directors,” she says.
“The teams were designed to work on their own, but also to make sure that what is created locally can benefit the whole company.” In other words, the autonomy of the different units doesn’t result in working in silos.
For Turner, a fragmented structure with a common vision “allows the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.”
“We mix skills in our teams, and we make sure they’re able to design a product from start to finish,” says Turner of the third C in her approach.
While some organizations might compartmentalize the different skills needed to create products (for example research in one centre, development in another, user experience in a third), Mastercard wants its tech hubs to imagine, develop, design, and create new products from beginning to end.
“To me, that’s the secret sauce for IT centres,” Turner says.
Cross-functional teams are especially important in times of labour shortages. Employees take pride in the work they’ve accomplished when they feel they’ve had a significant impact in making it happen and that they were able to bring their own ideas to fruition.
By definition, cross-functional teams also allow for exposure to people with different experiences and skills than one’s own, which can benefit the whole organization in fostering innovation.
“Our teams are also designed to be scalable,” says Turner. For example, Mastercard expects to hire a total of about 400 skilled employees at its Vancouver centre.
When a new team is formed at a tech hub, Mastercard looks for talent that shares the company’s culture, both in relation to where the centre is located and to the global structure of the organization.
“We’re looking for people who are intellectually curious and who enjoy working toward goals,” Turner says. She believes the role of a technology centre like Vancouver’s is to create a culture of innovation and to allow its talents to thrive and achieve the best possible results.
For each tech centre, Mastercard also makes efforts to build teams with employees from underrepresented backgrounds, such as Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ people. “We’re committed to inclusion and equity in Canada and around the world: every major digital innovation requires it,” states the company on its website.
Mastercard also hires neurodivergent talent. “These are people who have unusual strengths that can help us create better products and serve different types of customers,” says Turner.
Innovation means new technology, but not everyone is constantly pushing the envelope. “We seek talent that wants to be on the cutting edge of things – always ahead of the curve,” Turner says.
She believes it’s important to attract employees who will “think about the next generation of technology,” and who will be comfortable with more than just the current tools and ways of doing things. The company must attract this talent, but also build an organization around them that allows people to explore future opportunities.
Whether it’s AI, blockchain or other advanced technology, companies don’t always know in advance what will be the solutions to the problems they’ll be facing tomorrow. Building teams that naturally gravitate toward new technologies ultimately makes it easier to integrate cutting-edge innovations.
Translation by Daniel Pérusse