Freddie Mac’s Daniella Kyei champions diversity, equity, inclusion; GMU spotlights women in tech

Meet Daniella Kyei, risk analytics manager at Tysons-headquartered Freddie Mac, a public government-sponsored enterprise and one of 11 Fortune 500 companies based in Fairfax County. As a trailblazer for diversity, equity and inclusion at Freddie Mac, Kyei has formed Polaris, a career development program for minorities. In Fairfax County, Kyei is the founder and chair of Tysons Connect, a career networking group of Black professionals who live or work in Tysons.

In recognition of her impact, Kyei is a “40 Under 40” honoree, one of 40 young leaders who will be honored by the Leadership Center for Excellence and Leadership Fairfax during a virtual ceremony on March 26 — during Women’s History Month, no less.

Born in the United Kingdom, Kyei has also called Maryland, Ghana, Ethiopia and Canada home. Her studies of economics and statistics took Kyei to the University of Toronto for her undergraduate degree, and she received her MBA at Clark Atlanta University. When it came time to launch her career though, Kyei chose Northern Virginia.

Eight years later, she still praises the region for its plentiful career opportunities and industry sectors, supportive community, diverse population and vibrant social scene.

“Northern Virginia has so much to offer, from sports teams to fitness classes, best-in class-dining and shopping, as well as arts and theater,” she added. “There really is something for everyone and I think also Northern Virginia’s proximity to D.C. and decision-makers also brings a lot to the area. I think we are really fortunate to be in this dynamic regional international hub where everything you could possibly want is really at your fingertips.”

When Kyei isn’t onboarding fintech vendors across the nation or using big data and analysis to grow Freddie Mac’s various product offerings, she’s working on its Polaris program.

“Freddie Mac has afforded me the opportunity to expand my career but also do things that I am very passionate about. In 2019 under our ARISE business resource group, which is our business resource group for our Black employees and allies, I was able to form Polaris which is a development program for minorities at the firm,” Kyei said. “The Polaris program has had tons of success.”

The program consists of several courses, which cover essential growth topics such as resume writing, interviewing for jobs and understanding cultural communication nuances. Polaris program participants are paired with a vice president-level mentor as well as a manager-level coach.

So far, about 70 percent of candidates in the first-ever Polaris cohort have entered new roles, been promoted or are currently in stretch roles. Kyei attributes a large factor of the program’s success to Freddie Mac’s inclusive culture.

“The diversity of thought in this area and appreciation for diversity has allowed me to be bold, speak up and speak out,” Kyei said.  “We all have opportunities to trailblaze in this region.”

In her free time, you might find Kyei networking with fellow young professionals in the region, enjoying the arts or a show at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C., hitting up a spin class at CycleBar Falls Church, grabbing a bite with friends at Our Mom Eugenia and on weekends out in Leesburg cheering on Old Glory, a professional rugby team.

“There is no place like Northern Virginia,” Kyei said. “Opportunity really does abound here. The companies here aren’t just companies. They’re top-tier companies with top-tier benefits that really pull you and keep you in the area.”

Mason receives grant to propel more women into tech

George Mason University received a grant from Break Through Tech that it said would propel more students who identify as women and non-binary into tech education — and ultimately tech careers — through curriculum innovation, career access, and community building. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of these students graduating with a tech degree at Mason by 12.5 percentage points by 2026, the school reported.

“Computer science is a growing and lucrative field, yet less than 20 percent of computer science degrees in this country are awarded to women,” said Mason President Gregory Washington in a university news release. “George Mason is the largest producer of tech talent in Virginia, and this partnership with Break Through Tech will provide additional opportunities for women to excel in computer science, broadening the capabilities of the digital workforce.”

George Mason University and the University of Maryland will be joining Break Through Tech as it expands from its hubs in New York City and Chicago to Washington, D.C. This expansion was made possible through the Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities initiative, which is led by a $50 million investment from Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates, as well as an additional $7 million investment from Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon.

Mason’s Break Through Tech program will be administered by the Volgenau School of Engineering, the proposed School of Computing and the Departments of Computer Science and Information Sciences and Technology.

Mason student is Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholar

A George Mason University junior and Honors College student Brenda Henriquez has been named an Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholar, a program that recognizes outstanding undergraduate female students studying computer science.

Henriquez is one of 15 women selected from colleges and universities throughout the United States to receive the prestigious honor, according to a Mason news release. As part of the award, Henriquez received $10,000 toward her education.

Henriquez has received numerous awards during her time at Mason, including the George Mason University Alumni Association Service Scholarship and the Intel Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Scholarship.

Raised in Falls Church, Henriquez participated in Mason’s Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) designed to recruit, engage, retain and empower first-generation college students. She also served as a program coordinator.

“I found my first community at Mason through STEP,” Henriquez said. “I wanted to give back to a program that provides first-generation students with so much.”

March 18, 2021