by Angus MacCaull

Transportation is changing dramatically. From car sharing apps to self-driving cars, we get around in ways that didn’t even exist a decade ago.

New technologies provide the foundation for these changes. But at leading companies in the industry, a key part of their strategy is people.

“We think differently, we communicate differently,” said Steph Ryter, Creative Culture Leader at Arity. “How can our team help people understand themselves first, to then help understand others?”

Founded by The Allstate Corporation in 2016, Arity is a mobility data and analytics company that provides data-driven solutions to companies invested in transportation to enable them to make mobility smarter, safer, and more useful. Insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, and shared mobility companies turn to Arity to better understand driving behavior in order to better manage risk, operate more safely, and ultimately increase their bottom line. With more than 95 billion miles of driving data from over 13 million drivers in the US, they are able to accurately predict driving risk and show how to mitigate its effects.

The Creative Culture Team works out of Arity’s office located at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.

“This is a collaborative workspace,” said Ryter. “There’s no dress code here. It doesn’t matter what level you are, if you’re wearing jeans or a hoodie. That’s a big departure from our parent company. It’s not just about the dress code, but is really about the work we’re doing behind the scenes to help support the people in our organization.”

Ryter’s position didn’t officially have a name before Arity launched. Gary Hallgren, Arity’s president, challenged her with making Arity the ‘best place to work in Chicago.’ He also invited her to write her own job description. Ryter had previously spent more than ten years at Allstate learning many aspects of the business. She had also trained as a facilitator and done a lot of coaching with leaders and teams. Prior to her career at Allstate, she’d worked in television.

“I am very creative,” said Ryter. “I’m not looking at what’s the culture of traditional companies. I’m looking at what’s the culture of the tech companies that compete with us for talent. If we don’t do something different, I don’t believe we would always get the best talent.”

You can feel that difference when you arrive at Arity’s offices. I had the pleasure of visiting last fall. The security staff greeted me with a big smile and asked about my day. Once past the doors, I noticed a positive buzz throughout the whole environment. Folks moved with purpose and talked with passion. Breakfast and snacks were waiting near our meeting room, which had clean whiteboards and crisp screens inside. Ryter pointed out how the design of the whole floor allowed natural light to filter in. There are also wellness areas and showers.

When Ryter started as Creative Culture Leader at Arity, she was a one-man show. She was hosting lunch and learns, meet ups, game nights, and even an open mic night. All while she was trying to build out a team. Ryter also designed a strong feedback process for folks at Arity to share their vision of their ideal culture with her team.

One of the themes throughout all of Ryter’s team’s programs and processes is a deep respect for learning. She recognizes that there’s an aspect of learning in everything. When people are open to develop, whether they’re dealing with products or relationships, their mindset moves from routine thinking to the kind of awareness that truly delivers great experiences.

She also recognizes that one of the best ways to learn is to teach. Arity has implemented formal Learn Days on the first Friday of the month where people can share what they’re up to.

“We have a lot of Millennials in our space that are trying to learn soft skills, like public speaking” said Ryter. “So, they’ll teach something they’re super excited about, whether it’s something about [the coding language] Java or things like bread making or birdwatching.”

But aside from public speaking skills, how does teaching a lesson on birdwatching help someone at a data mobility company? 

“It’s really about building community,” said Ryter. “How can we make this a place where people can be themselves? Bring their best self to work?”

For Ryter, being a Creative Culture Leader is a dream job. She’s in a place where she can truly be herself. She has support from other leaders, and has a strong vision and mission of what Arity’s trying to do with making transportation smarter, safer and more useful. And of course, there’s working everyday alongside her amazing team.

Arity not only embraces a learning culture day in and day out, but they’ve been recognized for the work. In both 2017 and 2018, they took home the Highly Commended for Employee Culture Award by the North American Employee Engagement Awards in association with CultureNext by Maritz Motivation Solutions. Additionally, they were a finalist for the Best Tech Work Culture Timmy Awards in 2017 and 2018, and a winner of Chicago’s Coolest Company Competition in 2018.

“It takes a village to make this place run,” said Ryter. “And if everything’s working well, we all look at each other and know, okay, it’s all good.”