SDI Presence’s three pillars drive company culture and leadership.
One of the basic building blocks every successful business needs in order to survive and thrive is the ability to remain innovative. It is innovation that allows organizations to stay relevant in a competitive market and play an important role in economic growth. For SDI Presence LLC (SDI), this has meant infusing three very important pillars into everything they do: clients, colleagues and communities.
Founded by Chief Executive Officer David Gupta, the Illinois-headquartered IT managed services provider (MSP) and consultancy leverages its strong team presence to advance clients to a secure digital enterprise. SDI is a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) with a portfolio of clients that includes some of the nation’s largest utilities, government agencies, airports and commercial real estate portfolios. The company delivers strategic managed services, IT consulting and hybrid infrastructure solutions to optimize clients’ technology environments.
Committed to providing ‘presence’ across the three pillars, SDI’s innovation begins with its internal environment. Employees are called colleagues, creating a sense of inclusivity and partnership. Not only are SDI’s colleagues encouraged to learn, grow and find their passion, but they’re also empowered to do their best and feel great about doing it. It’s no surprise then that SDI was awarded Top Workplaces honors for the past three years by the Chicago Tribune and selected as one of Built In Chicago’s 100 Best Places to Work for 2020 and 2021.
Innovation improves the way things are done or what can be achieved. By intentionally identifying more diverse business partners, SDI has been able to spread the wealth. In only two years, the company quadrupled its spend with minority-, women-, and veteran-owned, and disabled business enterprise partners. Spending with diverse partners jumped from $6 million in 2018 to $24 million in 2020. “We’re purposefully moving in the right direction and we’re very proud of that,” says Chief Marketing Officer Dawn Nash Pfeiffer.
When SDI Presence was chosen by the City of Chicago for its latest project, they immediately thought of their community commitment. “We had to do something innovative to bring money back into the community,” says Chief Experience Officer Cecelia Bolden. Instead of focusing on what they could get out of the contract, they focused on how they could pay it forward. As they proceeded with the implementation of the project for the City, SDI recognized that bringing together a public-private partnership would be critical to making it all work. “We know the ability to uplift minority-owned businesses and even to make a substantial difference in a community involves both education and economic investments from the private sector, as well as making sure the money that’s generated comes back into the community. This is something that’s paramount for us,” says Bolden.
Building on its history of driving economic empowerment through education and technology, SDI partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago to further its mission to help underrepresented student groups across Chicago excel in information technology, cybersecurity and consulting. SDI has graduated over 170 students through its apprenticeships and internships via the firm’s First Chance Initiative, a student program designed to provide minority students the opportunity to work in a professional IT environment. “If you can open your eyes to the possibilities, they can be endless,” Bolden says. Referencing the quote, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’, Bolden emphasizes that SDI wants to make sure young people can see the opportunities that exist in front of them. In 2020, SDI hired 26 interns—all during the pandemic—and recently hired five as full-time employees.
In July 2020, SDI facilitated a panel discussion with California-based utility officers on how to affect change within traditional diversity programs. Participants were asked to think about the following questions: What is your company culture? What is your DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) IQ? How do you think people feel about it? Are you meeting people where they are? Panelists recommended being open to DE&I within their own walls in order to really understand what the struggle is for people.
Bolden says she’d like to challenge companies to understand their company culture, which includes knowing where their people are in their DE&I journey. She asks companies to also examine the downstream of their supply chain, and how MBEs can get involved to add value in new areas like IT. She wants companies to think about why they do what they do. “As a company, SDI truly believes in value-driven leadership. DE&I is not an objective but a journey. We hope that during your journey, you discover there are no ceilings but opportunities. It’s boundless. It’s endless,” says Bolden.