We spoke with three Atlantans who are helping build BlackRock’s iHub in Atlanta. Learn more about Kimberly Locklear, Brandon Berry and Emojoy Brown’s experiences working in BlackRock’s Atlanta office.
From left to right: Kimberly Locklear, Brandon Barry and Emojoy Brown
Atlanta (aka ‘the ATL’ or ‘Hotlanta’ if you dare) has grown exponentially over the last two decades. It continues to have the fastest growth rate of any southeastern city, with people from around the world relocating there to call it home. And because it also houses more than 120 fintech companies, the city has earned a reputation as a fintech hub. Locals who grew up in Georgia’s capital and the surrounding region have played an active role in this progression, shaping their hometown into a thriving metropolis.
As this evolving city saw a surge of transplants, another one moved in: BlackRock. And Atlantans were thrilled about this new resident. A fintech opening an innovation center that would create more than 1,000 jobs for the community? That was a win-win-win.
Kimberly Locklear, “a true Georgia Peach” who works as Client Experience Lead for the Global Consultant Relations Group, jumped at the opportunity. “When I heard BlackRock was going to open an iHub [innovation hub], I immediately started looking for open roles – primarily because of BlackRock’s reputation as an industry leader across asset management, but also because of the opportunity to work within the institutional business without having to move to New York!”
For Brandon Berry, Vice President of the Technology Risk Management group within Risk and Quantitative Analysis, he was sold on the firm’s Atlanta office after a series of interviews met his requirements and exceeded his expectations. “As a Black professional, I especially appreciated how BlackRock’s external communications about social justice, DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] and other ESG [environmental, social and governance] issues were also represented in conversations with my interviewers,” Brandon says. “They made me believe in the authenticity of BlackRock’s commitment to being a good corporate citizen.”
Can you still be an Atlanta native if you weren’t born there? Emojoy Brown, a Director on the Liability Driven Investments team, confesses that while she’s not 100% homegrown, “Atlanta has been my home since I graduated from college over 20 years ago. I feel like the city and I have grown up together!” That’s why Emojoy is active in BlackRock’s community outreach, striving to foster DEI across the city. We think that makes her a true Atlantan.
What inspired you to join BlackRock’s Atlanta office?
Emojoy Brown (Director on BlackRock’s Liability Driven Investments team): BlackRock is such an important name in asset management, and I was really excited to see the firm building a presence in Atlanta. It showed that BlackRock recognized that Atlanta is a great city to live and work in, with a deep and diverse talent pool. It also represented an opportunity for me to learn from and contribute to a truly dynamic firm with global reach. I wanted to be a part of this growth story!
Brandon Berry (Vice President in BlackRock’s Technology Risk Management group): As I started to explore new roles in 2020, I found that the three biggest priorities for me were (in order) company values and culture alignment, company economic strength and edge in industry, and the opportunity to grow professionally and add value. During my independent research and through the interview process, BlackRock met all of my criteria, and I left the process genuinely excited for the opportunity to join the company.
What do you find most rewarding being a part of BlackRock?
Emojoy: The purpose of the firm really resonates with me. There are so many ways we are helping people achieve financial well-being. It’s in the way we connect with each other to solve a challenge for a client, the way we recruit and develop the next generation of investors, and the way we give back to the community.
Kimberly Locklear (Vice President on BlackRock’s Americas Client Experience Management team): The culture at BlackRock is unlike anything I have experienced in my career – in a positive way! The experience and talent across our community has inspired me personally to work harder, while also gaining an abundance of knowledge from colleagues around the world.
Brandon: The most rewarding thing for me is knowing that I am able to make an impact on a large scale. Given the size of BlackRock, I know that, by doing my job well (helping to keep safe the technology and data the company uses to deliver for our clients), I am playing a small part to positively impact the financial future of millions of people and financial markets globally.
What’s the support system like in Atlanta?
Emojoy: We have many different functions represented in the office, and we connect with each other through meetings, events and activities. Whether it is purely social, community service-related or employee resource groups leading a panel discussion, there are frequent opportunities to engage with other groups and leaders in Atlanta. BlackRock’s global leaders are often in the office, leading ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions to listen and foster a sense of transparency and access.
Kimberly: Because of our open floor seating, it allows for collaboration across teams, levels and businesses – making it easy to meet others, team up and support colleagues. There is a friendly face around every corner, and everyone is willing to pitch in and help others.
Brandon: Atlanta has a strong community and support system. The office support team, employee networks and informal networks made me feel connected to the office from Day 1, even as I was starting remotely. Everyone is generally helpful and willing to take the time to support each other if questions arise. I feel like I am able to engage as much or as little as I want in social activities, and I am always a few instant messages away from any answer I need.
How does it feel working in your local office as someone who grew up in Georgia?
Kimberly: I am a true Georgia Peach in that I was literally born three miles from our office – and to see Atlanta grow over the last 35+ years to the sprawling metropolis that it is today, with companies like BlackRock in our backyard, makes me very proud.
Brandon: I am proud to see the growth of Atlanta as a business hub. As I was matriculating through school and early career, there were a few major employers with a big presence here (Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, AT&T, etc.). Now, there are many large multinational firms across various industries competing for talent in ATL, including BlackRock. I feel proud that they decided to choose my home as somewhere they value and desire to grow a footprint.
Emojoy: Atlanta has been my home since I graduated from college over 20 years ago. I feel like the city and I have grown up together! The growth Atlanta continues to undergo is amazing to witness, and it’s been important to me to ensure that growth is equitable and respectful of the diverse communities that make the city great. I see that commitment is shared by my colleagues in the Atlanta office. We volunteer, donate and champion activities that promote diversity, equity and inclusion across the city. It means a lot to see my values amplified by my coworkers and the company.
What’s the best kept secret about BlackRock’s Atlanta office?
Brandon: It’s no secret, but the ability of the Atlanta office to bring together such a large group of high-performing, diverse talent is something to marvel at. I have not seen such a diverse collection of great talent during my career, and I believe it contributes to the unbelievable culture and positive energy we have in ATL. I know that I am energized as a Black professional being a part of this amazing community of talent that is BlackRock ATL.
Kimberly: While we are the largest asset manager in the world, the Atlanta office can sometimes feel like a start-up. The energy and collaboration are evident – and at times, you can see the motivation and excitement in the work we are doing!
What goals do you have for your team?
Emojoy: My team works on investments for corporate retirement programs. I would love to see our team tap into the fintech, data and product strategy talent growing right here in Atlanta to innovate the strategies we bring to clients.
Kimberly: First and foremost, I want my team to enjoy the work we are delivering and to know they, too, have a voice in creating and executing our service experience for clients and consultants.
Brandon: The immediate goals for my team surround growing in size (mainly in Atlanta) and maturing as a function to enhance our ability to identify and reduce technology risk.
Are you – or have you been – involved with any BlackRock mentorship programs? Why is that important to you?
Brandon: I have been engaged in Black Professionals & Allies Network and Risk and Quantitative Analysis mentoring programs as both a mentor and mentee. I think mentoring is so important for a few reasons. Learning and coaching provides value as a mentor to early career associates and also in receiving new perspectives and insights from mentees. It allows you to connect with people and also get access to their extended networks. Mentor/mentee relationships provide a form of support that is different from an acquaintance/normal colleague that is important to have in any environment.
You’re active in several BlackRock networks. How do these communities make an impact on your experience at BlackRock?
Emojoy: I find that BlackRock employee networks are a great way to meet and learn about people. The events have helped me become a more empathetic leader and also pursue a balance in my life in and out of the office. There are so many facets of one’s identity that need to be nurtured, and these groups affirm that I need not suppress or hide any part of who I am to be successful here.
Brandon: As a Black professional, BPN has made the biggest impact on my BlackRock experience. I think it’s so powerful to have a community of people that have similar experiences to you, to feel comfortable, seen and supported. Additionally, as a member of many other networks, it has been great to join various events and programs to learn more about the firm and expand my BlackRock knowledge and network. The participation in BlackRock employee networks has been very beneficial to my experience with the firm thus far.
From its continued growth to its committed service in the local community, the Atlanta office is serving up some serious inspiration. We are incredibly proud of all our employees leading the way in Atlanta. Want to know more about the Atlanta office? Check out its website here. Inspired to join the team? Click here for open roles.