Join us each month for a series highlighting the unique career journey of our employees.
This month, we talk to a Senior Manager in Technology Solutions and Custom Development.
1. When did you start with Centric? Tell me about your career path (prior to coming to Centric).
I started as a contractor with Centric in November of 2016 and took a full-time position in January 2017. Prior to Centric, I worked as a manager overseeing Business Analysts and Product Managers at SpencerStuart, an executive recruiting company.
Before that, I spent 13 years at CNA Insurance, where I did two tours of duty (2001-2007 and 2009-2015). For most of my career, I have worked in various Information Technology roles for several fast-paced industries.
2. What are some unique/funny/interesting stories you can share about your journey?
This story is from like a million years ago, but early in my career, I wanted to find and develop my meeting facilitation style. Although there are a multitude of books you can read and seminars you can attend to learn about this, I wasn’t sure where to start.
I spoke to a really good friend of mine, who was our human resources manager at the time. She asked if I would ever consider volunteering for the Cub Scouts, adding that it might help broaden my skills. I told her I was an Eagle Scout and would love to be able to give back to an organization that taught me so much.
Coincidentally, my son (who’s now 17) was just old enough to start Tiger Cubs (7 year old), so we decided to join. I ended up becoming a Tiger Cub leader to a den of eight scouts between 7 to 8 years old. I thought to myself, “How hard could this be – having a one-hour meeting a week with these scouts?”
If you’ve never experienced trying to corral and focus a bunch of seven-years-olds, imagine a bunch of squirrels in uniform, in a box of Pixie Stix. I was faced with a rowdy, fun, energetic, chatty, and inquisitive bunch of kids. But, I had an agenda planned with craft activities to meet Tiger badge requirements. No problem, right?
Needless to say, at the end of the hour, I had a tattered agenda and a bunch of unused Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s Glue. My first meeting left me exhausted and literally re-thinking what I had gotten myself into.
After a couple of weeks of trying to run a traditional meeting (like I would at work), I got the bright idea of running the meeting like a seven-year-old would (read: understanding my audience). I broke the meeting down into 15 minute chunks, with some sort of (tiring) physical activity between them (ask me about the ping pong ball game when you see me next time).
I was amazed at how they reacted. They listened a little more – and they exhausted some of their limitless energy in a fun game. You’re probably asking yourself: How does this relate to the question?
Well, I ended up staying in the Cub Scouts for over 10 years to see several of my dens graduate into Boy Scouts. During this time, my meeting facilitation skills were battle tested with probably the most demanding “clients” I’ve ever had – those below the age of 12.
Ever been at a meeting that you’re running and there are a million conversations going on? Check. Ever facilitate a session where a participant hijacks your agenda? Check. Ever run a meeting and it’s like pulling teeth to get people to engage? Check.
There were several dozen of these scenarios I was able to work through with my dens that translated into the foundation of skills I use today. Scouting was a great chance to do a lot of fun things with my kids and see them grow and mature. At the same time, I was able to develop my professional meeting facilitation skills.
I’m not saying that sometimes adults act like kids, but leading Cub Scouts certainly showed me how to at least deal with these behaviors in a firm, yet, respectful way.
3. If you had to pinpoint a definitive moment in your career, what would that be?
I think the most definitive moment was actually preceded by another defining moment. It all started the first time I worked at CNA Insurance, from 2001 to 2007. I had a great manager and mentor at the time.
I was working on challenging and interesting projects which supported corporate objectives, and therefore very visible. So why leave you ask? I struggled with the reality of “staying somewhere forever.” It was an awkward and difficult decision to make. But my manager understood.
She offered several options to me at CNA to get me to stay. Ultimately, she respected my decision to take a position at another company – and assured me there would be a spot at CNA should I decide to come back.
Her words would be proven true, two years later, when she was instrumental in bringing me back. I would go on to have a rewarding career there, which lasted another six years, and turned out to be a definitive moment for me (as you’ll see later).
4. What motivates you and drives you to keep going?
I thrive on helping solve problems – whether it’s for a client or a colleague. The process of breaking down a problem, and figuring out the ‘what’ before the ‘how,’ is an energizing and rewarding one.
What I find most rewarding is that ‘aha’ moment when you both realize you’ve figured out the problem, or at least have a solution you want to test.
5. How does your current role fit into your career path/goals?
I think the beauty of one’s career path is that, at times, a fork in the road will come up. Centric became that inviting fork in the road that I wanted to explore.
After making that choice, I’ve taken a refreshing look at what and where I want to be career-wise and charted a new course. This opportunity at Centric has helped me embrace an exciting new path.
6. Please describe consulting at Centric. What is this job like? Describe what your typical day looks like.
Consulting at Centric requires you to leverage everything – all of your professional experience, technical and soft skills, teamwork, and flexibility – while sprinkling in a sense of humor. It’s exhilarating and energizing.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that there really isn’t a typical day at the client. I do try to walk in with a framework for the day that aligns to team plans for the current sprint. I also try to start with a Centric team call and end with a wrap-up or email of what we did, what we still have left to do, and what obstacles we need to escalate or overcome.
But it’s not typical because we’re always on the lookout for fresh opportunities to provide an unmatched client experience.
7. How did you find Centric? Or, did we find you? What did your recruiting process look like?
When I was laid off my prior job, I took that rare opportunity to explore new approaches on how I handled my job search. My plan had four tracks:
- First, I had to refresh my resume and my LinkedIn profile – Coming from an executive recruiting company, I was coached by many of my co-workers that this is an often overlooked, yet critical activity. I think I spent more time on my LinkedIn Profile than it took to refresh my resume.
- Second, I wanted to reconnect with as many of my former colleagues as I could – I wanted to refresh our relationship, hear about how they’re doing, and seek their advice and consultation, in a personal and informal setting (e.g., coffee, lunch, dinner, or drinks. I had some free time as you can imagine...)
- Third, I wanted to research companies that not only had same core values I had, but had succeeded in ‘walking the talk’ – Meaning, they had core values and enabled, facilitated, empowered the organization to live and achieve them. My hope was that the friends I reconnected with were working at awesome companies.
- Lastly, I had to dust off my 3-to-5 year career plan and refresh it – So I used what I learned about myself and my career to refresh my plan.
Interestingly enough, I found Centric after meeting with some of my former colleagues, including Scott FitzGibbons, Sean Neben and Mark Avery. Each meeting started off as just grabbing lunch and reminiscing about our time at CNA and ended in them describing their experience at Centric.
Although these were three separate and unrelated discussions, they all had the same great story to tell about their experience at Centric.
They all shared with me how they ended up at Centric, how supported and empowered they feel consulting here, and how the company focuses on providing unmatched client experiences while promoting work-life balance. That was all before I entered the official process.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical (just ask Mark Federman) and kept thinking ‘No company works this way!’ It only took interviewing with Mark, Ted Goodman, Amy McJoynt and Bill Chamberlain to realize that this IS real and that Centric is REALLY ‘walking the talk.’
8. Is your practice currently hiring? Or, is the company currently hiring for roles like yours? If so, what positions are open?
Yes. I work with the Chicago team, which is actively recruiting for open positions in .Net Development, Project Management, Data Analytics and Change Management.
9. What mix of skills, personality, and values do you find most important for a consulting role like yours?
Skills: For my current role, I think it’s key to have wide experience in the full application life-cycle, including Agile and Waterfall methodologies. In this case, I would qualify the “full application lifecycle” as including project business justification (cost benefit analysis) through delivery and application maintenance.
Having this 360 view of the project aids in providing the client valuable insight into decision-making. It also goes a long way into navigating through the project delivery.
As a consultant, you can lay the groundwork for the decisions the client needs to make this week, what they need to think about for the following week, and what to consider post-deployment.
10. What tips would you share with future Centric recruits?
Great question! I believe the important things to share with future Centric folks are:
- Be Flexible. In this ever-changing landscape of consulting, being able to quickly process and react to events or decisions will set you apart from the pack. This flexibility is a skill each of us will hone with every project, team and client we work with. In the broadest context, it’s being ready for anything.
- Be Curious. No one has all the answers, but we have access to an amazing knowledge repository of our peers. I’ve learned so much from collaborating with, and observing, my peers and managers. Don’t shy away from asking a question to clarify a point–especially if it will help you in the long run. Feel free to engage someone in a one-to-one dialog if that works better for you. Never. Stop. Learning.