In this special edition of Stories from the Couch, we look at each of our core values and how these impact the way we work and the way we live. Our employees share how they’ve embraced these values in their day-to-day.
Last year, we started a blog series called Stories from the Couch. We shared insights into our culture and our employees’ lives as we all tried to navigate the pandemic.
This year in a special edition of Stories from the Couch, we’re concentrating on the elements that make us who we are – the heart of our company.
In this post, we focus on each of our core values, sharing personal experiences from our employees revolving around those. From embracing integrity to striving to innovate, we’ll take a deeper look into who we are as a company, why it matters, and how our values affect the lives of those who work here.
No matter what our days may look like, we always come back to these values. Read along and reach out to share your own experiences with this year’s collection of Stories from the Couch.
Commit to Delivery Excellence
A leading regional insurer chose us (Centric) as a partner to build out core analytic and reporting capabilities, helping them move from legacy systems, on-prem, to the cloud, with vastly enhanced capabilities based on our Insurance Analytics Platform (IAP).
The effort was strategic, with legacy decommissioning, supporting regulatory reporting, and operational reporting to enhance competitive insights. The client had previously worked with another vendor with negative results. As a result, they wanted their capabilities, they wanted to move fast, and they wanted a trusted partner who could deliver.
We suggested a Proof-of-Concept (POC) to show how IAP could accelerate analytics deployments and rebuild the trust harmed by the last vendor. We would follow the POC by successive deployments loading data sources and adding visualizations. We targeted the POC at six weeks, from the beginning to seeing data flow from source to lake to EDW to mart to visualizations. It was aggressive for any effort of this kind, but it would prove the acceleration capabilities of IAP and our team’s expertise in the platform, industry and in getting it done as a partner.
While our team had not earned the mistrust left by the previous vendor, it still existed. We delivered the POC as promised, with a few late-night sessions in the Holiday Inn Express common area and by pulling in experts across the depth of our company. The team went on to hit the next milestone, being ready to demo for the annual board meeting a short time later. Our commitment to delivery, and core values, built trust for the program within the insurer. As a result, we’ve been able to keep partnering in delivering value in successful technology enablement and organizational change.
— Ken Stark, Local Process Services Offering Lead, Indianapolis
In partnership with EAS, I was recently a member of a team conducting D365 workshops to collect detailed requirements for a client looking to consolidate bio-pharma study management activities across five locations into a single system.
Like the client, I was new to the Dynamics space and didn’t know all the capabilities that Project Operations could bring to their situation.
To help the client explore the ‘art of the possible,’ Carrie Butler and Lindsey Gorkowski went above and beyond. They mocked up example study management data and created real-world examples to help them see how they could accomplish their work. With each session, we learned more, and in turn, applied that to the next mockup in D365 PO.
As these detailed sessions came to a close, you could begin to sense the excitement amongst the client team for how they could do their work in the future. Perhaps one of their senior leaders said it best during the last session: they were very confident in both Centric’s abilities and the software’s capabilities to deliver on their needs, not just immediately but also into the future. I think this statement is a direct reflection on our team, and largely Carrie and Lindsey, to really go beyond what was expected and help the client envision a new future for their study management activities. It was a great, but not infrequent, opportunity to see delivery excellence in action.
— Paul Newkirk, Senior Manager, Columbus
Embrace Integrity and Openness
“Larry, I hate to do this, but I’m going to need to drop from our call for a few minutes. My son’s goldfish isn’t doing well, so we’re on the way to the pet store to see if we can save him. I’m going to need to drop, but I’ll be back on as soon as possible.”
My jaw dropped. I was brand new to this company, Centric Consulting. I was on the phone with a handful of people and was a little nervous because one of them was our PresidentPresident, Larry English. And someone had just admitted that they had to drop from the call (gasp!) not because they were incapacitated or double-booked or were facing a major life crisis — but because of a goldfish?
What shocked me even more was Larry’s response: “I’m so sorry. I have been there. That’s terrible. Go. Don’t worry about the call. Focus on what’s important.”
I was baffled. How could someone feel so comfortable being open and honest about their reasons for dropping from a call with the president of the company? And how could Larry be that genuinely understanding, implying that a goldfish was more important than the work at hand? The entire exchange was something I’d not witnessed in my 20 plus year career. It lacked both the employee tentativeness and the lack of leadership empathy I’d come to expect in corporate America. How did that happen?
As my time with Centric went on, I realized this wasn’t the exception. It was – and is – the rule. Over time, I’ve come to attribute the goldfish exchange, and many others like it at Centric, to our core value of “embracing integrity and openness.” It’s an important one and makes many of our other core values possible.
Embracing integrity and openness means embracing transparency and honesty. It means doing the right thing at all costs, and it means doing what you say you’re going to do so people can wholeheartedly trust you. The best way to consistently ensure you’re doing the right thing, and to get to that level of trust, is to consistently put others above yourself. To put yourself in their shoes. To lead with empathy. To consider the whole human.
What do integrity and openness mean at Centric?
- It means that as employees, we are encouraged to be ourselves — our whole selves. We don’t view one another as one-dimensional engines of productivity but as members of a family. We care about every aspect of each other, not just the parts we need to get work done. This extends to our clients, as well, and creates more meaningful and sustainable relationships that go far beyond the norm.
- It means we see and celebrate our differences. Our increased focus on our Diversity and Inclusion initiative has made us more likely to bring our differences to the forefront rather than pretend they don’t exist.
- It means we eschew ego, and we embrace vulnerability. We’re all humans with stories and perspectives, and we all have good days and bad days. Vulnerability can be a magical thing in the connection it creates between people. And as Berne Brown will tell you, there is no courage without vulnerability. It’s an essential part of life, from relationship-building to client work to innovation.
- It means that we are at all times expected to do the right thing for our clients, for our employees and our colleagues. Even if it costs us more or is more difficult. Our values, and by extension our priorities as a business, are clear and unwavering.
At Centric, integrity and openness permeate everything. And the result is impactful: authentic relationships, lasting connections, the feeling that you’re not only doing good work, but you’re doing good in the world. And every once in a while, you even get to help save a goldfish.
Invest in an Exceptional Culture
Culture is big for me. I spend too much time at work to be around negative people, toxic behaviors or political posturing. I am motivated by real people who talk openly and honestly.
I am moved to be a better person when “Magic Monday” and “Terrific Tuesday” newsletters ding in my inbox. (That’s an internal newsletter full of motivation, reflection, empathy, and kindness. It also highlights the amazing unmatched experiences our employees create for one another, clients and the community.)
I laugh during company meetings and am still in awe at the casual nature of how our top leaders speak to us in a down-to-earth, easy-to-understand fashion. (They leave business-speak at the door, along with their suit and tie.) Our leaders are transparent, and they truly “walk the talk.” If I have a question (and I have a lot of questions), someone will answer.
I don’t sit with anxiety about what might happen or how they might react. They ask for feedback, and they mean it. They want to hear it so that they can improve. They model the behaviors of our culture, which reinforces and disseminates it throughout the organization.
We have space for introverts and extroverts alike. There’s constant opportunity for learning and growth. Even when we were physically apart in the pandemic, we found ways to stay connected – whether it be virtual happy hours or book club conversations through Teams. I’m not a cog in a wheel, stuck spinning in a huge machine. I get to show up and participate.
Walter Lippmann said, “Culture is the name for what people are interested in, their thoughts, their models, the books they read and the speeches they hear.” My thoughts, my interests, my voice – me. I’m part of our culture, and I am grateful.
— Whitney Fraser, Senior Manager, Charlotte
Ignite Passion For the Greater Good
So, what do hiking, photography and the Humane Society have in common? Well, let me tell you.
About 12 years ago, we adopted a cute little rescue puppy, a husky/golden retriever mix. He and I have been hiking buddies ever since. Although he’s slowed down in his senior years, we still get out as much as possible – we just take shorter hikes now.
On those hikes over the years, I developed an interest in nature photography, chronicling our adventures for my friends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’ll share that Ducati is a super cool-looking dog, and he’s way more popular on Facebook than I am!
My interest in nature photography grew, and I worked to improve my skills. I’m proud to say I’ve had several shots selected for juried art shows and have even had a solo display at a local library.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the global pandemic. The need for social distancing drove people out into their local parks, myself included. I discovered incredible areas right here in the Cleveland Metro Parks areas that I am embarrassed to say I’d never visited in over 30 years of living here.
So how does all this relate to the Humane Society, you ask?
As a rescue dog owner and animal-lover, I combined my photography/hiking hobby to support Pawsibilities, my local Humane Society. I set up a website (http://www.brad-nellis.pixels.com) and began selling my work a couple of years ago. I donate 100 percent of the profits to Pawsibilities. Each year, I also create an annual calendar featuring the year’s shots and sell those to my friends in exchange for a donation to Pawsibilities.
I’ve enjoyed every aspect of hiking with Ducati and taking shots of the beauty all around us. I’m proud that my interests have helped support homeless dogs, cats and other small animals in my community. It’s how I love to ignite passion for the greater good.
Strive to Innovate
I’m not a very innovative person. I’m pretty good at bringing the innovative ideas of others to fruition, but I’m terrible at thinking of those ideas myself. So when I was asked to write an article about innovation, my initial inclination was that I was the last person anyone should ask about that.
But upon reflection, I’ve actually been involved in quite a few innovative endeavors over the years, and with a few simple tips, I bet you could be, too.
- I have a lot of interests outside of my day job as a tech lead and architect: for example, I play and write classical music, I enjoy reading certain types of fiction, and I play (and occasionally narrate) video games. As such, I have been able to combine my interests in innovative ways, including the Music GAN I wrote for last year’s Camp IO, which uses machine learning to write music. I bet you have a unique collection of interests that are not exactly the same as anyone else’s, which would enable you to come up with ideas that nobody else could. Tap into those – that’s tip number one.
- I have worked with people who come up with lots of great ideas, which in turn has helped me to come up with ideas inspired by theirs. A few years ago, a client friend of mine and I were tasked to form an innovation team, specifically tasked to investigate new technologies and see how they might benefit our client. (Yes, I actually got paid for this!) While my friend came up with most of the ideas, some of those ideas sparked my own creativity. And in fact, some of my embellishments turned out to be some of the most impactful features of the innovations we created together. My second tip is this: embrace teamwork.
- And my final tip: If you notice something that frequently causes you problems, see if you can figure out how to make it better! Many years ago, a friend of mine and I commiserated that we could never remember what we had been doing for the previous week when it was time to fill in our timesheets.
So, we decided to write a little application called Time Buddy, which would pop up every hour and simply ask us what we had been doing for the past hour. It sent our messages to a server, which collated them and let us query what we had done for the past week. That made it easy to fill in our timesheets! Several years later, when Android was fairly new, I decided to learn Android development, so I rewrote Time Buddy as an Android application and widget.
And finally, just a couple of years ago, some friends of mine at Centric rewrote it yet again as a Microsoft Teams bot that uses a conversational UI to achieve the same goal. So a simple solution to a persistent problem helped us to develop three separate innovative products.
You may feel the same way I do. You may feel like you’re not an innovative person. But with some of the tips above, you might just be able to change that.
— Eric Galluzzo, Senior Architect, Cincinnati
Live a Balanced Life
For me, living a balanced life is all about living an integrated life. I’m a data person, but I can’t just assign percentages of time to things and call it balanced. Life doesn’t work that way. I strive to integrate family, work and play.
I think my desk is the best visualization of how I achieve this blending of the different facets of my life. It’s where I do all of my coding, important presentations to clients and socializing with co-workers. It’s also where my kids (Edith, 5 and Louise, 2) join me for video calls, eat breakfast at the desk next to me or play with the giant Lego Cinderella Castle in the corner to spend time with me during the day.
It’s where I write two blog articles a week for a Disney vacation planning site that literally blends data/analytics (work) and Disney (play).
My family has taken two vacations to Florida in the past year. Since we travel with toddlers, we end up with a lot of downtime in our room. During nap-time, my 5-year-old and I would head to a back porch at Animal Kingdom Lodge or a window seat overlooking Vero Beach and have “work time” together. As both girls lay in bed exhausted at the end of the day, my husband reads a book, and I tune back in to emails or analytics or presentations.
I’ll never be happy with a segmented life. It’s when all of the pieces of me are blended together that I’m whole and happy.
— Becky Gandillon, Local Data & Analytics Service Offering Lead, St. Louis