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Employee Spotlight: Neeti Agarwal

Neeti Agarwal has been an Akilian for over 5 years, working remotely in Boston! While we don’t get to see her in the office everyday, Neeti fully embodies the Akili culture, serving as a mentor and a solution leader within the organization.

Tell us more about your role and what you like most about it.

I am a Solution Architect at Akili and that means I get to work on SAP BPC and Anaplan projects. The best part about my job is that it never gets boring. Every project has a new set of challenges and there are many creative ways to solve different problems, so it keeps things interesting.

What drew you to Akili? Is Akili what was described to you and what you expected?

I was drawn to Akili by its culture. It’s one of those places where titles and hierarchy don’t define you. Everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and people are valued for what they bring to the table. It creates a very open, relaxed atmosphere, which is great for introverts like me because I can walk up to anyone and ask for help or speak what’s on my mind.

What’s your favorite Akili memory?

I will never forget the first time I visited the Akili office. I was quite anxious to be in a new office and working with a new project team, but everyone was so nice and helpful that I immediately felt at home. Since then, every time I visit the office it feels like being among friends.

What makes Akili stand out from the rest?

Akili is a unique company because of its people, its culture and its core values. Our leadership team values all employees and treats people as they want to be treated themselves. As a result, you have an amazing group of people working in an environment that is fun, collaborative and challenging.

What are 3 career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

  1. Always be professional and nice. It’s a very small world and you never know who you may end up working with again.
  2. A healthy work-life balance is crucial to being happy. I feel happy at work when I’m happy with myself and a big part of that is making time for both work and personal activities as much as possible.
  3. There’s something to be learned every day. With changing technologies, workplaces are constantly evolving. So, always be ready to absorb new information.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates?

  1. Consider what is important to you when selecting a company. Evaluate the culture, benefits, and long-term growth opportunities and then decide which place checks most of the boxes on your list.
  2. Titles don’t bring happiness.
  3. Being open to adapt and change opens a lot more opportunities.

What has been the most important innovation you have witnessed in your lifetime?

Cellphones. I remember when I first got my mobile phone and how delighted I was that it had a backlight keyboard and 10 different ringtones! I used it only for calls and messages and now I cannot imagine my life without a phone. How did we do anything 10 years ago?

How do you like to spend your free time / what are you passionate about?

My soon-to-be one year old soaks up all the “free” time these days. I love spending time with my family and friends. When the weather is nice, I love being outdoors, close to nature, whether it’s hiking, nature walks or scenic drives. My “me” time is taken up by books. I love reading historic fiction or autobiographical novels.

Motto or personal mantra?

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” – Charles R. Swindoll

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Akili PHD: The Swimmer

By Michelle Fadley | Resource Manager

Swimming has been a huge part of my life since the beginning. Both of my parents were swim coaches so swimming was a way of life. By 2.5 years old, I could swim by myself, barely lifting my little face out of the water and diving back down pretending to be a mermaid. That love for the water grew as I began competing in swimming at the age of 5 years old. By 10 years old, I was part of the top relay team in the country, competing in Junior Olympics and traveling around the state for meets. In high school, our girls’ team placed second in CIF championships where I was a finalist in several events. This all led to my ultimate swimming goal of competing for a Division 1 college, Pepperdine, where I was a scholarship athlete for the 4 years that I was there.

Swimming at that level took a tremendous amount of my time and energy, but it also opened up some wonderful opportunities. When I was 16, my club coach took a group of swimmers to Australia where we were able to swim in the Olympic competition pool in Sydney. We were housed with families from a swim team in Brisbane where I learned about Vegemite and how to swim clockwise (opposite of what we do in the US) in a warm pool. We also went to Fiji and were able to scuba dive with sharks! I love that swimming took me places and allowed me to meet so many wonderful people.

I continue to enjoy the water and have passed on my love for it to my kids. I was able to teach both of them to swim by 2.5 years old and they have competed in our neighborhood summer league team for several years. They enjoy riding the waves and playing in the pools at all the places we have traveled to. We recently took a family trip to Belize where they were able to swim with sharks and stingrays.

Swimming has also allowed for me to give back to my community in a unique way. I love teaching people how to swim almost as much as I enjoy swimming itself. I started teaching lessons to toddlers when I was 12 years old. From teaching kids with autism to kids who didn’t speak my same language, I learned there are so many ways to explain the art of swimming. I later went on to coach a summer league team of 120 kids ages 5-18 who ended the season as league champs. Then I coached a group of 120 teenagers at my high school alma mater where I lead a group to CIF championships. From over two decades of teaching swim lessons, from toddlers to adults, there is something so gratifying when you see someone go from fearful of the water to never wanting to get out!

Swimming has taught me how to wake up early, even when I don’t want to. To compete and push myself, both for my benefit and for my team. I am constantly reminded that we can always dig deeper and find the energy for one more set. It taught me to love and care for my body, both physically and mentally. It taught me time management skills, how to win and lose, and that even a hundredth of a second matters. I may not get in a pool everyday anymore, but the lessons I learned from the sport have shaped me into the person I am today.

When life gets me down, the famous line from Dory in Finding Nemo reminds me to just keep swimming.

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Employee Spotlight: Sourjya Rudra

At Akili, we have many interesting and talented professionals contributing to our success from all of our locations! This week we’re highlighting one of our Atlanta-based employees, Sourjya!

Tell us more about your role and what you like most about it.

As a Business Planning Consultant, I get to wear a variety of hats during a project. While the primary work is developing Anaplan solutions for our clients, there are various roles to play during an engagement and that’s what is so great about consulting in general, no two days are ever the same.

Akili is full of people that are extremely knowledgeable in their area of expertise and having that deep knowledge within the company makes it great for someone who is starting out their career.

What drew you to Akili? Is Akili what was described to you and what you expected?

I was introduced to Akili through a mutual friend and what I instantly recognized was the deep expertise people had across all levels for a company of this size. Akili has an on-boarding process that rivals big-name competitors which I believe sets everyone up for success when put on an engagement.

What is also great about the people that work here is the respect for personal time and the desire to have fun while you are working. There is definitely a work hard / play hard mentality here and it’s refreshing to see a company that follows that motto as well as many other principles that make Akili a stand-out company to be a part of.

What’s your favorite Akili memory?

Right before coming onboard at Akili, I got a chance to meet everyone at the annual summer party. I instantly felt welcomed by everyone I met and it was such a great first experience and intro into the company. I had a friend that I brought along as a guest and she even recognized how genuine and fun everyone seemed. Fast forward to the first day of work, I was instantly plugged in and felt like there was a support system and someone to always reach out to if I needed the help.

What makes Akili stand out from the rest?

I’ve alluded to the culture here are Akili already, but I’ll emphasize that it’s rare to see people that live by and practice the culture at a company. It’s something that everyone from the top down lives and breathes by and it makes it very easy for a new employee to recognize this firm is genuine and really cares about its people and the work it delivers.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates?

  1. Bringing your authentic self to the table is valued at Akili and at the end of the day, people want you to have fun while doing the work you’re doing.
  2. Having a desire to continuously improve and be better than the day before is demanded and respected and part of why Akili has been so successful in growing in the short time that I have been here. Everyone from the top down is dedicated to getting better and growing in their respective roles, you should be too.

What has been the most important innovation you have witnessed in your lifetime?

I know I’m one of the younger ones at Akili, but I conceptually can’t imagine or remember a life without a search engine. That and Google Maps. I’m not sure how I’d live my life without either.

How do you like to spend your free time? / What are you passionate about?

I love outdoor hiking / camping trips. I have a few friends that get together just about every year and go on a week-long trip somewhere. I have a few favorite places I’ve been to, but the most recent favorite was Glacier National Park. There are trails that take you to the glaciers themselves while giving you views you could only dream of. There is something satisfying and freeing in knowing that you’re going to wake up and your only option for that day is to pack up and walk however many miles to your next destination (Or else you’re just stuck on a mountain).

Personal finance is a topic I am really passionate about. I nerd out on personal finance books and blogs and it’s a topic more people need to talk about. Understanding finances can be the difference between living a good life and a great life and it’s not a complicated topic. All the personal finance knowledge the average person needs can be fit on an index card, anything more and it is my opinion that you’ve overcomplicated it and you’re probably hurting your future self.

Motto or personal mantra?

“Aim for significance over success”

I feel lucky to have realized at a fairly young age that striving for success isn’t really as fulfilling as striving for significance. I’ve seen and read about a lot of people achieve success in life but later regret not having truly made an impact in the way they wanted. The definition of significance and success is different for everyone, but what’s important is making sure it is defined for yourself.

One of best decisions I ever made was to become a teacher right out of college with an organization called Teach for America. No matter how challenging that time was, I walked away from the classroom knowing what it felt like to make a difference and achieve something that I thought was significant.

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How to achieve end user adoption during an Anaplan project

By Josh Huilar | Senior Business Planning Consultant

What does end user adoption look like?

To me, end user adoption is when a company is using an implemented solution years later; furthermore, the solution has evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of the company.

Why is end user adoption important?

Believe it or not, many customers invest in a solution and never use it. End user adoption maximizes your company’s return on investment.

How can your company achieve end user adoption?

I suggest the following actions:

  • Commit
  • Engage
  • Dedicate
  • Train
  • Evolve


Do not implement a half-baked solution. Everyone wants a fully automated solution until they see the sticker price. I do not advise implementing a fully automated solution because business needs will change, but invest in a solution that is seamless enough so that someone new can jump right in.


The biggest risk to end user adoption is an organization not being engaged in the implementation of a solution. Anaplan is a tool, not a cure-all. Your company chose Anaplan because it has pain points it is trying to solve. Maybe it is enabling more efficient processes that will give employees their nights and weekends back. Whatever the reasons, stay engaged by focusing on the end goal.


If you use Excel in your everyday job, expect to use Anaplan just as much. It is easy to get caught up in your day-to-day job tasks. Make it a goal to dedicate 15 minutes a day to something Anaplan related. You will soon discover that 15 minutes can easily turn into an hour. Before you know it, you will be comfortable with Anaplan.


Your initial set of users know Anaplan, but what about the people after them? Create an internal Center Of Excellence (COE) team to maintain, support, and enhance Anaplan. This team will be accountable for creating standard work documentation, training videos, and hosting training workshops.


Companies choose Anaplan because it is flexible. Why? Because as your business evolves, Anaplan can evolve with it. Be aware and comfortable with the fact that Anaplan won’t look the same two years from now.

End user adoption will never be “complete”. It is an iterative process that requires an investment of time and a high level of accountability from you and your organization to ensure its success.

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Akili Wins for the Fifth Time!

Akili was named one of the 2019 Best Companies to Work for in Texas. Known for their expertise in implementing Enterprise Performance Management solutions, this is their fifth time receiving this award. The awards program is a project of Texas Monthly magazine, the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the Texas State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (TSC-SHRM) and Best Companies Group.

Made up of 100 companies, the 2019 Best Companies to Work for in Texas was designed to identify, recognize, and honor the best places of employment in Texas, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and business.

“In a world that has never spun so fast, business decisions have to be made quickly and have to be data driven rather than gut driven. Akili helps companies to make those decisions by implementing world class Sales, Operations, Supply Chain and Financial Planning Solutions,” said Shiek Shah, CEO of Akili. “I am most proud of this award out of all the accolades we receive, as this is based on employee surveys and not driven by financials or growth. For a professional services company like ours, our employees are our assets and we are absolutely committed to ensuring that we provide the best environment for them to thrive in.”

Companies from across the great state entered the two-part process to determine the Best Companies to Work for in Texas. The first part of the process represents 25 percent of the total evaluation and measures each company’s workplace policies, practices and demographics. Counting for 75 percent of the overall evaluation is the most crucial and telling, the employee survey. This survey consists of a series of questions that measure the employee experience and satisfaction. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking.

Akili was recognized and honored at the Best Companies to Work for in Texas awards ceremony as part of the Texas Association of Business Annual Conference in Austin, Texas. The rankings (Akili came in at 17th) will also be released in a special advertising section of Texas Monthly.

Akili fosters a strong culture of investing in employees and developing an environment that values them as individuals, provides the support of a team and enables employees to pursue their career goals without restraint. Akili’s vision is to create a work environment that gives employees the opportunity, encouragement, and recognition they need to truly excel at what they do.

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Employee Spotlight: Debbie Durham


From helping employees onboard to managing payroll and benefits, Debbie Durham plays a huge role in coordinating the administrative functions of Akili, keeping everything in order! This week, we had the opportunity to learn more about this seasoned Akilian.

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it?

I handle payroll and benefits here at Akili. I also set up our projects, so I have insight on who our clients are and what team members are on which projects. The best part is that I get to meet and interact with each and every employee that comes to Akili.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I became interested in payroll and benefits kind of by accident. I was working for a small construction company while going to school, when the bookkeeper retired and I received on-the-job training while studying accounting. After school, I worked in accounting at a health club and then moved to payroll and benefits for a small cellular company that eventually grew into AT&T Wireless Services (yes, I was a proud owner of a brick phone). I left there and eventually followed our former accounting manager to Akili.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

I joined Akili because I loved the culture and they actually operated by and believed in their core values. And it hasn’t changed in over 20 years.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?’

The best memories of Akili are from the fun activities we have had since the beginning. Whether it’s community service activities, Stars games, paintball, Ranger games, chili cook-offs, Halloween contests, happy hours, or lake parties, there is always something to participate in! It gives everyone an opportunity to spend time both in and outside of the office to get to know one another and their families, which strengthens our bond at work!

In your opinion, what makes Akili different?

Here at Akili, employees have the freedom to do the job that they were hired to do. No one looks over your shoulder, but if you need help or guidance, someone is always there to help.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband and I have three kids and three granddaughters. We like to travel, attend sporting events and make memories with the grandbabies!

What keeps you motivated?

I come from a family of educators, so what motivates me is that there is always something new to learn. Whether it’s work-related or personal, if you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

The best advice I’ve been given is to always be kind and do the right thing!

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Employee Spotlight: Michael Steen


Technical Services Manager Michael Steen has been an Akilian for almost a decade now, admiring our culture and camaraderie. This week, we pulled Michael aside from his busy work schedule to learn more about him and his role!

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it?

I’ve had several roles at Akili since joining in October of 2009. My current role is the Center of Excellence Leader for Platform and Support Services.

The most satisfying aspect about what I do is when a client expresses how pleased they are with the results of the solution I have helped to create. From the IT side, it can be particularly difficult to obtain kudos for a job completed to a client’s satisfaction. When a client is willing to go out of their way, either verbally or in an email to say how well you have done, you know you have exceeded their expectations.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

As a young boy, my older brother brought home a computer to help manage his business, and I was fascinated by the fact that this square contraption could do things with minimal physical gears or mechanical movement. That computer was an IBM XT 5160. Needless to say, I was hooked the first day I saw it. Much to my family’s dismay, I began taking things apart, including that IBM computer which was working perfectly, inspecting the internal components trying to understand what they could do, and putting it all back together again.

Later, I would receive my BBA in 1998 from the University of North Texas in Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management and in 2004, my MBA from the University of Phoenix. I had learned early on that technology changes very quickly and that getting a business degree fit well into my area of knowledge. This also helped me merge the two distinct paths into what I saw as how businesses would run in the future. After graduation from UNT, I began working full time and continued full time work throughout my MBA. Over the years, I worked my way up through the IT department of several companies and into senior management.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

Being from a small town in West Texas and growing up in a farming family, I was drawn to the small family atmosphere of Akili. Additionally, the values I learned as an Eagle Scout made me appreciate and admire Akili’s foresight and commitment to their core values, working hard to establish the culture of teamwork and camaraderie.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?

My wife, Mary, and I have always enjoyed the Akili summer and Christmas parties as it gives us a chance to step away from all of the hard work and enjoy spending time with our friends. One year, I remember we brought all three of our boys to the summer lake party where they loved to hit the golf balls over the edge of ‘Mr. Dan’s’ yard and into the lake. The lake was particularly low that year and after several rounds of the boys cheering each other on when they made it ‘into the lake’, Mary would walk them down the stairs to the rocks below to gather up the golf balls and start the process all over again! The boys are quite a bit older now, but they still love those memories; laughing every time we tell that tale.

In your opinion, what makes Akili different?

This has been said many times, but Akili really does stand out with regard to the culture we’ve established and the commitment we have to living our core values every day. I have had the opportunity to work for several highly regarded companies and employers over the years. Though many have tried, few have been able to effectively maintain the culture, values, and professional competencies needed to stay relevant and at the top of their game like Akili has. Anyone in business will tell you that it takes considerable effort and discipline to not take your hands off the wheel and let things coast. Coasting is just not what we are about. Pushing our boundaries and being the best is what we want for our clients.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

While I enjoy tinkering with engines and electronics, tackling home improvement projects, and spending time with the family; my biggest enjoyment is scouting adventures we have as a family and with our troop. I know firsthand what scouting has given me and that is something I want my boys to have, as well. Late this summer, one of the twins, William, and I will attend the 2018 National Order of the Arrow is Boy Scouts’ National Honor Society and I can tell you it is a great honor to be chosen by your peers to be part of this awesome group of future leaders in our country.

Outside of scouting, you can find me taking in local attractions with the family when I am not at one of my boys’ band concerts, athletic events, or with the Dallas Shooting Stars. Mary and I also volunteer as teachers for the adult special needs class at Prestonwood Baptist Church, and serve on the M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) Walk to Remember committee and event setup team since 2000.

What keeps you motivated?

I enjoy helping others learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Seeing that you have helped someone accomplish something or achieve a higher level is such a rewarding feeling. I am of the firm belief that as leaders, it is our responsibility to reach out to help others rise up to our level and propel them to achieve even greater things in their own futures. Take a look at history and you will find that many of the great leaders of our past have inspired others to go on and do even greater things.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

While there is a lot of professional “advice” that people tend to gravitate toward when asked this question, something my father taught me during my years of working out on the farm is that there is a season to everything. In life, you may be in the growth of spring, dead of winter, or somewhere in between, but rest assured that change is coming and things around you will not stay the same. What I take from that lesson is this; don’t get too comfortable where you are. Be willing to adapt and remember that how you handle each season can prepare you for those that follow.

Anything else you’d like everyone to know?

One evening at the dinner table, we were talking and our youngest son dove into a long dialogue about how he believes I work too hard and that after a few years of higher-level education, he plans to perform a hostile takeover of Akili to fix that issue.

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My First 90 Days at Akili: Kevin Boardman


By Kevin Boardman | Business Planning Consultant

On my first day with Akili, I immediately picked up on a theme: dedication. Every member of the Akili family is dedicated to their work, their clients, and personal development in betterment of the team.

During my first week in training, everyone from my colleagues to our CEO was asking if I had questions, and extended their time to help me overcome any hurdles I encountered. Akili is full of dedicated people that continue to ensure everyone is set up for success.

It is amazing to be a part of a team knowing that everyone is dedicated to being their absolute best and constantly raising the bar. I’ve noticed it’s not unusual for someone to work well past “normal business hours” to finish a work stream, then immediately share their findings with the team.

The phrase “open-door” policy would imply that sometimes that figurative door is shut. At Akili, there is no door because every door is open and every person is willing to jump in and help the team. That said, there is no “I” in team and that couldn’t be more evident here. Everyone is incredibly dedicated to perform at the maximum level and celebrate together in success.

Our managers are constantly pushing the team to advance their skillset by providing the platform to perform, learn, and then perform again. In my second week on a client project, I was presenting to a senior leader and our client director was right there with me. It was a great learning experience, proving that Akili invests in each of its employees and trusts them to perform.

One thing I’ve learned, is to not be afraid to take a calculated risk. One of the many exciting things about working at Akili is that every day is a new adventure. There will come a time when an idea or potential solution is mentioned in a meeting or casual conversation and then a few hours/days later, we have the opportunity to present our ideas and proceed further down the path. Just know the Akili team fully supports this kind of initiative, even if it doesn’t become implemented on the current work stream (but could be presented in other areas).

I’m excited for future projects with existing and new clients because although it will be challenging, us Akilians thrive and are excited for those challenges.

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Akili Core Values Series: People


By Shiek Shah | CEO

People – Our people are our strength. We will hire only the best and work with them to ensure they continue to improve.

In a professional services organization like Akili, people are our assets, differentiators, and strength. Our business does not scale without people and our reputation depends entirely on the quality of our people. So, at Akili, we pay special attention to our people – who we hire, how we work with them to be the best they can be, and how we ensure that their professional aspirations and goals are being fulfilled.

It starts with our hiring process. We understand that Akili is not everyone’s cup of tea. We are a flat, informal organization that thrives on individuality, freedom, and irreverence. We are casual about everything except our work. Some people thrive in an environment like that, others detest it. We get that. The people we hire do not need external motivation, look to better themselves every day, challenge the status quo, aren’t afraid to get out of their comfort zone, and truly believe in our guiding principles both in and out of the office.

We always say, “Hire character, teach skills.” Just like the Special Forces, we do not need a lot of people to accomplish a mission or complete a project. Small, skilled teams that work well together can accomplish a lot and typically in a much shorter time frame with a lot less risk. We are constantly training, learning, and visioning. We have a diverse group of people that come from various backgrounds: College football players, musicians, mountain climbers, cyclists, ultra-marathoners, crossfitters, grandparents, single, married, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Athiests, Americans, Foreigners, etc. Hell, if we found a Yeti with the character that we are looking for, we’d hire it! But we ALL have at least one thing in common – we believe in the mission of Akili to help our clients move their KPI’s in the right direction, and have fun while doing it.

We also believe that people are better focused on our mission when we don’t burden them with unnecessary rules that govern most companies. We don’t really care what you wear at the office as long as it is decent, we don’t have a vacation policy that limits the amount of time you can take off, we have Wine and Whiskey Wednesdays, Office Olympics, Ping Pong Tournaments, burpee contests – all to get to know each other better, have fun, and gel as a team. Our guiding principles are our governing structure.

Our people are our culture. Our culture is our brand and we are damn proud of our brand!