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.