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CultureSep 04, 2019

Culture Matters: 3 Truths from an Intern’s Perspective

Curtis Harrison

My name is Curtis Harrison, and I had the opportunity to intern at Credera in the Open Technology Practice (OTS) this summer. I was particularly drawn to Credera during the application and interview process because of the firm’s emphasis on creating a strong culture. I have been passionate about culture and team development for years, and I was excited to see the concrete and practical steps being taken by Credera employees of all levels. As my internship draws to a close, I want to share how a handful of Credera team members are taking concrete steps to build a strong culture, the purpose of these steps, and how they shaped my perspective of the firm.

cultural events

Activity: With the Lunar New Year approaching, Catherine Tu (senior consultant, Open Technology Services) and Christina Hahn (consultant, Management Consulting) saw an opportunity to share some of their heritage and culture with their coworkers. They assembled a team of four consultants across all three offices to lead the celebration. The team sent a note to the company about the holiday and coordinated a Lunar New Year celebration with authentic food, music, pictures and videos of celebrations worldwide, engaging activities, and an informational slide about each country in the world that celebrates the Lunar New Year.

Purpose: Catherine and Christina organized this event to allow everyone at Credera to share in the cultural and personal experiences of their coworkers in a fun and supportive environment. Furthermore, celebrations like this help everyone at Credera feel comfortable being who they are by celebrating their differences. Getting to share their backgrounds and significant events allowed the Credera staff who partake in the Lunar New Year to feel included in Credera’s culture.

My Perception: The Lunar New Year celebration is part of an ongoing series of similar events, where different members of the Credera community take ownership of events to represent or celebrate important moments in their lives. One of the first emails I received at Credera was a follow up to the Pride 5k that members of the Denver office participated in over the weekend. Seeing members of the office I would be working with all summer not only acknowledging but celebrating (in force) an event with personal significance to me made me feel much more comfortable being my authentic self during my internship.

lunch lottery

Activity: The lunch lottery is a program where members of a practice agree to go to lunch with a new group of colleagues each month. Groups are randomly selected, and people find themselves at lunch with coworkers they may have never met or may have only met in passing.

Purpose: This program’s goal is simple: to foster deeper connections between team members. If two Credera team members haven’t worked on a project together in the past, they might not have had the chance to get to know each other. It is also frequently a chance for consultants and senior consultants to meet and talk with senior members of the management team, who also sign up for the lottery. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee is now working with the Talent Acquisition Team to develop a new lunch lottery group for new hires, focusing on getting them integrated into and comfortable with the Credera culture as quickly as possible.

My Perception: Programs such as the lunch lotteries show how seriously Credera takes personal relationships and getting to know each other beyond our work. The office strives to be a family and not just a job, and initiatives like the lunch lottery demonstrate this focus. The interns from across the different geographies were invited to a partner’s house for dinner and a Q&A with partner and vice president, Andrew Warden, and our CEO, Justin Bell. This was a chance to hang out, eat some tacos, talk about Credera, and even play some games in a casual, no pressure setting. Events like this demonstrate the time and effort that members of the partner team put into getting to know even the most junior members of the firm on a personal level. As an intern, there is a certain default feeling of being on the outside of the company you are with. This event was just one example of how Credera was able to make all of the interns feel welcome and included this summer.

credera women’s network

Activity: A month into her Credera experience, someone was needed to take over the Denver chapter of the Credera Women’s Network (CWN) and Kaylee McHugh (consultant, Open Technology Services) stepped up to the plate. She began organizing axe throwing events, gender-equality discussions, seminars on tough conversations, and panels with successful Denver businesswomen for the CWN chapter here in Denver.

Purpose: Kaylee decided to take this opportunity to facilitate the discussions that she felt women in industry, especially in technology, needed to have with one another. She hoped the CWN events could provide a space for the women at Credera to talk about the obstacles they’ve faced and overcome in their careers and to network so they could become effective advocates for one another.

My Perception: Within a month of my internship at Credera, Gail Stout Perry, a partner and vice president based in Dallas, visited the Denver office for our ‘All Hands on Deck’ quarterly meeting. While she was in Denver, the CWN had a meet and greet with her over lunch. I have many female role models and mentors in the Denver office, in both the open technology services (OTS) and the management consulting (MC) practice. The effects of Kaylee’s (and the other organizers of the CWN) efforts are very apparent in the office and are a strong contributor to our company and office culture.

key takeaways

Here are a few things I learned based on my experiences.

1. Culture Can Change Faster Than You’d Expect

Cultural change takes a lot of sustained time and effort. It can be frustrating at times, but it is important to remember that when new members join a team or culture, they assume whatever they experience is the norm. A new cultural effort may feel like a shift to many members of an organization. But new hires (and interns!) don’t realize they are seeing something new; they assume they are long-term initiatives. Perception is reality when it comes to culture, and new Credera team members will begin acting and participating in the culture with these assumptions. With Credera growing so quickly, it is an exciting time for cultural changes, as new resources join with new perspectives and expectations for what it takes to build a strong company culture.

2. Culture Must Be Intentional

Culture develops naturally in any organization, but without an intentional strategy, there is no telling what this culture will look like. If you want to live and work in a particular culture, you must be intentional about the steps you take to create that culture. Credera understands this, and the intentional steps I mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to purposefully developing a strong, inclusive culture. In a company of over 300 employees and growing, it is important to consider the cultural impact of every decision.

3. Culture Must Be Dispersed

Culture cannot be imposed on an organization from above. While senior leadership has a lot of influence, culture is created by each and every member of Credera. When I asked around for impactful members of the Credera community to interview about their cultural contributions, people frequently pointed to consultants and senior consultants. This is not to say partners and principals are not involved in culture, it just means that the individuals driving these shifts tend to be young employees who are passionate about building an environment of openness and trust. This is an important piece of Credera’s culture, it is owned every day by every member of Credera, and everyone is intentional about how to change it. From the perspective of an intern, that is the ‘special sauce’ that will keep Credera’s culture unique, inclusive, and authentic as the company continues to grow and evolve.

even an intern notices culture

With cultural events, lunch lotteries, and the Credera Women’s Network, I experienced firsthand the power of culture at Credera. It became clear that culture changes rapidly, has to be intentional, and must be dispersed throughout the company to be effective. Learn more about Credera’s commitment to culture here.

I’d like to thank Christina Hahn, Kevin KingJohna Rutz, and Kaylee McHugh for taking the time to talk with me about their roles in building Credera’s culture.

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