When Leanne Orphanos graduated from college, large accounting firms were looking for a different kind of employee. Instead of the classic finance, business, and accounting majors they had previously pursued, these firms were interested in people with liberal arts degrees in subjects like English, history, and psychology. They were looking for individuals who had the ability to think critically and to write, with an understanding that they would be able to learn to account on the job.
In her role at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – then called Coopers & Lybrand– Orphanos learned as much as she could about various business models and operating principles, feeling particularly drawn to process improvement, internal controls, and risk management. With the legislation of Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) being created, she dove further into implementing internal control frameworks and driving change management programs for her clients.
“I have always had a passion for process,” Orphanos said. “I want to look at how an organization operates and figure out the best way to develop new processes, drive adoption and lead change. ”
Over the next 11 years of her career, Orphanos worked her way through NTT Data Services in various roles spanning client management, delivery operations, and managing the global resource planning and fulfillment function. She had the opportunity to manage teams across the US, India, and Canada. Now, her clients were internal ones, and she implemented large-scale systems and strategic initiatives for the company.
Her latest role, at Applause, represents a refreshing change of pace. She continues to draw on her past experiences in client service as the company’s Vice President of Customer Account Management.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to apply process improvement and account management strategy at a fast-paced, high-growth company, like Applause.”
Applause takes its customer success seriously, and the idea that everyone is responsible for that success – regardless of their role – pervades the company’s philosophy. Orphanos describes her job as providing the glue that binds customer needs and company actions together. She and her team ensure that customers receive the maximum value from Applause, overseeing the adoption and renewal process of Applause’s services and monitoring customer health. Changes her team identifies can be made quickly at Applause, due to its size and culture.
“When you’re at a larger organization, you can’t be as nimble in decision making,” she said. “In a company that’s smaller and high growth, you have the opportunity to plug into something, establish new processes or organizational models, and drive change. The scale is much more manageable and the organization has fewer barriers to overcome.”
Orphanos has been at Applause for about six months now, and she’s looking forward to what lies ahead. She’s working on new programs and strategic initiatives that will positively impact both internal operations and the value delivered to Applause customers. She’s excited to continue to support an environment in which she and her coworkers can drive meaningful business impact, while still being able to have some fun.
“I want to be in a workplace where you can enjoy the camaraderie,” Orphanos said. “Let’s identify a challenge and go after it, together.”
Quick Q(uestions) & A(nswers)
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have three kids, and so a lot of my free time is spent with their activities, whether it’s going to my son's baseball and football games or my daughter's basketball and soccer games.
How do you generally manage stress?
I definitely think seeking the work-life balance has been a journey at different phases of my life. At each chapter that I’ve passed through, I have tried to be self-aware about where I want to be now. Am I where I want to be? How do I go out and achieve that balance? I think the biggest lesson that I've learned is that no one can prescribe the work-life balance formula. You have got to seek it within yourself and say, “This is what it is for me.” It's trying to be in the moment. It’s not perfect, but you need to find your own version of what works.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Probably two, and I’m usually drinking iced coffee.
What do you consider one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
Probably the Cape --somewhere by the beach is my happy place.
What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
Two years ago, I set a goal to ride the Pan-Mass Challenge. I think all of us are affected by cancer in some way, and it was a cause very near and dear to me. I set out that year doing a sort of reflection, and I did it because it wasn’t for me, it was something bigger than myself. I had ridden a bike before but never a road bike. I made the commitment and then I had to go figure it out. I rode in honor of my twin sister’s 10-year breast cancer survivor anniversary, and I rode with a group of friends from NTT on team Morse Force, a dear friend, also a breast cancer survivor. It was an amazing experience that was obviously deeply touching and personal.
Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?
Being in environments where I could help build things and contribute value and be a part of something that seems fun has always been my goal. I am enjoying where I am at and it has been a great journey to get here.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
I would tell them to take initiative, seek a mentor, learn what you can, and have a lot of energy and a can-do attitude. Take control of the opportunities that are in front of you, and don’t expect them to fall into your lap. Over my career, I’ve seen that it’s the people that have high energy and a can-do attitude that others want to bring along with them. They see the potential and want to make a personal investment in mentoring. It becomes a win-win.
Images courtesy of Leanne Orphanos