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Building Connections While Having Fun: The CS Team’s Center of Funcellence

Jennifer Higa, Abdelhady Abuolba

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Here at Appian, our Customer Success (CS) team prides itself on the incredibly supportive culture we’ve built. One way we’ve been able to achieve this is through the amount of team bonding and interaction we facilitate through our Center of Funcellence.   

To provide you with a first-hand look at what our culture is all about and what the Center of Funcellence does, we’re introducing you to two of our CS team members who head up this important group! Let’s dive in.  

Meet Associate Consultant, Jennifer Higa.

  • Located at the Appian HQ in Tysons, Virginia 
  • Joined Appian in September 2020

Getting started: What is the Center of Funcellence? 

One of the best parts about the CS team is our Center of Funcellence. The Center of Funcellence has been around for a long time, and it’s a team that’s dedicated to bringing together the whole CS department (and especially new hires) to get them acquainted with Appian and the Appian culture. 

I’m currently the Co-President of The Center of Funcellence with my colleague Abdelhady Abuolba (who you’ll meet later in this blog!). Working on the Center of Funcellence has been a lot of fun for us — but before I get into that, I want to share a little bit more about what the Center of Funcellence is. 

The Center of Funcellence hosts monthly events that encourage our CS team members to mingle and get to know each other. This is important because when you start to dive into your work, it can become easy to just hang out with your project team and you might not otherwise get an opportunity to interact with other people and teams, especially in a remote work environment. 

In the past, the committee has hosted events like ski strips, rock climbing, and paintball; however, since quarantine, it’s been more important to bring people together in new ways. We’ve done virtual events like gingerbread making, mixology classes, and a company-wide March Madness bracket challenge. And to make sure that no one is left out, we send all of our team members everything they need to participate! 

I’m looking forward to our upcoming Cinco de Mayo cooking event with a guest speaker from DC who was in politics and has since followed their passion for cooking (they even cooked for Obama’s!) — so we’ll get to do a Q&A and a cooking class with them.

Building mentorships through the Center of Funcellence. 

While we have a lot of fun getting to know our team members, these events are also important for building mentorship relationships. A lot of Principal and Senior Consultants also join the events and will actively reach out to new hires. While the company offers a formal mentorship program, the casual environment that the Center of Funcellence provides has allowed our team members to connect on a deeper, more personal level. 

When people are just starting in their careers, they might be scared to reach out to someone or ask for help. However, when you attend an event, you end up meeting tons of different people from various levels of the department and bond on a person-to-person level. This allows relationships to form much more organically.  

My favorite Center of Funcellence event. 

A few months ago, we organized an at-home spa event. We sent everyone a bottle of wine, a bathrobe, and ingredients to make an oatmeal face mask. By the end of the night, we all looked ridiculous in our bathrobes with oatmeal dripping off our faces. It was so funny and such a great way for people to relax after a long week. 


Caption: The CS team after a DIY spa night. Team members were sent bathrobes, a bottle of wine, and ingredients to make an oatmeal face mask.  

Meet Associate Consultant, Abdelhady Abuolba.

  • Located at the Appian HQ in Tysons, Virginia 
  • Joined Appian in July 2020

Becoming Co-President of the Center of Funcellence. 

I got involved in the Center of Funcellence when I first joined Appian because we were all working remotely, so I wanted to find a way to meet the team I was working with and  others at the company. 

The first event that caught my attention was a Bob Ross paint night. It was so fun and we ended up making really cool paintings that actually looked pretty professional! Month after month there were awesome events like game nights, pumpkin carving, and gingerbread house building, and I was having a blast getting involved! 

The previous president’s time was wrapping up and nominations were held to elect the next president. Jennifer (who you met earlier in this blog) and I both got nominated and agreed it would be more fun working together — if one of us gets busy the other can take over — and we also thought if there are two of us there’s also more brainpower to plan bigger and better events! 

Jennifer and I have gotten to know each other way better and we’re seeing more and more  team members getting involved in the events! It’s been such an amazing experience to be so involved in the organization, especially considering we’re relatively new hires. 

How the Center of Funcellence helps us make connections.

I think one of the ways the Center of Funcellence has made a particularly positive impact is for those of us that started remotely with the company. 

This is our chance to meet one another. Without the office, we can’t just bump into someone or have an impromptu happy hour after work. The Center of Funcellence has helped us form connections with people outside our teams. 

And as Jennifer mentioned earlier, the coolest thing to see is the different levels of people — from Associate Consultant to Principal Consultant — getting involved and talking to each other.  

My favorite memory so far.

All of the events are fun in their own ways — but I would say the spa night was my favorite too. This was the first “big” event Jennifer and I organized (we hosted a smaller one in January) and we wanted a lot of attendance and  everyone to have fun with it. 

There were 26 of us on the video call mixing oatmeal, rose water, and honey, and trying to get that on our faces. It was really funny and we all had a blast.

Caption: Me trying to stick my oatmeal face mask on. Do I look relaxed?

What’s next?

It’s been really cool being a Co-President with Jennifer because we’re on the same wavelength — we agree on a lot and we have a lot in common so it’s been a very positive experience. I’m excited to see what events we can do in the future! 

We recently hosted a March Madness bracket challenge, but we extended the opportunity for people from across the entire company to participate — we had 150 brackets! We’re always looking for ways we can make our events bigger and better.

Now that we’re hopefully returning to normalcy, we’re looking at possibilities down the road of how we can translate these virtual events into in-person events if going to the office becomes a regular thing. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I’m excited to find out! 


We hope you enjoyed hearing from Jennifer and Abdelhady and learning more about the CS team’s culture and the Center of Funcellence! If you’d like to find out more about our CS team, take a look at our Customer Success careers page for more info and to view open positions.

Written by

Jennifer Higa, Abdelhady Abuolba

CS team members