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A Decade In Review: Celebrating Ten Years of Appian Being a Top Workplace Award-Winner

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When Marco Pescosolido joined Appian in 2001, it was a two-year-old startup with a handful of ambitious people and no Engineering team.

When Hannah Saunders joined in 2008, Appian was about 100 people with two offices.

They were both drawn to Appian because of the long-term vision and drive of the founders. They saw the potential of what the product could be and wanted to be part of a big impact.

Today Appian has over 2000 employees worldwide, and is celebrating ten years in a row of being named a Top Workplace award-winner in Washington, DC by The Washington Post. What began as a low-code platform startup, is now an end-to-end unified process automation platform helping customers around the world. 

Read on as we explore a decade-long trip down memory lane with Hannah and Marco. They will share their personal stories of how Appian has changed over the years and why they chose to stay and advance their careers.

Meet Hannah Saunders

  • Senior Manager, Proposal Team  
  • Joined as Office Manager in 2008

It was exciting to be part of Appian in its early days when we had progressive plans for growth. At the time of my joining, there was no Appian Cloud, and the term "low-code" was just emerging. Cast your mind back to 2008 when the way we used the internet was vastly different.

Now I’ve been through four office moves, eight different roles, and countless product and people changes. Going public in 2017 was a surreal moment. It was such a big career milestone because it felt like we’d made it, that long-term vision I’d joined for. That was a catalyst for our global growth that’s always focused on ambitious goals and the greatest impact.

Despite getting so much larger, I can still chat with the founders. My team still has a small community close-knit feeling. I think everybody wants to feel needed and valued at work, and I still feel like each person at Appian is able to see how their contribution is part of our bigger mission. 

Going global with the Proposals team. 

I’ve always seen my team as a microcosm of the organization because we work with every department and are part of every customer deal. When prospects or existing customers send us requests or solicitations, it’s the Proposal team that drives the response.

When I started as a Proposal Coordinator in 2010, there were two of us in Virginia. The team has expanded both in geography and in function to meet the demands of the market, and what our customers need. Information security for example is one of these new functions as it’s become such an important aspect of operating in the cloud nowadays, especially with customers in regulated fields like the public sector, financial services, and life sciences. 

As Appian grew globally, we needed team members who understood each country’s regulatory and legal needs. With different countries came new cultural differences and languages too. Now I lead our Proposals team of 11 people across five countries, and we manage requests in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and more. 

A few proposal team members eating lunch together at our headquarters. 

What support feels like when you need it most. 

It's easy to be supportive when things are easy, right? It’s a lot harder when you’re going through a tough time, or something goes wrong. At Appian, nobody here has ever faltered during those times. That's really huge and you only realize it when you’re going through it. 

For example, proposals are very deadline-oriented, and being able to adapt quickly is important, but can sometimes be stressful or chaotic. A while ago, I was responding to an RFP in an online portal and as I was checking my work the day before it was due, I realized I’d missed something and it needed to be redone. The deadline was in 24 hours.

I wrote to my team, and they immediately dropped everything else and rallied together to help me. We got it done well before the deadline and we won the deal. It’s those times where you realize you’re in a safe environment to share when something doesn’t go as planned. The attitude on our team is that we’re all working together towards the same goal and our first instinct will always be to provide support. 

On the personal side, I had back surgery last year and my team took things off my plate and allowed me to fully focus on recovery. I’ve seen coworkers do the same for others going through really difficult health situations. You can’t put a value on that kind of support and what it feels like. 

The people are the reason I stay at Appian and it’s these moments that remind me of why. We focus on hiring smart, caring, ambitious people. Thanks to being surrounded by motivating people, I can’t help but marvel at how far we’ve come.

Meet Marco Pescosolido

  • VP Engineering 
  • Joined as Consultant in 2001 

When I joined, Appian was explicit about looking for people of all educational backgrounds who wanted to make a difference in the world with technology. I was an electrical engineer and had been coding since childhood. I wanted to work in an intellectually stimulating environment with a diverse group of people, and that’s what I found at Appian. 

Over the past ten years, there has been a gigantic transformation. Our product is unrecognizable from a decade ago, which is something to celebrate! We always want to invest in the product and transform it over time.

Building the first version of our product and designing the Engineering team. 

Appian is not the kind of product you build once and you are done. It’s a platform to build software applications, it’s an operating system for enterprises, and an engineer’s dream project. You have to touch the entirety of the stack, right from the infrastructure, to databases, to the middle tier and the user interface. Our product exists because we’re always aiming to make applications ten times better and easier to build than you can achieve with traditional development tools. You really have to invent new things in every way, it’s not enough to conform to whatever is already out there.

This was our mindset when we built the product from scratch and still holds true. We were in the building mode days in the early 2000s, but I think it’s also this approach that has made us a tech industry leader today.

After a few years of building the product, I took on the Chief Architect role. When we started growing rapidly, I wanted to help not just on the technical side but with designing the engineering organization, so I jumped onto the management track.

We were intentional about creating processes that would scale and allow teams to have ownership over different parts of the product. We thought about the entirety of how we want to work long-term which I would say is a big reason we’ve been able to retain the culture of active collaboration we have today.

On the leadership team, we work hard to ensure everybody has the opportunity to shine and grow. There are growth opportunities at every level that don’t only involve being a people leader. We have Engineering guilds, Affinity Groups, and many ways to grow your career in Engineering.

Testing ideas with smart people, and asking them to find the holes. 

I believe good ideas happen because we put them to the test with other people we respect. We invite feedback and ask coworkers to find the holes and gaps, and dig into the corners and edge cases we haven’t thought about. 

Appian is the farthest you’ll find to a feature factory where someone hands you a design and you’re expected to just implement it no questions asked. It’s normal in an everyday meeting to challenge things and to ask hard questions.

This has led to some of our best ideas and milestones over the years. A few highlights that stick with me are: 

  • Creating a web-based process designer in the early days.
  • Moving to the cloud when it was still very new and innovative. We were well ahead of our competitors and worked quickly to make this happen. 
  • The invention of SAIL, our front-end technology, was transformative because it really defined us as a low-code platform.
  • Focusing on web APIs and open integrations helped us to find our place at the center of the enterprise tech stack.
  • Our Data Fabric is the latest in a long series of innovations. It lets you do way more with data already in your enterprise than the source systems were ever designed to do.

I’ve been at Appian almost my entire career because I’ve always got to build and invent new things here. The ambitious people and the ability to make a difference to transform our product are what continue to motivate me in my work today. 

Learn more about ways to grow your career at Appian, and the impact of our learning and development programs. 

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Written by

Hannah Saunders and Marco Pescosolido

Hannah Saunders is Senior Manager of our Proposals team at Appian. Marco Pescosolido is Vice President of our Engineering team at Appian.