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October 13, 2023 24 mins
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(00:00):
So I'm from upstate New York,just outside of Syracuse. I'm the youngest
of four, and I was raisedby a mom and dad who gently but
firmly pushed us all to be independent, to stretch out of our comfort zones.
Every one of us played sports,every one of us had a job
by fourteen when we can get oneof those work permits, and everybody in

(00:22):
my family was encouraged to give backto those who had less. So she
was my mom, was my rolemodel, my mentor. I went to
school and the University of Rochester,both undergrad and graduate, and then I
went to APT Associates. I hadone job on review. I took one
job, and I have been herefor forty years. I saw that,

(00:42):
and that is truly remarkable. Wedon't get to talk to too many leaders
and CEOs that have been with onlyone place, so I know it's probably
special to you, your special toyour staff, and it is really extraordinary.
I would like you to share something, though, because I think you
have a unique perspective of this.So staying with one company and working yourself
up the ladder, A lot ofpeople do this, but they sense that
maybe I'm not moving quick enough.I'm not getting up the ladder where I

(01:04):
need to be. I'd like tobe at this position. I'm going to
go to a different company. Canyou tell us about your ascension and the
experiences that you had, maybe someroadblocks, maybe you walked a different direction
and got up to the next level. Just tell us about your journey with
the company, because I think it'sgoing to be fascinating. As president and
CEO right now, it's going tobe pretty cool. So tell us about
it. Sure, absolutely so.After Associates was founded in sixty five by

(01:29):
an incredible guy named Clark apt andhe was an MIT grad, an engineer.
Came out of Raytheon in nineteen sixtyfive and said, you know,
I want to found with some reallysuper smart people, a social impact company.
Fast forward to nineteen eighty three whenI joined APT Associates. It was
right after President Reagan had come inas the leader of the United States and

(01:55):
he said, we're going to takea step back, We're going to push
reset. We want to think differentlyabout our social programs. What works,
what doesn't work, What return oninvestment are we getting. So app Associates
in nineteen eighty went from one thousandemployees to three hundred of US, and
a lot of companies like Apple wentout of business. But starting in nineteen

(02:15):
eighty three, we reinvented ourselves.We became a very rigorous research firm because
that's what our clients wanted. Ijoined as a master's in public policy with
a concentration in health, and Istarted working in our health group. Small
number of US, fairly small revenueat the time, there were only seven

(02:37):
US in the of US in theWashington office, and we did everything you
know we did. We you know, watched the windows, vacuum the carpets,
and wrote proposals and executed the work. What I recognized very quickly about
app associates, besides being attracted bythe mission of this great company, was
that the leaders meeting Clark and allof my supervisors cared more about your head

(03:00):
and your heart than they did aboutwhat you looked like, what you represented,
who you felt you were. AndI would say, as a woman
in this organization, I have alwaysfelt that I had the ability to come
to the table and give my perspectives. I had the ability to quickly put
my foot into the next door andtake on the next responsibility. I was

(03:23):
pushed by my parents to nurture thebutterflies in your stomach and stretch yourself,
and I was pushed by this organizationto do the same. I was always
given an opportunity. So within sevenyears, I was a managing vice president
at younger than thirty years old.I then started an international development business.
I then moved into leading all ofour US business and then the CEO fourteen

(03:45):
years ago. So I was pushed. Just like as I was growing up,
I pushed. I was pushed hereto nurture my butterflies, to plan
for success, to move out ofmy comfort zone because I had great leaders
as mentors. It really is anextraordinary story. I come from a sports
background, and I was one ofthe few fortunate people that knew that I
wanted to do at a very youngage. And in sports, I've always

(04:06):
heard about these people that started inthe mailroom and now they're the general manager
of the team. The ascension isincredible. Staying with an organization, you
have kind of a similar story whenyou were starting out and you started to
ascend. Was there any grandeurs ofdelusion, I'm going to run this company.
Someday, I'm going to be presidentand CEO, because I think it's

(04:26):
extraordinary because you ascended quickly up there. People recognized your talents. You obviously
were very driven. You have tobe to be president and CEO. Did
you want to be at the verytop some days? Was that something you
were shooting for when you joined thecompany. I have to say that Clark
Appt will tell me that in thelate eighties, at a we call them
advances, a strategy advance on capeCOD, I said that I could run

(04:51):
the company. That's what he tellsme today. So I guess maybe I
did right end of the company.When I was being promoted, we were
doing strategy. I can remember.Also, we were also envisioning the fifty
million dollar APPT the one hundred milliondollar APPED and one hundred and fifty million
dollar app and I sort of wantedto be in the group to envision the
one hundred and fifty million dollar apps, so he claims, and he's ninety

(05:15):
four right now and I'm still inclose touch with them, that he knew
and I knew back in the lateeighties and early nineties that I would be
in this position. I would say, I'm not so sure of that,
but I will say that I neverturned down an opportunity and I was given
a lot of opportunity here. Sowell, great story, and I think
we're just going to go that youdid say it. Okay, that's that's

(05:35):
I think that's fine. Okay,We're here to talk about APP Associates,
and I do want to ask aboutthe missions demon because I know with a
lot of companies, especially when thatyou've been with for so long, it's
really important tell us what that is. So the mission of APP, and
again it's Clark put it in placein nineteen sixty five, is to improve
the quality of life and economic wellbeingof people around the world, make the

(05:59):
lies of those it was most inneed better. So recently, though our
teams, as we were creating ournext five year strategy, said Kathleen,
we really need to put equity atthe cornerstone of who we are. We
have always acted like that and youheard my story as a young woman throughout
my career here, but obviously withGeorge Floyd and launching a new strategy,

(06:23):
we said we needed to walk thetalk. We need to operate internally here
at APT Associates as an equitable organization, and we needed to drive equity through
our work so that we could contributeto breaking down systemic racism, or we
wouldn't be able to have the impactwe were all striving for. So we've
added that, you know, personally, as a leader, I asked my

(06:44):
teams to bring that mission to lifeby planning for success, you know,
not thinking about all the speed bumps, and there are many in our lives
and in our markets. Take risksand encourage others to push themselves into their
you know, beyond their boundaries boundaries, perceive what they can do to realize

(07:05):
their potential, and always strive tohave butterflies in your stomach because I think
it's really important that we not getcomplacent. And so that's how we drive
that mission with our clients, withcommunities, with partners in a collaborative way.
None of us can do it alone, but for fifty eight years we've
been bringing that mission to life anddriving impact understanding. Thank you for sharing

(07:27):
all that, And I want toask you about something before I get to
programs and capabilities and exactly what youdo with your clients. But you brought
up something very interesting that I've heardfrom a lot of leaders out there,
and that's that you're constantly pivoting,and you're constantly evolving and changing, because
if you don't, we all knowwhat will happen. You're eventually be out
of business. And it sounds likefrom a very early time at APT Associates

(07:50):
that was a big deal to alwayspivot, to always get better, to
always try something new and be abetter company. And I'm hearing that on
the things you're saying, and maybeif you could talk to some of our
future leaders out there and also CEOsthat are listening, how important pivoting to
get better and enhancing the company is. So I think for us at APP
Associates, you know, we're dealingevery day and trying to solve the biggest,

(08:13):
most complex, most hairy and audaciousproblems. Right we want to do
the hardest work. And when Igo and talk to our clients, they
say, we hire app to dothe most complex problems because we can deal.
We're innovative, we're both thinkers,we're agile. So even when my
story back in nineteen eighty three,when I joined, we hit a roadblock

(08:33):
and Clark apt and all of theleaders at APP Associates said, we can
pivot, we can reinvent ourselves.We can go into new markets, we
can we can develop new capabilities torespond to what our clients need and what
communities need. So that's critical hereat APP Associates. I would say that,
you know, most recently, leaninginto equity is an example of how

(08:56):
we've been, you know, veryagile and you know, critically kind of
moving through an innovation in our company, both inside and outside. In twenty
twenty three, we launched a ChiefClimate Officer because it's while we've always done
work in climate and environment, wereally need to lean into making sure that
we work, you know, incollaboration with folks around the world in solving

(09:20):
those tough problems. So I wouldjust say that that, you know,
the passion that our folks have fordriving for results is kind of the key
of the makeup of our community here. But more important our ability to be
agile. COVID hit us, allright, all by surprise. We had
to be agile. We had tobe agile both inside the company and the
way we support our employees. Wehad to be agile with our clients,

(09:45):
and we worked for the CDC ondoing surveillance around flu. Which vaccine works
and which doesn't, How does itimpact pregnant women in the elderly, and
our clients called us and said,retool that platform like asap and turn it
in into a COVID surveillance platform sothat we can understand how our frontline healthcare
workers are being impacted, how arepregnant women impacted elderly, What do masks

(10:11):
work or do they not work,what do we know, how do people
responding to the vaccine, etc.So we had a twenty four to seven
group of people who are passionate rightabout responding to COVID, and then overseas
we had to shift all of ourwork to making sure we were training healthcare
workers. We were getting ventilators there, we were getting oxygen there, we

(10:31):
were doing supply chain completely different rolesthan we had been contracted for, but
our teams were up for it outstanding. So, Kathleen, we've got a
lot of our listeners and a lotof CEOs out there that are listening and
maybe hearing about app associates for thefirst ever time. And with Ed said,
if they're new to what you dowith your team, tell us exactly

(10:52):
what you do and who you workwith. So we work primarily with government
clients at the federal levels here inthe UK and Australia, and also state
in local levels here in the UnitedStates. Primarily we take our capabilities of

(11:13):
research, digital and data, technicalassistance and implementation and equity frameworks and we
bring it together to solve the toughestproblems. Right. We design to make
sure that we can improve programs,that we can find out what works and
what doesn't, and that we candrive impact. And so our job is

(11:35):
to put together the right teams,including partners from outside of app Associates,
to make sure we drive impact andthat we can measurably and accountably tell our
customers what works and what doesn't.Outstanding, Kathleen, I don't want to
assume that there are other companies thatdo exactly what you do. But if
there is competition out there, howdo you differentiate yourself from all the other

(11:58):
competition, people that maybe do alittle bit what you do. So for
app Associates, I think one ofthe biggest differentiators is the breadth of the
expertise we bring to bear us todriving a solution. Problems are not unidimensional,
right, A healthcare problem, environmentalproblem, you know, they're not

(12:20):
unidimensional. They intersect and we havefolks who can work together collaboratively to bring
the capabilities and skills to solve thecomplex problems health and the environment, the
impact of climate change on healthcare centers. We're doing a very large program in
Mozambique right now. That country experiencecyclones plus COVID in the middle of our

(12:45):
services to improve access to HIV treatment, screening and care. The team had
to be incredibly agile to be ableto get out to the most remote areas
to consistently deliver those services, tomake store that we were identifying that population,
getting them into screening and giving themright meds. But also in the
context where roads were disrupted, youknow, COVID was there. How do

(13:09):
you deliver that same technical excellence andcontinue to drive your mission forward in the
mission of our customers when you hitthose kinds of roadblocks. So we had
to bring in climate experts, Wehad to bring in logistical experts, governance
experts, and we have them hereat APT Associates, So interdisciplinary, incredible
methodologists, and we always lean backon our core, which is digital and

(13:33):
data for decision making, real timequick dashboards for somebody that's a decision maker
in a program and the government levelto make a decision quickly and agilely so
that we can get to the rightanswer. Kathleen, I like to ask
you about a success story, butI want to put a pin in it,
because I'm sure there are hundreds ofgreat success stories that you and your
team have done over the decades thatyou've been with the company. With all

(13:56):
that said, in the industry rightnow, what kind of challenges are you
facing. I'm sure there's several ofthose. I'd say our top two challenges
are how do we envision the workforceof the future for our employees who have
been mostly remote for three years andwe were mostly an in person company.
We weren't a company with hoteling andthat kind of thing. So how do

(14:20):
you maintain engagement. How do youmake sure you're supporting staff. That's where
our executive team has their head rightnow. What is right for APT going
forward? I would say the secondand most persistent challenge throughout our history and
the history of this industry is weatheringelections, budget negotiations, shutdowns. And

(14:45):
here in the UK and in Australia, we've got two we have two big
clients that are parliamentary processes, andthey don't follow a prescriptive four year cycle,
so it's not as predictive. Andhere in the United States, so
priorities change, program priorities change,funding changes, and we have to be
agile, We have to pivot,We have to in some cases reinvent ourselves

(15:05):
to make sure we can respond toour clients. I'd say those are the
top two challenges for us always andcertainly going forward as we enter an election.
You're here in the US, andthere's that phraseology again or reinventing.
It happens all the time. Youhave to survive out there. So I'm
glad that you talked about that.I do want to ask you about maybe
a success starlier two and with thetime allotted, I am sure that you

(15:28):
have several that you could tell usabout, but maybe one that sticks out
where you said, you know whatthat year with my team, we really
knocked it out of the park withthat one. Can you share something with
us? Sure? Here I mentionedalready the COVID, the CDC COVID project.
I would say that took everything wehad here at APT Associates right,
and many of us right. Witha light switch, we became a completely

(15:52):
remote company, and our client atCDC said, we have to get our
hand a handle on COVID. Wehad built a flu monitoring platform with fifteen
health systems around the United States,and they said, like, we need
to turn this into a COVID monitoringOur teams had to literally for a year

(16:14):
straight work twenty four to seven.We had to move people all weekend long
trying to make sure that we wereaccurately collecting data from these health systems,
especially for these at risk populations,frontline healthcare workers, pregnant women, is
it safe to get a vaccine ifyou're pregnant? Answering questions around what how
is the elderly going to be impacted? How do we keep themselves? How

(16:37):
do we keep homeless populations safe.We're homeless experts here at APT Associates as
well, and so our teams arereally trying to figure out how do we
keep these vulnerable populations safe in thecontext of a pandemic. So I think
our team global, and I mentionedwe had to do it overseas in the
developing world as well. Kind ofwas agile, was creative, really bold

(16:59):
thinkers, passionate, but also rolledup their sleeves and put in the time
and effort required to keep our clientsup to date so that they could continue
with their mission implementation. A secondstory that I think you know, we're
all incredibly proud of here at APTAssociates is that for eleven years we have
worked and in hand with the President'sMalaria Initiative. Their objective is to eradicate

(17:22):
malaria, is to understand the diseasesthat mosquitos carry. And when we won
that contract, we were asked westarted it up in like October, and
we said by January, because that'smosquito season. Can you get into sixteen
countries and combat malaria. We havedone credibly well, pivoting over eleven years

(17:48):
with the mosquito that carries malaria,all kinds of diseases, something like six
twelve diseases, zeka, you namethem. And our teams have had to
work through COVID and still bring downthe malie area rate. They had to
work through climate change and destruction fromcyclones and still bring down the malaria rate.
And it's pretty amazing. And I'vebeen in countries where malaria is at

(18:11):
eighty percent. Nobody's in schools,nobody's working. The clinics are full of
people on quinine drips. They can'thelp people have babies, they can't deliver
any other services. The community isin gridlock, is just shut down.
Then when we enter and we bringthe rate down to ten or fifteen percent,

(18:32):
it's just flourishing. So I've returned. I went to Uganda when it
was eighty percent, and I wentback to Uganda when it was fifteen percent,
And I have pictures of myself withkids, you know, teeming out
of the doors of schools because teachersare back and kids are back coming.
At the health clinics are supporting sixtyfive percent of the burse they don't have
anybody on quinine drips. So it'samazing to see the impact that something a

(18:55):
program like that can have on theeconomic stability and the strength and vitality of
communities. That's what, you know, That's what makes me so excited when
I get to go out there andlook at it. That's what's kept me
at APT and that's what keeps ourpeople at APT. Well, it's that
impact. It's absolutely extraordinaries tough whatyou're doing there. I have to ask
you, and I want to relatemy experiences in my business. Sometimes we

(19:18):
move too quickly to really celebrate oursuccess stories, especially we've done something pretty
incredible. I'm in awe listening tosome of the stuff that you and your
team are doing. Do you havea chance to celebrate and are you went
awe what you and your team do. Yeah, I'm in a every single
day of what my team does.I have absolutely incredible colleagues every year and

(19:40):
we just did it last Friday.So interesting Dennis that you raise it.
We have an annual meeting where weprovide awards to our colleagues. We call
one is called the Clark Appt MissionImpact Award, which our Mozambique team that
I mentioned that does HIV treatment andhad to do it through cyclones and COVID

(20:02):
and is you know, at thepremier level of impact in the eyes of
our client. We do scientific rigorrecognitions, we do leadership recognitions, and
we bring everybody in, including ourboard of directors, and we just had
an amazing celebration on Friday where wejust looked at all the work we're doing.
And then at this time of theyear we release our Mission Impact Report.

(20:25):
So really important for folks to logonto our website at up Associates dot
com and look at the Mission ImpactReport that was just released. It brings
to life through photographs and amazing storytellingthe impact that we have around the world.
So we make sure that we canall read about it, but we
also get together and celebrate and justyou know, have a wonderful time every

(20:48):
single June. Well, I'm gladyou do that because you know as a
people person, as a leader,that people want to be heard, but
they also want to be acknowledged,especially in today's climbing out there. So
I'm glad that you do that.I did want to ask you about philanthropic
and charity work, and it soundslike you and your team are very busy,
but when you do have time toparticipate in anything, what is it?
So personally, that's always been apriority for me, as I said,

(21:12):
you know and my family while Iwas going through college and here at
app Associates, so I have beenpart of nonprofit, standing them up,
running them related to job training,related to homelessness prevention, housing stability.
Every one of the leaders. I'mthe fourth CEO at app Associate's the only
woman, but not the only CEOwho's put community connections, which is what

(21:33):
we call our program at the cornerstoneof who we are as well. Right,
every one of us as leaders hassaid it's incredibly important for us to
give back to the community, andwe give back both through the technical excellence
that we can do, the depthof our skills through volunteering, and we
focus on economic empowerment girls and women, equity right breaking down oranizations that break

(22:00):
down systemic racism. And our employees. A huge number of employees, while
they are incredibly busy and traveling theworld, participate in our office locations Cambridge,
Massachusetts, Washington, Atlanta, aroundthe world. We're also in the
Raleig Durham area. So through thosecommunities we get back as an organization our

(22:23):
profits, our time, our skills, and our passion. Wonderful, Kathleen,
as we put a bow in ourconversation for all the listeners that have
really enjoyed the conversation, like Ihave been hearing about all the amazing things
that you and your team doing andwe're just hitting the tip of the iceberg.
What maybe one final takeaway do youwant to have everybody go with when
it comes to op to associates,I'd say that you know, at the

(22:51):
end of the day, we're fourthousand people around the world passionately committed to
improving the lives of people most inneed. Right, so we do that
by being bold in our innovations,by working collaboratively to solve the most complex
problems. We want to solve thehardest problems, not the easiest road to

(23:11):
solutions. We want to bring datato decision makers so that they make the
right decisions. And you can seeall that come to life in our Mission
Impact Report. And so I wouldjust encourage people to check out our website,
to look at that Mission Impact Reportand to recognize that APT is an
incredible place of bold, innovative thinkerswho are agile and passionate every day to

(23:36):
make sure that we can solve thetoughest problems that our clients are face.
And before I ask you to givethat website just one more time, are
you looking at hiring people any careersavailable? We're always looking at hiring,
So please make sure you go ontoour website at www. Dot app Associates
dot com again, look at ourMission Impact Report, look at our jobs
open most importantly, look at arethe faces of our employees and people who

(24:03):
are caring out our mission to improvethe quality of life and economic well being
of people worldwide every single day.Well, I'm sure I'm about to echo
something that a lot of people sayto you when they either interview you or
get to meet you and talk withyou. I could do this for hours.
I love your passion, I loveyour enthusiasm. I know it's hard
to be a president and CEO andalso be with one company for almost your
entire life, but it's just extraordinarywhat you and your staff are doing.

(24:25):
And I know there's a lot ofgreat stories that are going to be coming
out over the next five, ten, twenty years about what you and your
team are going to do. Ijust want to thank you for your valuable
time, continuing success, and thankyou so much for joining us on CEOs.
You should know, Dennis, it'sbeen a pleasure. Thank you.
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