Happy New Year!! Saying those words never gets old (or new?!). As we launch into 2022, our quarterly newsletter takes a moment to reflect on the goodness and productivity of 2021. Our team celebrated with each other and our communities in various tangible ways last year - we connected with each other at our first in person offsite in two years in Austin, Texas; we rewarded the exceptional efforts of several of our team members for their contributions to our projects and our company; and for the fifth year running, CANA team members supported various community engagements as part of our CANA Foundation. Connecting, Recognizing, Giving Back. These are the hallmarks of our remarkably resilient and hard working team. Cheers to 2022!
Keeping CANA Weird
2021 Austin, Texas Team Offsite By: Liz Cranston, CEO CANA
As a 100% virtual business since our inception, meeting in person once or twice a year has been a strategic imperative. Since the onset of the global pandemic, we have shifted to virtual offsites, which were excellent in many ways and helped maintain routine and consistency and provided unique opportunities for relationship building and continuous exchange of ideas. This past November, we were fortunate to celebrate our CANA team’s first in person offsite since 2019 in Austin, Texas, and the goal of this article is to share the positive highlights from our team’s recent gathering. This being said, I started writing this before the holidays, and since that time, once again the world has changed. Most of us are again feeling slightly and/or greatly overwhelmed by uncertainty, frustration and at times, fear. Although the world seems to have shifted in a span of a few short months, it strikes me that our team is more resilient and more “in tune” than ever because of our ability to spend time working and enjoying each other in person in November. We often refer to times to bond and celebrate each other as “bringing the campfire closer” - our Austin offsite was that and more!
If you didn’t already know, the city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” and we boldly adopted a similar slogan for our southwestern in-person offsite. Our hotel was, as is standard for the area, a blend of uniquely historical and funky design, and its downtown Austin location was inspired. We were alongside the 400+ acre Lady Bird Lake, and within walking distance to a foodie’s paradise of restaurants and shopping. COVID remained an ongoing concern, and members of our team stayed safe cruising the trails and roads on rented bicycles, e-scooters, and on foot. We have a great mix of runners, walkers, and taco eaters on the CANA team! One member of our team drove cross-country to Austin, bringing her well-behaved pup along for the trip.
Although the offsite was a much needed breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, it was still an important time to get down to work. We had a jam-packed schedule that went from morning to late evening each day. Given our significant growth over the past year - over 25% - we felt it was important to start with a deep dive into the CANA “story” - what CANA is, what we believe in, where we have been, and where it’s headed. It was an opportunity for the CANA leadership team to talk candidly about our mission and ethos; important topics, but not always easy to fit in with everyone’s varied day-to-day schedules.
During the first day after a two-hour ice breaker of CANA Bingo (who knew one of our team members had met Margaret Thatcher??!) and a series of company presentations, the CANA team broke out into three groups and rotated through three 45 minute break-out sessions, each with a distinct focus. This framework has worked well for us in the past, even during the virtual offsites, allowing for more variety and robust, engaged group dialogue. Session leaders were tasked to generate discussion and activity on several themes: A CANA Talent and Skills Marketplace; Designing a ‘Smart’ Solution; and Exploring CANA’s Branding. We rounded out the workday with a guest speaker who is a vanguard of military technology innovation in the southern California region. His insights into how to connect people and ideas and to drive change, provided some great food for thought.
At the dinner hour, the CANA team broke bread at a fantastic private meal, shared our “favorite songs” playlist created from an earlier team survey, and individually recognized members of our team. You can read more about these special team members and their accomplishments next in this newsletter. On day two, the routine was geared specifically to the needs of CANAers. Individuals and/or teams pre-identified topics for discussion, training, and collaboration and were given the uninterrupted time to address them face-to-face. We are great at virtual work, but this provided a refreshing and productive change of pace. Without a doubt, one of the most rewarding aspects of this offsite was that it brought the new and old together. Not only did we get to hear the CANA origin story from the founding members of CANA, but at least one member of the team had, in fact, literally started the day prior!
Watching the team blend seamlessly together was a testament to our strong foundation and our team’s ability to weather change. We know that, no matter what, we can support one another and always deliver for our clients. We hope 2022 will be somewhat more predictable - fewer surprises and fewer mountains (and molehills!) to climb - but we simply cannot predict the future. We know, however, that CANA’s resiliency, commitment to excellence, and thoughtful teamwork ensures it is very well prepared for anything. But, don’t listen to just me - at the close of our offsite, we asked our team to describe their offsite experience in just one word, and here is our CANA team’s offsite word cloud -
2021 Excellence Awards
2021 Austin, Texas Team Offsite By: Kassie McRostie
Throughout the year 2021, we have seen our team put in efforts like none other. To be a part of Team CANA is something special, not only because of our values, hard work, and uniqueness as a remote company but also due to the people who make this team special. We wanted to highlight four of our team members who recently were awarded the 2021 CANA Excellence Award for their significant efforts this past year. The awardees include Dan Sterrett (Principal Software Developer), Kristin Fairman (Senior Contracts Manager), Renee Carlucci (Principal Operations Research Analyst), and Aaron Luprek (Senior Software Developer).
We asked these team members a few questions about receiving their award. The first question we asked was, ”what did winning your award mean to you?”
Dan: “It was great to be appreciated and recognized for my personal achievements this year.”
Kristin: “Winning a CANA Excellence award for 2021 was an amazing experience. To be recognized for the work that I do was a wonderful feeling and being surrounded by my peers at the CANA offsite was truly a sweet experience.”
Renee: “It was an honor to be recognized for my work. There are a lot of great things happening at CANA, and I am thankful and excited to be a part of some revolutionary products we are creating for our customers.”
Aaron: “It meant a lot to know that leadership at CANA has confidence in me and the work that I've done. "Impostor syndrome," where you doubt your own abilities is very common in the tech field, and with recognition like this it is helpful to know that people you respect trust in you.”
Most successful people could usually tell you that they have some sort of “secret” to their success. For some, it may be their routine, mindset, or even the environment they are in. We asked our team members to share their “secret” to their success at CANA:
Dan: “My success at CANA can be attributed to all the great people whom I get to work with every day. We have a really talented team of individuals who all contribute to making each project successful.”
Kristin: “The secret to my success at CANA is to appreciate what each individual brings to the team, always ask a lot of questions, and know that it takes teamwork to be successful.”
Renee: “I am only successful due to the great team we have here at CANA. What a wonderful, brilliant, and collegial team we have - we inspire each other and together overcome the challenges presented to us.”
Aaron: “My secret to success at CANA is communication. It's an extra challenge at a remote company, but communicating freely with the team is essential to developing a quality product. Ask questions early when you don't understand something. Share what you've learned with the team. It's amazing how breakthroughs happen when you collaborate.”
In further recognition of these team members, CANA gave them a monetary award as well as a matched donation to a charity or foundation of their choice. We asked our team members who they decided to give their matched donation to and why?
Dan: “World Vision because they help people in impoverished areas across the world in a variety of ways from providing clean water and schooling to helping disaster survivors and refugees.”
Kristin: “I chose the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers. This center is located at Hillman Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, and is open to children and adults for treatment.
My Mom is living with and being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and we are thankful for each day that we spend together.”
Renee: “I selected to donate towards the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) Eugene P. Visco Prize. This prize recognizes excellence in research quality, contributions, and presentation. Promoting international collaboration, the Visco prize provides for early career and junior analysts conducting impactful, technically rigorous, and multi-disciplinary research to share their work at the International Symposium on Military Operational Research (ISMOR). This prize was established in March 2019 to honor and memorialize Gene Visco, FS, a personal friend/mentor of mine, who was an ardent supporter of collaboration within the international operations research community.”
Aaron: “I chose St. Jude Children's Research Hospital because I'm so moved by the work they do treating both in treating children and in research that helps people around the world.”
As a fully remote company, even before the pandemic, we like to get together in person at least once a year. This past fall we went to Austin, Texas, for our annual offsite, but what made this one unique was that it was the first offsite we have had since 2019! We asked the awardees, “how was it getting together again after so long since the last offsite?”
Dan: “It was great to see everyone in person after such a long break. The company offsites are always a highlight of my year.”
Kristin: “The Texas offsite was my first offsite with CANA and what a great adventure it was. The Team dinner was wonderful and being able to meet everyone in person and make memories together was priceless.”
Renee: “Alas, I was unable to join everyone at the offsite this year due to a previously scheduled family vacation to Costa Rica. However, I did get to enjoy many photo and video recaps of some of what I missed.”
Aaron: “It was incredible to see people from the team in person again. I love the flexibility of remote work, but periodically meeting up in 'real life’ is essential to building bonds with people. Since CANA has grown a bit since the last offsite, there were quite a few co-workers I had never met in person. This also is a great chance for catching up with people at CANA who I don't get to work on day-to-day projects.”
Every year is another year to get better and look forward to the future, so we asked our awardees, “what are you most optimistic for this New Year?”
Dan: “I'm looking forward to continuing the great work we are doing for our clients by creating amazing applications that exceed their expectations.”
Kristin: “I am looking forward to saying thank you and goodbye to 2021 and ready to jump right into 2022 with the excitement of what the new year will bring!”
Renee: “Like most Americans, I am optimistic that we may finally weather the end of this pandemic in the coming year, with vaccinations, boosters, and treatments available to render COVID-19 sufferers at most similar to flu sufferers.”
Aaron: “Going into the New Year, I'm most optimistic that we will continue to overcome the challenges of the pandemic, and have more opportunities for in-person events, both with work and personally.”
Needless to say, we are very proud of these four individuals, for all their efforts in making CANA the high-performing organization CANA is, and the hard work they put in day in and day out. We are looking forward to what 2022 brings and the growth of each of our CANA team members individually and collectively!
CANA Foundation – 2021 – A Year in Review
Why do we help others? Why do we pass on our knowledge and experience? Why do we Give Back?
We do it because we are thankful; because we are blessed; because everyone benefits from generosity and shared knowledge. Let us be clear…2021 was a HARD year for everyone. Sure, some made it through unscathed, but everyone knows someone who suffered hard times. The world groaned in 2021, and our communities winced at each headline. Yet, people are amazingly resilient, and the CANA family was no exception.
In spite of the setbacks, 2021 was an amazing year of giving from the CANA family. Almost one-third of the company nominated and participated in initiatives that gave back to professional societies, veterans-focused non-profits, youth from elementary to college-age, local educational institutions, community service organizations, and most importantly, to the individuals within our local communities. Not only was participation at an all-time high, but the initiatives spanned four of the five CANA Foundation focus areas - advancing veterans support & activities, advancing health & wellness, advancing civic duty and education, and advancing environmental sustainment.
I am fortunate to be a part of a company that is more near a family than business. Sure, we work hard and earn a paycheck, but the real joy is when we have the opportunity to use our skills, our time, our resources, and our passions to pour into others and give back. When Rob and Liz started CANA back in 2008, they were driven by a purpose and a vision - to create an organization that was innovative and devoted to excellence, but also supportive of an environment where generosity would flourish and overcome the negativity and heartache that surrounds our world and our communities. That desire to do good, to see a smile on someone’s face when they receive an unexpected gift, or when they learn something new is why we work so hard. Giving back is our raison d’être.
Three initiatives stood out in 2021. Not because they gave the most money, nor because they impacted the most people, but because the CANA employees who led those initiatives gave from their heart and were compelled to share their gifts, talents, and passion with others.
The first initiative was led by Renee Carlucci, one of CANA’s principal operations research analysts. As one of the leaders of the Women in MORS (Military Operations Research Society) Community of Practice (COP), Renee wanted to do more for a community that seeks to recognize the contributions and challenges facing women in the OR field. Renee wanted to increase her capacity to showcase women in the OR community and, by doing so, give back to the community to which she has devoted so much of her professional career. Supported by Cherish Joostberns, CANA’s Resource Lead and one of CANA’s lead writers, Renee used time allocated through the Foundation to interview female OR trailblazers, gather professional development materials for future COP training, conduct COP-related analysis, and write and publish articles related to COP objectives. These efforts resulted in two published articles highlighting women in OR as well as developing and hosting an interactive panel at the 89th Virtual Military Operational Research Society (MORS) Conference. This Women in MORS Special Session on Effective Networking Strategies brought together a diverse group of women and men leaders and thinkers to share their successes and failures with a live audience. The impact was immediate and widespread.
The second initiative was nominated by Norm Reitter, CANA’s Chief Analytics Officer and Senior Vice President for Analytics Operations. An avid outdoorsman and fierce advocate of outdoor conservation, Norm recognized an opportunity to give back and educate the younger generation in his mountain community of Leadville, Colorado. His passion for mountain biking and the snow hatched the idea to educate local high school and college students on conservation awareness such as trail use and the impacts of recreational activities, as well as promote mountain biking for health and wellness. He brought together several other Leadville-based organizations – Cloud City Wheelers (a local non-profit), Cycles of Life (a local bike shop), Colorado Mountain College – Leadville, and Leadville High School – to help local students become more aware of outdoor resources close to their home, provide an introduction to different outdoor leadership opportunities, and introduce them to a new, sustainable, outdoor activity. What stands out about Norm’s initiative is how he shared his passion and experience with the students, realizing an obligation to ensure the next generation understands nature’s gifts and the need to preserve them. Through education and activity, Norm passed on a culture of health, wellness, and environmental sustainment.
The third and final initiative that stood out in 2021 belonged to Koa Beam, CANA’s immensely talented Lead Graphic Artist. Koa has been involved in the art and art education culture of his community for many years in local schools, community arts centers, and through showcasing his own personal work. Koa was presented with an opportunity with the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) through a grant provided by National Geographic (NatGEO) Education to produce and publish an educational children's book that explores the laurel highlands of Pennsylvania and its rich history. The book was also intended to educate readers about some of the modern environmental issues of concern in that region. He was asked to lend his expertise on graphic design and publishing towards the project, but Koa saw a unique opportunity to take his involvement farther and give back to the Johnstown students and teachers working on the book. Over a period of eight months, Koa worked with students and teachers providing illustration, storyboarding, and layout tutorials both online and through an in-person workshop. Koa’s contributions were instrumental in bringing together the many facets of producing and publishing the book that will serve to educate and inform children and many others for years to come. His eagerness to pass on his knowledge and passion for art and for his community shone through in this initiative.
CANA Foundation is beaming with pride at the initiatives it has been able to support over the past year, through the selfless and dedicated people on the CANA team. They are the reason it is possible. The giving spirit is alive and well and amplifies the passion and excellence of the CANA family. We wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2022 will bring many more opportunities to Give Back and impact our world for the better.