Work-Life Balance

How One Consultant Found Work-Life Balance and a Fulfilling Career

Tien Bui, Senior Consultant at Appian

Tien Bui landed the exact job she wanted out of college: a consulting role at one of the industry’s biggest firms. Even though the hours were long, and the schedule wasn’t regular, she loved the lifestyle. “The job was fun, challenging, and glamorous,” she recalls. “I was getting paid to see the world and grow my skills.”

But she found herself craving more hands-on interaction with clients. “At my old job, I would come in, assess, advise, and leave before we could see what they ultimately decided to do with the recommendation,” she says. She found that deeper client engagement when she moved to Appian, a smaller tech company. “At Appian, we’re with the client from start to finish. And our solutions continue to make an impact long after our project has ended.”

Read on to trace her path in the consulting industry, see her tips on how to beat burnout, and find out the best career advice she’s ever received.

Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Appian?

After graduating from UVA in 2016 as a systems engineer, I immediately began my technology consulting career. It was a perfect fit for me because it enabled me to problem-solve while combining my passions for technology and business. Although my group worked on a variety of data analytics projects, the majority of projects involved deals like mergers, divestitures, and acquisitions.

About a year ago, I began to re-evaluate my career goals. I took a much-needed vacation so that I could think about what I loved doing. I wanted to continue helping clients. But I also wanted to achieve a better work-life balance and take on a role that challenged me to solve significant problems with technology and creative thinking. That’s when I looked into Appian.

I reached out to a good friend from college who works at Appian to ask him about his day-to-day, the company culture, and work-life balance. Based on his responses and my positive experiences with the recruiting team, leaving a big consulting firm to join this software company felt like the right career move for me.

What attracted you to work at Appian?

I reached out to Appian because of its vibrant work culture, amazing people, and disruptive product. While I still get to work with clients and solve profound problems, not every consultant can say that their team builds the solution from the ground up. On a day-to-day basis, I’m communicating with stakeholders to understand and define business needs, while also rolling up my sleeves to design and develop features using the Appian platform.

The company is young, vibrant, and still has a start-up feel without the risks associated with a typical start-up. At HQ, there are snacks on every floor, free breakfast every Monday, and there are tons of company-wide events to attend.

What are you responsible for in your role at Appian?

As a Senior Consultant, I am leading teams of talented consultants to develop applications that use the Appian platform to solve our clients’ problems. Each day, I work closely with client stakeholders to understand their business requirements, define new capabilities, and prioritize roadmap features. I collaborate with my Appian delivery team to implement robust, user-friendly features using Appian’s technical and UX best practices. I see projects through from start to finish and make sure the department is continuously communicating and improving.

What do you like best about the company culture at Appian? What do you think sets the culture apart from other companies like it?

Everyone here is talented and driven. And people genuinely care about each other. People eat with friends in the commons, not at their desks. Whenever you have a question or need help, you can count on any of your coworkers to lend a hand. Overall, the people are what makes a company awesome, and Appian’s employees are the best in the business.

Appian’s culture of fostering and rewarding great ideas is what sets it apart from other companies. It is an environment where good ideas matter more than politics and hierarchy. Employees of all levels and backgrounds are encouraged to give their suggestions and opinions freely because everyone’s viewpoint matters. I have seen firsthand how this mindset has empowered individuals, enabling them to grow and impact the company.

What projects are you working on right now that excite or inspire you?

I have been working with a healthcare client to develop an application that would streamline the process of managing engagements and compliance across the company. It is my first project in the healthcare sector. Most of my previous clients have been in financial services, technology, and energy, so I’m enjoying learning about a new industry.

The healthcare project is challenging. We need to consolidate data from multiple integrated systems into one intuitive, modern, and sustainable application that will help the client focus on the customer experience. Being able to integrate so many different apps into one Appian application seamlessly is hugely rewarding. To see the impact we’re making on a large, global corporation inspires me to work harder. It proves that the passion, diligence, and expertise we apply to each project makes a difference.

In the past, you worked for large consulting firms. How is your current role different?

Consulting at Appian is undoubtedly more hands-on and involved than what you’d see at a standard consulting firm. At my old job, I would come in, assess, advise, and leave before we could see what they ultimately decided to do with the recommendation.

At Appian, we’re with the client from start to finish—and our solutions continue to make an impact long after our project has ended. From day one, we are there with the client to understand their needs and develop the user empathy needed to design good software. We then spend months working closely with our clients to design and develop the application, making sure that it surpasses the needs of the users.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting at Appian? How have you overcome it?

Transitioning from the standard consulting firm to a Senior Consultant position at a software company comes with many challenges. Not only did I have to learn how to develop in Appian quickly, but I also had to familiarize myself with agile practices and learn how to lead Appian projects. While it was challenging at first, I was able to overcome it by asking for help and taking advantage of every opportunity to further my knowledge.

On my first project, I got a crash course on the platform. I read through all of the best practices documentation at Appian and attended all available training sessions and presentations. I learned so much about everything, from leading agile projects to building scalable applications. But the most valuable resource was my colleagues. Everyone was incredibly kind, patient, and we're always happy to help when I needed it.

What advice do you have for someone just starting in consulting in general?

Make sure you set aside time to disconnect, unwind, and recharge regularly. Take time off throughout the year when you can. Mute your work notifications when nothing is urgent.

Too many consultants operate under a misconception that being available 24/7 and overworking is necessary to achieve success in your career. Take it from me: That’s not the case. When you combine with a strong work ethic with proper time to rest and recharge, you will approach work with renewed energy and focus. And that leads to a more successful career.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Be curious and ask questions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fresh out of college or 15 years into the industry. Learning never stops. Many people are embarrassed or afraid to ask a question because they are worried that people will think that they are not qualified for the job. But I believe that the most successful individuals continually seek answers and ask for help when they need it. They are not only able to learn and advance rapidly, but they also build the confidence required to become influential leaders.