All In at Acara Christiana Cushing

All-In at Acara: Christiana Cushing

Since joining the Acara team in 2007, Christiana, now Director of Operational Excellence, has worn many hats and advanced within the organization. Thinking she was destined for a career in government as a college student, Christiana quickly realized her strengths made her better suited for workplace politics.

In the latest edition of our “All in at Acara” series, learn how Christiana Cushing’s understanding of how various talent acquisition roles interconnect and influence one another gives her a unique perspective. This insight guides her in implementing impactful changes, ensuring systems and process adjustments are seamlessly integrated and accurately represent the vital contributions of the operations team.

Colorado roots

I was born in Colorado, but my family moved to Indianapolis when I was nine years old, where I have remained ever since. I attended Butler University, earning my bachelor’s degree in political science while minoring in history and Spanish.

Journey to Acara

While a student, I worked a full-time internship for the Indiana House of Representatives. The job was incredibly fast-paced—sometimes literally, as we often had to run legislative amendments between printers on one floor down to the House chamber on another floor—and involved a variety of hands-on assistance for constituents and representatives. Learning how to handle questions and concerns from often-angry voters while providing day-to-day support to four elected officials gave me a strong sense of my strengths and helped me realize that I was not passionate about pursuing a career in government.

I graduated college shortly before the 2008 economic crash, which made finding a job difficult, especially as a single parent. After a few months of struggling through the weak labor market, I received a call from Kenneth Young, a recruiter with Acara, then known as Superior Technical Resources. It was the first interview I’d had that presented me with an opportunity I was genuinely interested in. The position offered me the flexibility I needed in my schedule at the time, along with the professional experience I craved.

Acara roles and responsibilities

I joined Acara as a Staffing Coordinator in 2007, a position that quickly evolved into a dual Staffing Coordinator and Payroll Administrator role. After working in and expanding the scope of that position for a few years, I transitioned through a variety of roles—Operations Trainer, Payroll Manager,  Operational Excellence Specialist, Manager of Contractor Care and Operational Excellence, and finally, to where I am today, Director of Operational Excellence.

As the Director of Operational Excellence, I have the privilege of managing the Contractor Care team for Acara and Broadleaf Results. Since its creation in 2021, this team has handled contractor care and various other projects and tasks under an operational excellence umbrella. I help develop process improvements, train on best practices, perform data audits for operations, and connect with various Acara, Broadleaf, and Aleron teams to help us work more collaboratively. I am also involved in the SuccessFactors and SmartSearch Onboarding Project teams as the operations subject matter expert and the change management team lead for Acara.

Industry trend forecasts

Since I started with Acara nearly 16 years ago, I’ve witnessed a remarkable transformation in the company’s systems and processes. This is particularly evident in the seamless transition to online onboarding platforms and adopting a hybrid work model. Gone are the days of grappling with mountains of physical paperwork for new hires. We used to manage paper timesheets for payroll, many of which arrived via fax. Resumes were often mailed or hand-delivered to our office, and walk-in candidates filled out extensive four-page applications if they didn’t have a resume. It’s astonishing how we managed to keep everything organized and running efficiently, but we did.

The pandemic’s stringent measures, enacted to curb the virus’s spread, became a litmus test for companies. Those unable to swiftly shift to a remote work model faced financial and developmental setbacks. Thankfully, Acara’s prior investment in tools and systems for remote collaboration paid off, leading to technological advancements that now support hybrid work models.

This shift has resulted in the continued prevalence of remote and hybrid work arrangements, even beyond the pandemic. Businesses that resist acknowledging the enduring impact of flexible work find themselves at a competitive disadvantage compared to those offering more flexible options. They risk missing key business opportunities and may encounter difficulties attracting and retaining top talent.

A passion for the industry

A unique aspect of my job that I am truly grateful for is the ability to continually broaden my skillset, gain new insights, apply them to my day-to-day tasks, and teach them to others. No two days are ever the same in my role.

I am also motivated by my colleagues and Acara’s willingness to adapt to changing workforce needs. I love seeing my in-office team in person, but the ability to work from home two days a week has had a tremendous impact on my work-life balance and mental health. Acara’s understanding of this need for balance has established a strong sense of appreciation and value in the employer-employee relationship.

Life outside of work

When not working, I often keep myself busy by spending time with my son and friends or through other hobbies such as reading, cooking, hiking, and attending concerts. There was a time when I played an important role in the local indie music scene, connecting both local and touring punk and rock bands with gigs in Indianapolis, a task that preceded the era of widespread social media. While that chapter is now closed, I still make it a point to attend shows, doing my part to support indie musicians whenever possible.

I love to travel and hope to visit New Zealand/Aotearoa someday. I enjoy experiencing other cities and countries, especially if they have great local food, beer, and gin. I often map out which restaurants and breweries I will visit in a new place before I plan any other activities or sightseeing.