Empower Her Focus On: Anu Kilaru
Each month, ERPi’s Empower Her initiative will highlight the success and impact of one of our empowered and enriched women. This month, meet Anu Kilaru. Consultant, Marie Chung, sat down with Anu to better understand her background, motivations and leadership style.
Anu, a Senior Manager at ERPi supporting the healthcare and digital transformation portfolios, is one of the many successful female leaders at ERPi. She leads ERPI’s technology support services for the National Institutes for Health (NIH) account that includes strategy, advisory services, solutions delivery, data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Deeply experienced in public sector healthcare, Anu helmed a portfolio of healthcare IT products, executed complex TRICARE programs and led IT modernization projects for the Department of Defense. Additionally, Anu has a unique work trajectory that juxtaposes her public sector experience with Silicon Valley startup experience.
Anu was born and raised in India. She came to the US with a full tuition waiver and scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Engineering Technology at the University of Memphis. She graduated at an interesting time during the height of the dot-com boom, and consequently, became involved with a series of exciting startups in California that laid the technology foundations for later enterprise tech companies such as Netflix. Most recently, prior to ERPi, she served as Vice President for Products and Strategy for an early stage startup that uses Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) to create a new hiring platform that aims to democratize recruiting and hire without biases.
With a passion for solving problems using technology, Anu keenly follows emerging technologies, their business use cases and future trends. Anu resides in Wilmington, NC, travels weekly to her client in Bethesda, MD, while successfully balancing a multitude of commitments. Her other interests range from travel, photography and cinema to STEM education, which are detailed below.
- What was the atmosphere like for you when you graduated at the height of the dot-com boom and what were some lessons learned?
I graduated during an exciting time when the Silicon Valley ecosystem and the universe conspired to give the necessary fuel and ammunition to take a promising idea to fruition! I started as a software engineer writing code in Java and C for a startup in the video-on-demand space to efficiently deliver large payload content over the network. When that startup ran out of funding, I moved on to another startup that developed software to monitor performance for enterprise business applications and the underlying full stack IT infrastructure. Startup culture is such that both your role and direction are fluid – you have to constantly lean in and out of your designated role and comfort zone to get things done. It is here that I realized one of my strengths – the ability to zoom out to connect the dots and develop that big picture and then zoom in to tactically execute in shifting sands and areas that require traversing through new and emerging domains.
- Describe your trajectory from startups to your first healthcare public sector consulting stint.
Ex-colleagues from my startup days roped me in for a stint with public sector consulting that lasted over 13 years. I started at a time when TRICARE was undergoing its first major transformation – TNEX. Through the chaos of TNEX, T3 and leading up to T2017, I led product management for a portfolio of TRICARE Enrollment, Billing, Provider Management and Reconciliation products for the Department of Defense. Seeing the direct impact of work we did for healthcare beneficiaries was immensely gratifying!
Over the course of 13 years, I also managed successful technology implementations of complex TRICARE NDAA programs; led evaluation & integration products to augment capabilities of core product lines; and spearheaded a critical technology modernization effort for a suite of products using legacy frameworks. Through this period, I was fortunate enough to partner and work with the best of Government leaders who took the best practices from the private sector and Silicon Valley and pushed the envelope of healthcare delivery.
- What kind of work are you doing currently for ERPi?
I currently lead delivery and growth for NIH and support strategic trans-initiatives for ERPi’s Digital Services vertical. For NIH specifically, I lead technology advisory services, solutions delivery, data analytics, AI/ML and business transformation work. We serve as trusted advisors to the NHLBI Chief Information Officer and provide IT solution delivery management for the institute, managing scope, schedule and budget for multiple software development products. Our analytics team applies leading data science, AI and ML methods to help NHLBI understand and determine the right investment mix for its portfolio of intramural and extramural research, provides budget analysis, modeling and forecasting to support decision making.
- How would you describe your leadership style and why is it important to you to maintain it to that degree?
As a leader, my job is to set direction and help remove obstacles so that my teams can achieve what they have signed up to do. I also believe that teams are motivated to perform better when they care for the mission and understand why we do what we do – both strategically and tactically. For example, I want the developers to understand the business context they are writing code for; and I want the business analysts and project managers to understand the big picture outside of their product/project domains. I consciously encourage a culture of curiosity and interconnectedness so that we can provide the best possible solutions with a mindset of reuse and zero redundancy for our clients.
- What are some of your interests outside of work? How do you keep a work-life balance?
Outside of work, I deeply care for K-12 and STEM education and volunteer to teach either Math, Science or Robotics in the local community each year. I am a trained photographer, love doing portraiture and at some point, hope to go back to black and white photography, dark room included!
I have a 12-year old daughter who I absolutely love spending time with. With a consulting career that requires me to travel every week, I have learned to compartmentalize – I switch off from work when I am home and vice-versa. Caught in the busyness of work and home life, it is often convenient to de-prioritize ‘me’ time. I am big on ensuring that I make time to nourish the spirit and mind – read, watch good cinema and catch up with friends/family each week.