Making Inroads at Akamai

Erica Chapman is working to create more productive and engaging workplaces throughout Akamai’s various locations around the world

(Photo: Stephanie Girard)

Building a strong, unique corporate culture is part art, part science, and a heavy helping of hard work.

Erica Chapman, vice president of global real estate and workplace productivity at Akamai, a content delivery network and cloud services provider headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sees the workplace as a “culture enabler.” She believes the influence of a strong and positive corporate culture is the result of great leadership and can result in significantly improved workplace productivity.

In fact, for Chapman, Akamai’s strong corporate culture is the result of the incredible story of passion, resilience, and success that fills out Akamai’s history.

“It is carried like a torch by our leadership and it is truly contagious,” Chapman says. “Akamai is a culture of great intellect, creativity, agility, and humility. Our brand carries the tag line ‘faster forward’ and employees live this daily.”

Chapman’s role at Akamai is both expansive and dynamic, offering her global responsibility for everything that relates to workplaces. This includes all facets of administration, hospitality, operations, real estate, security, and strategic planning.

“As a non-revenue generating asset to the organization, our fundamental purpose is to create and sustain work environments which foster engagement, productivity, and innovation,” Chapman says. As such, the former label of Corporate Services was rebranded as Global Real Estate + Workplace Productivity.

Today, Chapman and her team at Akamai are driving towards more productive and engaged workplaces through a number of efforts.

“We have done a lot of work around studying and understanding the manner in which various groups and individuals work,” Chapman says. “We have studies regarding utilization that are underway; and, we have a regular cadence of surveying employees to discern employee engagement generally and satisfaction after projects are complete.

“In short, ensuring productivity and engagement requires continuous listening, attention to current circumstances as they evolve, and critical thinking to solve for new challenges.”

Chapman is extremely passionate about employing influence in a meaningful way across her COE and the business. “Continuous improvement overall, the development of my team, both individually and collectively, and mentorship are other topics that I am deeply committed to,” she says.

From a workplace-enablement perspective, Chapman recognizes that the work of her team does not thwart anything that is intrinsic to the Akamai culture.

“Added to this are the nuances or sub-cultures which result from global differences, composition of various offices, and the size of Akamai’s presence in a particular area,” Chapman says.

For example, the culture of the company’s San Francisco office is different from, say, the culture of the offices in Costa Rica or Bangalore.

“All of them have a superior office culture and, the Akamai culture visibly transcends this,” Chapman says. “The key to fostering a unique workplace culture as an ‘enabler’ has a lot less to do with the tangible outcome and a lot more to do with garnering an understanding of the people and the work that are part of the footprint. Bringing people along in the process, having robust communication, and demonstrating that we truly care about the well-being of our colleagues are the tools that we use. The engagement of our employees is the indicator of whether or not we are successful in fostering positive culture; the real estate is just the by-product.”

Chapman stresses that a productive and engaged workplace has a lot to do with balance. Often what will work well for one individual or function does not for another individual or cluster.

Chapman says there are three simple ways to enhance corporate culture to benefit all the parties involved: outreach, listen, and ask.

“I have a lot of meetings with various stakeholders,” Chapman says. “The colleague may be a business unit leader, a COE partner, a site sponsor—it could be anyone within the company. My posture is consistently to understand their business. What do they do? How is it evolving? What are the challenges that they are faced with? How does this fit into the context of the larger organization? How does this fit into the priorities of our shareholders?

“It would be impossible to create a productive and engaged workplace if we are disconnected from this intimate business knowledge.”