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Vanessa Akhtar

PRINCIPAL

Vanessa’s main focus at Kotter International is on designing, developing and implementing traditional and customized learning opportunities, shaping and executing on the firm’s strategy as it relates to education and training, and working to create and deliver tailored solutions to help our clients achieve high impact results. Her ultimate goal is to help individuals and groups develop leadership skills across all levels of organizations, using carefully identified principles based on decades of Dr. Kotter’s research and business experience. Her background in sport psychology and her prior working familiarity in Kotter’s work brings a unique perspective to her work at Kotter International.

Vanessa is based out of the Cambridge, MA office.

Why did you decide to work at Kotter?

I decided to work at Kotter because I believe in the mission of the company and the work that we do. We believe that so much more is possible – and all of us try to live and breathe that every day in our work. Beyond the work that we do, I also joined Kotter because of the culture here. I love showing up to work every day, and collaborating with people who are committed to our clients’ growth, our business growth, and individual growth.

What is the biggest impact you’ve seen take place at a client?

We see a lot of our clients achieve blockbuster business results – and it’s always exciting to see that type of impact. But, it’s not what stands out to me the most. The stories that stay with me are the ones about individual transformation. The person who says work is finally fun again. The third shift worker who had been completely overlooked and finally has a chance to shine. The hourly employee who gets a chance to stand in front of the CEO to present her ideas. These stories are why I’m so passionate about this work – to help create an environment that allows people to thrive and become better, more engaged leaders.

What in your background helps you in this job?

When people hear that I have my doctorate in Sport Psychology, I’m usually met with, “wow, you really changed directions.” But I don’t see it that way. John’s writing and philosophy closely aligns with the theories I most relied on in my work counseling athletes and coaches. At the core, it’s about the human condition and the environment we seek to create that allows for peak performance. In addition, the work I did in academia and youth development has given me critical knowledge that has shaped the work we’re doing in Higher Education and K-12.

What’s got you thinking right now?

In the midst of a lot of turmoil, domestically and abroad, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our work can help leaders better navigate times of division and uncertainty – and how we can help them create a safe and collaborative environment so their teams can excel. In addition, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can continue to best translate our work into the field of education. I’ve been passionate about this space since I began my graduate school studies, and continue to be driven to help find ways to better serve students.

Share something about you that would most surprise people.

I studied abroad in France and was fluent in French for a while. It’s been so long now, though, I usually get too embarrassed to use it – unless I’ve had a glass of wine first! If I hadn’t met my husband, who was in the military at the time and tied to living in the US, I probably would have moved back to Paris.