Blog Category: Meet the Team

Celebrating 31 Years In Business During AAPI Heritage Month

In May 2023, Catalyst Consulting Group celebrated 31 years in business. Officially over 3 decades of revolutionizing organizations’ abilities to best serve their operations and their constituencies, our 31 years of experience has taught us a thing or two. We sat down with our founder and CEO, Arvin Talwar, to recap what the 31st anniversary has meant to him, specifically during May’s observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As an Asian-Indian American, Talwar’s heritage classifies Catalyst Consulting Group as a minority-owned enterprise. However, the minority-owned-business categorization was never Talwar’s leading value proposition or opening selling point. In fact, he prefers the contrary – that the diverse identities of those at Catalyst, including his own, are of latter consideration to their qualifications, work ethic, and character.

Our conversation took us back in time – pre-Y2K, when Catalyst was awaiting the technology boom, a time when Talwar had multiple ongoing business ventures.

When considering his heritage and its place in the identity of his business, he provided, “When I started out in business 30 odd years ago, everybody was trying to do the right thing. But they were driven by business value and not just by what I believe would be to pander to a certain community. They would really say, let me get the best of breed. If it happens to be with a minority business, better yet.”

However, the tone shifted in the mid-90s, when Corporate America was compelled to take the public sector’s lead in developing viable minority and women-owned enterprise supplier programs. Large companies realized benefit in highlighting their strong cadre of suppliers that were owned by minorities and women entrepreneurs. Quickly, such supplier programs became a priority for the boardroom, purchasing departments, as well as marketing.

Talwar recalls the first opportunity in which establishing his business as a minority business enterprise was of interest. He had developed a strong relationship with a large consulting firm, and Catalyst was included in one of their proposals. After our team won and had landed the opportunity, a question was posed. “Aren’t you a minority business enterprise?” And Talwar recalls saying, “John, what’s that?”

It was a bonus for the partnering firm to partner with minority business enterprises. Talwar said that the experience led him to a sales channel that he hadn’t previously realized.

He recalls, “We then started seeing an aggressive transformation in Corporate America. Back in the late-90s and even early-2000s, Corporate America figured out that having a thriving minority and women-owned business supplier program was good for business.”

It was then that Talwar was inspired to develop an idea of his, one that would merge several components of his background and expertise. This business idea became Castlerock Group. With Corporate America more focused on viable minority suppliers and the trend toward strategic sourcing, Castlerock Group identified suppliers that competitively “made the cut” of strategic sourcing and were potential acquisition targets. Castlerock Group was equipped to acquire non-minority suppliers as well as support minority professionals with their expertise and capital. With this endeavor, Castlerock Group was able to support suppliers in contracts with large companies of Corporate America, such as Ford Motor Company, Ameritech, Eli Lilly, among others.

As time progressed, Talwar decided to direct all his attention to Catalyst Consulting Group, but the experience with his other endeavors provided him with perspective and wisdom as it relates to consideration of heritage in the workplace. Being a minority-owned business provided an advantage to Catalyst without our leadership initially realizing or recognizing its significance, which ultimately is very

telling of the core values at Catalyst. What is most important to our team is not based on what you identify with, but the qualifications you possess and the quality of your work.

While being categorized as a minority owned business, Talwar did not want this to be the reason his company received work. The hard work and dedication of our team is what gets the jobs and builds the strong reputation we have today. Talwar went on record to say, “I would shy away from even saying Catalyst was an MBE until it was absolutely necessary to say so. And my thinking was, if they’re going to hire my firm based on credentials, qualifications, references, the fact that we were an MBE was a collateral benefit.”

Respectfully, this month does hold quite a bit of significance for our team. Throughout his career and since founding Catalyst, Talwar has noticed changes in the business environment and has found new ways for his heritage to have an impact on his work.

It is with this respect that we wish to acknowledge and reflect upon the history and celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. We hope you join Catalyst in honoring the rich heritage, resilience, and contributions of the community throughout history. Let us celebrate those of AAPI heritage who have overcome adversity to make such a lasting impact in society.

Ultimately, the pride with which Talwar speaks about his company and what he has built with his team is rooted in the dedicated and hard-working individuals of the past and present at Catalyst. It is the merit and integrity of our work and those who make our team what it is – not filling quotas or percentages – that fuels his pride. At Catalyst diversity and inclusion are not buzz words and quotas to meet, but instead the celebration of differences beyond heritage. Differences in voices and perspectives, experiences and ideas – it is what enhances the melting pot that we’ve achieved at Catalyst.

Here’s to our 31st year in business!

Parallel Paths within Catalyst

Anthony Lungaro, Ola Chmiel, and Jim Lizzio – all were once Catalyst Interns. Their transitions from interns to full-time team members granted them common ground and invited conversation for a reflection on personal and career growth and company culture, as well as a look into the future.

Some More Recent than Others

Drawing on a diverse mix of experiences and expertise, these 3 once-interns represent several realms of the Catalyst business. Anthony is 4 years removed from his internship experience, acting as a Salesforce Solution Architect. Also working on the Salesforce side of the Catalyst business, Ola is a Salesforce Business Analyst and is approaching her 1-year anniversary with Catalyst. Meanwhile, Jim spent 3 summers interning and has recently accepted his full-time position as a Software Engineer on the Custom Development Team.

An Integral Introduction

We’ve heard it before – internships are to serve as an informing introduction to the workplace with hands-on, mentored industry experience for students and recent grads who seek exposure outside of the classroom. However, fetching coffee seems to be the image that comes to mind regarding “the intern.” The internship experience at Catalyst is far from days spent fetching coffee and the boss’s dry cleaning.

Anthony recalled having learned most from the variety and diversity of skillsets on the teams he was surrounded by and interacted with in the office.

Being in meetings with a bunch of different people with different experience levels and skill sets helped mold me into a more well-rounded business person.

He explained that this experience has followed him throughout his tenure with Catalyst and is reflective of the benefits of a smaller sized company.

During her internship, Ola was part of our Toronto 311 project, “Toronto At Your Service”, which won the 2022 Salesforce Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector category. She said joining the efforts on the Toronto project was a “full steam ahead” approach. She returned to school before the project concluded, but she remembers following the outcomes and reflecting on her own contributions.

“Getting to go on their website and seeing our system there was really cool…thinking, I actually tested this, that was awesome!”

Providing the experience that complemented his studies, the internship experience offered Jim real-industry context to the material he was taught in class.

A lot of the topics that we were talking about in class were things that I had either touched or actually interacted with on some projects, which was really cool to see.

The Catalyst Difference

In their decisions to stay with Catalyst, all considered the company culture. Albeit operating in a remote setting, Catalyst offers the opportunity for workplace relationships and growth in its small size. Each former intern noted how they were well supported in their work.

Jim remembers a time that he needed a helping hand on a project’s task, and without a second thought he was met with help from another team member. He says the positive attitudes of everyone he encounters is one of the things he likes most about Catalyst. “Everyone is willing to help, and I absolutely love that. It’s a very nice culture.”

“You can actually establish better relationships rather than just being an employee ID number in the system,” Anthony said in contrast to large firms. He feels that the culture also allows for employees to exercise agency and growth. “You know, if you want to try something else, Catalyst is pretty open to letting you try something new, a different workstream, a different type of project. It’s not a big ask to access different sorts of experiences.”

Ola feels that her experience as an intern allowed her to learn and that the trajectory of her personal and career growth has only shot higher since.

“My first project being a full-time employee at Catalyst was for Chicago Public Schools project, so that was really cool for me, being from the Chicago suburbs and currently living in Chicago.”

She recalled that she had no experience with Salesforce when she first got the internship, but now she is seeing projects through from beginning to the end, the whole progression from a blank Salesforce canvas to a finished solution.

Looking Forward to their Futures

As we are approaching the end of the 2022 year, we asked Anthony, Ola, and Jim to reflect on their goals for the future. They all agreed on, “Growth!”

At Catalyst, we create impactful solutions that the community calls trailblazing, solutions that make a difference for our clients who serve everyday people. With teammates like Anthony, Ola and Jim, we are excited our upcoming year and for their futures with us, as well as the possibilities for future interns!

Spotlighting Mohammed “Mo” Khan and Celebrating His 17 Years at Catalyst

Meet Mohammed Khan, affectionally known here at Catalyst as “Mo.” He first started working with Catalyst as a contractor, and shortly after, became a full-time employee as a consultant. That was 17 years ago. To commemorate his work anniversary, we met with Mo to reflect on what his history with Catalyst has entailed, what has meant the most, and what he has to say about our approach to projects and clients.

He took us back to the very beginning, recalling his start as a contractor. It is evident — his nearly 2 decades here have been years of growth and facing challenge with determination.

“My responsibilities grew year after year. There were so many different projects that I was involved in, and that actually gave me the experience and confidence to grow and do more,” he describes.

Over the years, he has recognized that each project and client’s expectations are different, but our motivation is to ensure that we meet or exceed their expectations. It is what he feels sets us apart from the competition.

“We try to meet and exceed client expectations. We are always dedicated to our customer service,” he says.

Each employee has unique strengths, and our combined skills as a team sets us apart from others.

He testifies that our team executes with a level of care that meets the highest standards.

We asked Mo what project has meant the most to him. His response?

“Actually, I enjoyed working on every project that I was a part of. It’s always a challenge to work in a very demanding and dynamic environment, but it keeps the rhythm going for me.”

You’ll see it quoted on our website: we aim to treat every client as if they are our only client. Mo’s enjoyment of and dedication to each of his projects throughout the years is a testament to how well he aligns with our team’s mission. If he must choose, he says his work with the CDA has meant the most to him.

“I enjoyed working with the talented teams, the ideas that were shared between the team members to tackle any issue.”

17 years calls for reflection on the times that have felt transformative, and several come to mind.

When we start taking small steps towards our goals or projects and complete them successfully, then it’s not hard to take the big jump.

He credits our leadership team for our evolving perspective and dynamics, constantly iterating to create the best traveler experience possibility at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway.

“We serve them and make sure that we provide the services that the general public needs, and it’s enjoyable work.”

Mo’s personal motto? “Let’s get it done!”

He says this mantra sets a positive energy for the team when tackling a new project.

“It’s an opportunity to learn, build new relationships, meet new people, and get to know the client’s needs and how we can provide a custom solution.”

Ultimately, Mo wants us to know, “It’s just an honor to work with talented people.”

We thank Mo for his dedication throughout the past 17 years. His loyalty to Catalyst doesn’t go unnoticed!

Eric Talwar

And our celebration of our Customer Success team continues! As a natural follow-up to last week’s Meet the Team, we’re pleased to share more about another Customer Success Manager here at Catalyst, Eric Talwar. 

Eric has been with Catalyst for over five years now. During this time, he’s been responsible for managing our responses to different competitive solicitations and making the case that Catalyst is the best team to do the job. Eric is intimately familiar with the different pain points our clients in state and local government, aviation, utilities, non-profit, higher ed, and healthcare face when navigating outdated legacy applications, and he is eager to bring our team into their workspaces to modernize their IT environments and streamline business processes for a more productive workplace overall. Eric warmly notes there’s never a dull day at Catalyst! 

Outside of the office, you can find Eric cooking, volunteering at a local cat shelter, and finding any excuse to spend time in the great outdoors. 

Eric Podlin

We’re celebrating this week’s Meet the Team with another one of our designers, Eric Podlin!

Eric’s work encompasses any sort of design and UI/UX work as well as some front-end development. Eric’s creativity took the front seat as he contributed to the designs of the CHI311 Community Portal and the CHI311 mobile app for iOS and Android. As such, he warmly mentions that his most memorable experience as a Catalyst team member has been playing a role in the implementation of CHI311.  

Eric first discovered his love for design in his high school years but decided to pursue it as a career after a profound conversation with a college professor. Eric has been with Catalyst for over a year now and notes he loves the profession so much because it’s constantly changing – and therefore easy to not get bored!  

Outside of work, you can find Eric playing video games, diving into a great read, and enjoying a night out at the movies, a concert, and the theatre.  

Kevin Porter

Let’s give a warm ‘Meet the Team’ hello to Kevin Porter, a Web Developer here at Catalyst. Kevin’s work encompasses front-end development and website design, and he also contributes to various graphic design and video editing projects for clients and internal purposes.   

Kevin started working at Catalyst after being notified of a job opening by one of his best friends, who just so happens to work here as well. 

Kevin recently celebrated his one-year Catalyst anniversary and notes he’s learned so much that, though it wasn’t directly UI/UX-related, has still proven to be extremely useful in his day-to-day work and life.  

After work, you can often find Kevin playing Super Smash Bros with coworkers. Talk about team bonding! Thanks for sharing, Kevin.  

Anthony Lungaro

Say hello to Anthony Lungaro for our first Meet the Team of October. Anthony is a Junior Geospatial Analyst at Catalyst responsible for validating location data updates for the CHI311 solution we implemented for the City of Chicago, working with Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning, and QA testing.

Anthony enjoys working at Catalyst because he has a hand in the technological advancements that are moving local government and the public sector forward. He is particularly enthusiastic about working with a client as large as the City of Chicago and notes that his work with the City’s 311 implementation has been his most memorable experience at Catalyst thus far.  

Outside of work, you can find Anthony looking for any way to be active, from playing basketball to attending concerts to skydiving. Thanks for sharing, Anthony!  

Alex Devries

Today, we’re excited to share more about one of our Enterprise Architects, Alex Devries. As an Enterprise Architect, Alex is responsible for designing and implementing solutions that optimize business processes while remaining focused on performance, scalability, and data integrity. 

Alex recently celebrated his ten-year anniversary at Catalyst; he credits his high school AP Computer Science course, as well as his college curriculum, with opening the door to the world of software engineering and the career possibilities that stem from it. In his 10 years here, Alex notes that his most memorable experience has been being part of the team that launched #CHI311. 

Outside of work, you can find Alex seeking out a live concert or adding to his LP collection. In fact, Alex has curated a playlist to accompany his feature this week! Listen here: [Math and Shoegaze]. 


Arvin Talwar

It’s the last Monday of August, so we’re wrapping up the month with a very special #MeetTheTeam Monday. Please welcome Catalyst’s Founder, Managing Principal, and CEO, Arvin Talwar! 

Arvin founded Catalyst in 1992 after working and traveling as a consultant. He was eager to dive into the “messiest, most challenging projects” because he found them to be the opportunities through which he would learn the most. However, in his experience at different firms, he noticed a gap between tech leadership and business leadership. With the goal of bridging the gap between technology and business, Arvin started our company. 

Throughout Catalyst’s nearly 30-year history, Arvin notes the most memorable and rewarding experiences have been the times when Catalyst, a small business, won large projects while competing against “brand name” consulting firms. It goes to show that a company’s reputation must extend beyond how many offices it has or how many thousands of folks it employs; instead, the skillset, drive, and experience of the team is key to meeting and exceeding the expectations of clients. 

Arvin has continuously advised the Catalyst team throughout the company’s history to treat every client like it is our only one. This guidance has become a Catalyst “creed” of sorts. 

Outside of Catalyst, you can find Arvin reading or watching documentaries, noting his favorites are pieces about business leaders and athletes. He is also a third-degree black belt in Hapkido and now instructs young people in martial arts.  

We thank Arvin for creating the workspace we know and love today. His constant encouragement and advisory of our team has contributed to our success tremendously. 

Mike Anderson

We return for another #MeetTheTeam Monday with one of Catalyst’s Software Engineers, Mike Anderson!

Though his “specialties” are .NET and Java solutions, Mike is an expert-level problem solver who is eager and quick to learn new technologies in order to get the job done. Mike’s interest in tech was spurred during his freshman year of high school, where he spent his days working on a Macintosh LC. Before long, Mike was building websites and helping his physics friends with C++…and the rest is history!

Outside of Catalyst, you can find Mike adventuring with his wife and son (pictured above), trying out a local brewery, or jamming on either acoustic or electric guitars. Rock on, Mike!