In the world of sports, from baseball to football to basketball, commentators often like to describe how coaches strategize or engineer masterful plays. Just a couple of Thesaurus-inspired analogies that range from the pretentious to the inspiring sports announcers use to keep their audiences engaged between plays. In Pittsburgh, analogies aside, we happen to have someone who knows more than a little about coaching, strategy and engineering: Neysha Arcelay.
Neysha is an engineer with a longstanding career in corporate America, where she cut her teeth working for the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Alcoa and PNC. But just over four years ago, she became a coach and a transformation executive at the helm of her business firm – Precixa, an operations boutique consultancy that helps companies maneuver through their transformational strategies with everything from organizational structure, to policies and procedures, processes, systems, reporting or new technologies.
Precixa, she explains, stands for precision. “I was looking back on my background in operations engineering, that’s what we’re trying to do, it’s problem solving to reduce variability in the way you operate your business. The company works mostly with clients between 200 to 1,000 employees from all over the East coast, though 80% of their clients are Pittsburgh based. “Above that size range there are too many decision making layers and bureaucracy and below it the process becomes less cost-effective for a boutique consultancy. Our niche is that middle ground, mostly privately held organizations. I have many startups reach out to me and if your personal mission and your purpose and the ‘why’ behind your business are aligned with my personal values I will work with you just to see you thrive.”
The company has established a strong customer base with an impressive near 100% customer retention rate, but getting things off the ground wasn’t easy. “After 20 years in corporate America, I decided to launch my own company. I knew it was going to be challenging, I just didn’t realize it was going to be ‘this’ challenging! Yesterday was our 4th year anniversary. Over the last four years it has not been like a rollercoaster, it’s been more like the image plotted by a seismograph during an earthquake,” she recalls with a chuckle. “The ups and downs are very pronounced. I had to invest myself into the networking scene, meeting new people and raising awareness for my brand. The good news is the Pittsburgh entrepreneurship community is incredibly helpful. There’s no other city I would recommend to start your entrepreneurial journey because there are a lot of resources and within the community everyone is actually willing to help.”
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Neysha eventually moved to New Jersey in the late 90’s to join Johnson & Johnson as a Process Redesign Engineer. After a couple of decades in the corporate grind, the excessive travel started getting to her and she and her husband decided to move to Pittsburgh. “My last year at J&J I was traveling 85% of the time handling five manufacturing plants in the US and Europe and to say that I was burned out is an understatement,” she comments. “When I came to Pittsburgh, my expectation was to breathe and to not live out of a suitcase. I was not necessarily looking to move to a new city, I didn’t have big expectations, I couldn’t even spell Pittsburgh,” she laughs. “I just wanted to build a home. Initially I made it my purpose to immerse myself in discovery mode, so whenever I left work, I’d go to discover a new neighborhood, or a new restaurant, or a new place in the city, and soon enough started finding everything I needed. As a Hispanic, I could find my Hispanic restaurants, my supermarkets, my products. Being from Puerto Rico, for me it’s all about the food. One day walking through the Strip District I came across a very specific ingredient that’s not easy to find, of all places at a Vietnamese supermarket and I was like ‘wow.’ The store owner found a client for life!”
But her assimilation into Pittsburgh was not immediate, it took some time set roots, however solid these ended up becoming. “What I found challenging about this city is that most of the people in Pittsburgh are born and raised in Pittsburgh so it can be difficult to get into them. But what I love about it is once you break in those circles, you get absorbed and they won’t let you go. The relationships and the connections that you make in more cosmopolitan cities are broader but more shallow, in Pittsburgh they are narrower but they run deep. When we moved here, the idea was to stay for five years, and now we have tripled that. A few years ago my husband and I were re-evaluating, but I realized there is no better city where we’re going to get the holistic value proposition that we get in Pittsburgh. For raising your family, the community, the access and the opportunities, everyone is two degrees of separation from each other, so the opportunity you get here is unparalleled to any other city. And still, it’s big enough to get everything you need, but small enough that you can feel more in control.”
While Neysha has found a better balance in Pittsburgh, she keeps plenty busy with her other passions, which involve giving back to the community – mentoring and coaching. “I have always had a deep passion to see rising talent and professional development is very close to my heart, mostly because I received great support from amazing mentors. I wanted to pay it back because I also experienced the absence of it, which actually made me more keen to deliver it. This also led me to create the book (The Little Blue Book: A Girl’s Guide to Owning Your Professional Development) because I didn’t have the time to mentor everyone that crossed my path, but at least I could leave them with the framework of what I typically teach.” Neysha takes these matters at heart and is involved in a variety of inclusion initiatives and mentorship organizations, like the Robert Morris University Women Leadership Organization and RedChairPGH among others.
When not working on a new strategy, Neysha is coaching. When not coaching, she’s volunteering. When not volunteering, perhaps she’ll find a little shut-eye time. And while still awake, you may find her pleasing her food passion at Musa “they have the most outstanding Caribbean food I’ve ever had.”