Senior Managing Director and Senior Client Lead at Accenture
By Robin Doran | Published: July 2023
Neeraj Vadhan’s personal story has shaped his life’s path. Energetic and engaged, he frequently weaves the word fortunate into conversation as he warmly recalls his early years in the close-knit community of Baldwin, New York, on Long Island.
Today Neeraj is Senior Managing Director and Senior Client Lead at Accenture, a multinational professional services company. He serves on the board of directors at Joint Venture Silicon Valley, sitting on the executive committee.
A software engineer by education, Neeraj has taken that technical foundation beyond engineering and has applied the discipline in innovative ways.
He attended the University of Rhode Island where he earned a BS in computer engineering with a minor in mathematics, and in 2000 Neeraj began what is now a 23-year tenure at Accenture as a software engineer.
By 2004 he had landed the role of Senior Technology/Senior Delivery Lead in Orlando. He was named to his current role in the Bay Area in 2017 where he runs a global team and drives technology strategy, ecommerce, complex systems integration, operational architecture, content distribution, plus program and finance management.
Neeraj describes himself as a “hands-on, roll up your sleeves” innovator, able to bridge communications between coders and business leaders. He has incubated new capabilities in operations and technology and opened five new delivery centers. He is named on four patents for platforms using artificial intelligence to run scaled operations more effectively.
Neeraj’s parents landed in New York from India in the 1970s. Both hailed from large families, and their migration to the United States laid the foundation for a story of resilience and sacrifice. With few resources, they worked hard, sometimes with multiple jobs, to provide for Neeraj and his younger brother. And they consciously sought to assimilate, adopting English as the primary language at home.
While Neeraj and his brother grew up in a prototypical household of four individuals, he felt blessed that his parents came from big families. “My dad and his three brothers all lived in Long Island, and we used to see our cousins all the time,” says Neeraj. “I think of them no different than siblings.”
Neeraj says his parents paved the way for his own success. “Our fortunes are attributed to the foundation that they created,” he says. “My father came here first with just $500 in his pocket and no job.” While working, his father went back to school.
He believes that the best way to pay them back is to set his own children up for success. “My children will have choices that my parents didn’t,” he says.
Today, Neeraj celebrates his Indian roots. He and his wife, Anu, revel in hosting gatherings where Indian cuisine takes center stage, embracing the diversity that enriches their community.
One trait that Neeraj admits to, aside from his optimism, is that he is somewhat of an introvert. It isn’t readily obvious but he especially enjoys long conversations with small groups of people, rather than large groups.
In a tale of serendipity, Neeraj met Anu at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Looking for any excuse to be at the Games, Anu and Neeraj had both enlisted to work at food concession stands. Anu was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and was raised in the suburbs of Chicago.
They maintained a long-distance romance while Anu pursued her education in Chicago in pharmacy school and Neeraj completed his degree in Rhode Island. Anu and Neeraj have three children: Layla, 13; Siyona, 11; and Dylan, 8.
Neeraj has mostly lost his Long Island accent but 25 years on, he gets teased by his kids who have a decidedly Bay Area dialect.
Neeraj and Anu lived in Chicago until 2008 when they moved to Orlando for nine years so that he could work with the Walt Disney Company through Accenture. They loved Orlando and the proximity it afforded them to visit the Magic Kingdom while their children were small.
In 2016, Neeraj got the itch to move to the Bay Area. They settled in Los Altos and he took on the role he has today at Accenture.
“I've been fortunate,” he doubles down. “I've been with Accenture 23 years, and what's kept me motivated and excited that there's been so many varieties of roles and challenges for me to tackle. And I'm sort of the kind of person that I want to learn as much as I give in anything I'm doing.”
A techie at heart - “I love coding” he says - he went the consulting route versus working for a tech firm directly because he wanted variety. He works with a single, confidential client in the Bay Area and is the conduit between all the different capabilities that his firm provides, from supply chain to sales and marketing.
Neeraj is also a venture capital investor with Emergent Ventures and an angel investor in several startups focused on enterprise platforms. Since the pandemic, he has upended his natural tendency to be a night owl. “I’m now an early riser: coffee, lift weights, ride the bike, go for a run…,” he laughs. And his weekends are devoted to kids’ soccer, karate, dance and whatever else the kids are doing.
Once devoted to the Knicks and famous pizza, former New Yorker Neeraj has adopted the Golden State Warriors and found good pizza in Los Altos.
Neeraj was introduced to Joint Venture through Dan Boxwell, a former board member. He met Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture in 2020. “Russ told me about Joint Venture and the intersection between public and private organizations. I didn’t grow up in the Bay Area but I could make a difference in my own backyard,” he says.
Neeraj saw a good fit. It was an opportunity for him to apply his background and experience and think through how Joint Venture could evolve.
Neeraj enlisted Accenture to focus Joint Venture on long-term planning for growth and funding to maximize the organization’s impact. Accenture has also taken the marquee sponsorship for the annual State of the Valley conference in the last three years.
“Accenture is an organization steeped in strategy and Neeraj embodies it,” says Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture. “His sharp mind for planning and growth has been a gift to our organization at a critical time of inflection.”
Neeraj also loves the cultural programming at the conference. He recorded one musical dance segment to share with his children. “They loved it,” he says.
He credits Russell Hancock with being able to tell the story contained within the detailed Silicon Valley Index. “He takes the complex work of the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies and brings it to life in a palatable way. It drives emotional discussion and awareness.”
Referencing the inequities of the Bay Area and the high cost of living, Neeraj believes Joint Venture can make a difference on many levels, including affordable housing and transit. As a teenager in New York, he could take the train anywhere. In Chicago too, he had access to solid public transit. “It would be great if the Bay Area could make public transit as normal as it is in New York or even Chicago,” he says.
“I think Joint Venture Silicon Valley has an opportunity to play a substantial role in helping to bring to light the data and the analysis to surface these challenges,” he says. In his role, he hopes to help tap into the broader network in Silicon Valley.
The fortunate optimist, Neeraj sums up his vision by saying, “There is always a reason to be down, something to worry about.” But he always finds the bright spot. “With everything that's going on in the world today, the macroeconomic world, geopolitical challenges, technology, happening so fast…yeah, there are all these challenges, but we'll figure it out.”