For this article, we sat down with our Corporate Communications Manager, Tori Anderson. Read on, to hear all about how she came to COLSA, is standing up a new department, and her advice for young professionals.
Q: Tell us about your background and what brought you to COLSA.
A: Before working for COLSA, I worked for a small business and wore many different hats while there. I worked in business development, proposals, security, and office administration. After obtaining my masters, I decided I wanted something new and different. I saw that COLSA was hiring for communications and outreach and thought to myself, ‘this looks fun.’ I was hired on and have loved it ever since. Since starting my job here, COLSA has been great about giving me an opportunity to grow, learn, and obtain new responsibilities.
Q: You’re standing up a new department for COLSA – the Communications and Marketing Department, something that is new and breaking boundaries for the company. How have you gone about doing this?
A: It’s fun, but there is a lot of learning behind the scenes because I don’t know everything. I have had some amazing mentors that I’ve gained in my time here through our Young Professionals (YoPro) program. In YoPro, we have a mentoring program, and my mentor was Dr. Amos (COLSA’s CEO). I asked him many questions about what it takes to be a good leader. Something that he’s said to me that has always resonated was to “hire people that are smarter than you.” So, with my new department, I have a vision, and I see everyone else’s visions – my goal is to execute it. I don’t know all the answers, and I’m hiring people who can help me find the answers I need and make a great team.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve faced as a woman in leadership?
A: For me, I have dealt a lot with Imposter Syndrome. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You never want to doubt yourself but having those types of feelings have kept me driven. That self-doubt often comes into play when I’m sitting in a room full of men and hear them sometimes say wrong answers. I know the correct answer, but in the past, I’ve been worried to speak up, because I don’t want to offend someone. Learning to be comfortable enough to speak up and that I deserve my spot at the table has been a huge lesson. It’s important for me to mention that no one has ever told me I don’t have a spot at the table, it’s just something I’ve thought and felt in my own head. I had to build my confidence up in order to build my professional life.
Q: How do you overcome the obstacles you mentioned?
A: As I mentioned, I’ve had a ton of great mentors, both male and female, and I’ve found speaking with them one-on-one about my obstacles has been extremely helpful. Each mentor has given me thoughtful feedback that I’ve been able to pull bits and pieces of advice from to overcome any challenges I’ve faced. By being open with my mentors, they know what I struggle with as a woman and young professional in the workplace. Research and practice have helped too. I have an undergraduate degree in Acquisition Management and an MBA from UAH, so I have had to learn effective marketing and communications techniques through continued education and research.
Q: What is your favorite part about running the Communications and Marketing Team?
A: I love interacting with people. Naturally, I’m an introvert, but I absolutely love working in a team environment. I also love seeing the change that has happened at COLSA since I started in 2016 to now and knowing that five years ago, this department was maybe two people. Now we’ve doubled in size, it makes me wonder what we’ll accomplish and look like in the future.
Q: What is your vision for your department in relation to COLSA?
A: COLSA is a large business. My goal is for COLSA to be a household name in every household – especially those who are part of the Government Contracting industry. Not only do I want to grow our brand, I want to grow our company.
Q: What is your advice for young professional females?
A: When you’re young and just starting out, you are going to want to push to prove yourself. There is going to be a drive there where you feel like you’re competing and that you must prove that you’re meant to be there. Don’t lose sight of that drive, but don’t let it overpower you. If it overpowers you, you may lose yourself and you will get burnt out. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond- but also learn to set boundaries and to maintain a healthy work-life balance.