The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is commemorating Women's History Month throughout March. The theme for the month is Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government. In highlighting the women of GSA throughout the month of March, we are sharing their stories every Monday on the GSA blog.
Ana L.R. Rawson, Energy & Sustainability Branch Chief
What was your path to public service?
In the fall of 2001, I was a second-year student at Georgia Institute of Technology studying Industrial and Systems Engineering. I grew up with a heavy focus in academics and had very little working experience and decided I needed to seek out an opportunity that would offer exposure to ‘real-world' working life. Georgia Tech has a cooperative program that allows students the opportunity to balance academic life with professional development. The program alternates school with working semesters and was highly recommended among my peers. I interviewed for many opportunities and was set on finding an opportunity local to the Atlanta area. I had never heard of the U.S. General Services Administration at the time, but was intrigued at the unique opportunity they offered for long-term promotions and growth based on their succession planning.
In 2002, I began my career at GSA in property management as an engineering co-op student working with the Repairs and Alterations program. By the time of my graduation in 2005, I had come to the realization that GSA offered a challenging work environment with good work life balance. However, at the time I was still struggling to find the best fit within GSA for me.
I put together a proposed business case to present to my director for a temporary detail out of the Macon field office operated out of the Savannah Service Center. It was a good opportunity to complement the training I had from the regional office by learning operations in the field office. The Public Building Service (PBS) leadership accepted my proposed business case and supported my one-year detail starting in 2006. Ultimately, through my own proactive steps, I've followed a path to a challenging and exciting program that is a great fit for me within GSA.
Is there a woman in American History who inspires you?
Susan B. Anthony, the civil rights activist who fought for women's suffrage during the 19th century lead the way for so many other women who continue to inspire young women today. I admire Anthony for her dedication to her cause and her will to continue through a challenging and lengthy battle for equal rights. She worked hard for a cause she would never fully see realized, but her success came from her passion in working for the benefit of others which is what makes her so admirable. Her legacy lives on today as women continue to advance in America.
Who have been your mentors throughout your career?
I've been fortunate to have many mentors in my career: Victoria Corkren, Brian Singleton, and Creshona Armwood. Each fulfills and offers different perspectives that have assisted me through my career.
Victoria Corkren is the Director of Portfolio Management for GSA Region 4, and is my official mentor. We meet once a month and discuss a range of topics including managing people, work life balance, and prioritizing workload. As an executive with GSA, Vicki is well balanced and exemplifies her professionalism while still remaining easy to talk to regardless of rank or position. She's also a mother, great friend to many, and proves you can be a strong business woman while maintaining your approachability.
Brian Singleton is the Deputy Director for the Region 4 Design and Construction (D&C) Division at GSA, and he was a prior supervisor for me and continues to be a supportive mentor. He's also a Georgia Tech graduate who offers a similar mindset in problem solving for me, but more importantly I've always admired his ability to lead people. He is a natural leader and I've always tried to emulate his management style that regularly provides feedback, supports a productive work environment that is also enjoyable, and offers context to highlight what is important for employees for overall success for GSA.
Creshona Armwood was also one of my prior managers who continues to provide mentorship to me. As a female engineer, I always learn from observing her as a leader in a predominantly male technical group within the engineering branch of Rergion 4 D&C. I have always found great value in her advice to me as I've grown into a similar role leading technical experts within the Facility Management Division.
How do you contribute to the mission of GSA?
Through my career my focus has been on learning, evaluating opportunities, and building relationships to support our overall mission goals. Sustainability is a priority, but I recognize we have many goals as an agency. It's always been important to me to see the full picture, and then work with my peers to determine optimal approach for GSA.
As a first line manager, my new focus is to continue to transition knowledge, lessons learned, and lead our region through our Energy & Sustainability program engineers and specialists. I'm excited for the opportunity and challenge. I know a group working towards a common goal; can get more done than individuals working on separate goals. Our goal is to position GSA as a sustainability leader working within the constraints and ensuring good collaboration. I continue to look forward to future opportunities to serve the American people and work towards a more sustainable federal footprint.
What specific life lesson do you hope to inspire in others while at GSA?
If you work for private sector, you're likely working towards a financial bottom line for a company. In the public sector, you're working towards the common good for our great nation. Regardless of discipline, we collaboratively work towards a more efficient, smart government for our family, friends, and ourselves.
The government needs innovative, self-motivated, people willing to think outside the box and build new norms for our future. There's a saying: "be the change you want to see in the world," I definitely live by a "lead by example" principle. I can't do everything myself or control the actions of others, but I do have control over my own actions. I try to do the best I can and learn from my mistakes. I have, and will likely have, future mistakes going forward, but it's important to recognize that they are done and in the past. More importantly, it's critical to learn from them and help others so we can collectively progress as team.