A collaboration leader

Angela Norris learned leadership lessons as a member of Voyagers class of 2007

The Angela Norris file

Position: Senior account manager at Oracle Federal.

Background: Grew up in Gaithersburg, Md.

Work history: Began her career in 1995 as an intern at Sprint’s federal division while she was a full-time student and full-time employee at a home improvement store. “When the opportunity came to go for the job, I went for the job,” she said.

After five years at Sprint, Norris moved to Netifice, a small business offering broadband access service. Two years later, she joined Tranxition, a small software company. After three years, she moved to Symantec.

Two and half years later, in August 2007, she joined Oracle.

Education: Attended the University of Maryland at College Park. She is three courses short of earning an undergraduate degree in business and marketing.

Family: A husband, Greg, and a 9-year-old stepson, Gabe. Her three sisters and her father live in the Washington metropolitan area. “I’m very close to my family,” she said.

Volunteer activities: 2007-2008 chairwoman of the Young AFCEANs of AFCEA International’s Bethesda chapter.

Favorite recreational activities: Travel and dance. “I love to dance. I did ballet, tap and jazz growing up. I keep up with the dancing. I can tell the difference in my energy level and overall happiness when I’m not dancing. I’m getting ready to start a new class this weekend, a jazz choreography class.”

Personal branding makes perfect sense to Angela Norris, a young leader in the federal information technology community. When Norris listened to a career coach urge young leaders to develop a personal brand, she immediately grasped the point.

“I come from a marketing background, so it’s a little more embedded in my education” than it might be for others, Norris said. “I tend to think of myself in terms of a personal brand,” she added. Asked to describe her brand, Norris said, “Hardworking. Professional. Enthusiastic.”

Norris, a senior account manager at Oracle Federal, got career advice about personal branding as a participant in Voyagers, a leadership development program sponsored by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council. The program gives industry leaders in their early careers opportunities to see from the inside how government works and vice versa.

Young federal leaders learn from industry rising stars.

Norris said she gained valuable career insights as a member of the Voyager class of 2007, which decided as a group that the Voyagers program itself could benefit from branding. They offered that recommendation to the program’s sponsors, Norris said.

“Even for a program like Voyagers, it’s always helpful to have some sort of brand attached to it,” such as a tag line or brief description that explains the program.

Norris said the same is true of government programs. “Government could do a better job of employing some marketing-type concepts to gain awareness and visibility,” she said. Why should ineffective programs get all the attention? “There are a lot of really effective programs.”

Corey Nickens, information technology project manager at the General Services Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM) and Norris’ assigned partner in the Voyagers program, said Norris was the best possible model for him because she knew how to network, introduce herself and meet new people. “I was very limited in terms of my experience in those types of things,” he said. “Angela, she’s a pro at it.”

The program’s leaders paired Norris and Nickens as partners, partially based on results of a Myers-Briggs personality test.

Norris scored at the top of the extrovert scale. The results portrayed Nickens as the reserved type. At the end of the nine-month Voyagers program, others could see that the pairing had benefited them both, said Lisa Akers, FEDSIM’s director and government co-chairwoman of the Voyagers program.

“Even though Angela’s very extroverted, she never dominates a conversation,” Akers said, “and she certainly brought Corey out in a very nice way.”

Norris said she gained two valuable lessons from the experience. First, she learned a technique for gathering ideas from everyone at a meeting, keeping in mind that extroverts tend to dominate meetings while leaving little opportunity for others with good ideas to be heard.

Norris said she learned the importance of gathering everybody’s thoughts “and how you miss out so much if you don’t do that.” One technique is to pass out notepads or Post-it Notes so that people who don’t have an opportunity to speak can jot down ideas and pass them in at the end of a meeting.

Otherwise, you can easily lose at least a third of the good ideas that could come from a meeting or brainstorming session, she said.

Being paired with Nickens drove that lesson home. “We’d be sitting together in a big group, and he would say something quietly to me and it would be a fantastic idea,” Norris said. “For me, that was a real eye-opener.

It’s helped me a lot in meetings that I hold.”

Norris said she learned a second valuable leader ship lesson from her experiences in the Voyagers program: Effective leaders check to make certain that the effect of what they say matches their intent. “That piece of advice that really stuck with me, and I’ve used it a lot in both my professional life and personal life,” she said.

The idea is to gauge whether the intent and the effect of your words are the same.

“By asking people around you, ‘What was your understanding of what we just discussed?’ ” you can learn if the two are in alignment as they should be, she said.

Her mentors in the Voyagers program said Norris demonstrated exemplary traits, in addition to exceptional collaboration skills, during the nine-month program.

“She’s a very interactive person,” Akers said.

“She’s also an excellent speaker. She could go into newscasting if she wanted to.”

Cal Shintani, senior vice president and operating group manager at CACI International and industry leader of the Voyagers program, said Norris possesses attributes that have brought her early career distinction in the federal IT community.

“She’s very much the volunteer, but she gets things done,” he said, unlike some people who volunteer but fail to follow through.

Shintani said he predicts that Norris will be successful in whatever direction she eventually decides to go — whether into government service or into business for herself. “She’ll do well because she understands and connects with people so well, and that’s a big piece of the business that we do in federal IT.”  

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