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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

A Real-Life Rising Star Tells Us Her Secrets to Career Success

When Tanneasha Gordon was growing up, you couldn’t have told her that she’d be anything other than a lawyer. But on a college adviser’s recommendation, she took some business classes—and found herself enthralled with the ins and outs of corporate strategy.

Fast forward a few years, and Gordon has had an incredible career in consulting. Currently, she works at professional services firm Deloitte & Touche LLP as a manager in its Technology Risk practice, helping corporations and government organizations strategize around the issues they face in today’s digital world, including risk analysis, privacy, data governance and protection, security, and enterprise risk management.

So, how did she go from an aspiring attorney to a specialist in strategy and technical risk? As she told us—and would tell anyone who wants to work in technology—it’s all about chasing knowledge, building the right team around you, and constantly staying ahead of the curve.

Here’s how she did it—and the career advice that anyone can learn from her path.

Tell us a little bit about what your job looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Basically, I help clients understand what their risks are, develop strategies to mitigate those risks, and help them maintain their competitive advantage in the marketplace. Right now, I’m focused on data and information risks in healthcare—I work with a healthcare federal organization as well as a health IT commercial organization.

My typical day tends to not be the normal typical day of a consultant, because I have many different responsibilities. It ranges from managing my team to making sure that our approach, strategy, and methodology is in line with the client’s business objective to making sure our deliverables are high quality.

Then the rest of my time goes to managing my clients: making sure they’re thinking about what they need to think about, making sure they’re happy, and making sure that we’re all on the same page in terms of what needs to be delivered.

And then there’s a lot of management stuff, ranging from making sure that the partners I work with have the right information to speak with their senior-level clients to writing contracts and mentoring junior staff. Literally, my days are filled with all of these things.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I’m always learning. I am a sucker for knowledge, I get bored very easily, and I like a challenge. The nature of consulting is very conducive to those who get bored easily—from the partners down, everyone is continuously challenged.

In terms of my specific job, I have always been drawn to strategy—how do I make sure that this company or this client is successful? When you put in the risk component, though, you have to be more creative: What if this happens? What if that happens? What if their systems get hacked? What if this competitor enters their market? What if they don’t procure the right system? It makes me start thinking about the current state and simulating “what if?” scenarios and coming up with ways to protect clients from those situations. I love the fact that I still get to think about strategy, but then I get to be creative and help drive my clients and these awesome organizations in the direction of success.

See What It’s Like to Work at Deloitte

Let’s step back a little bit. Tell us your story of getting into the consulting world.

I had wanted go to law school since I was 11. I went to a high school where you can actually major in law, I had a series of internships/externships with law firms even before I got to undergrad, and in college I minored in law and society.

In my junior year of college, I started to get nervous about taking the LSATs. I talked to my advisor, who recommended getting my master’s in public administration, which would make me more competitive for top law schools and give me more time to take the LSATs.

So I did. While there, half my courses were government and policy courses, and the other half was in the business school. I was doing really well in these classes—I was like, “This is really cool. I’m getting A-pluses in everything that I’m learning here, and I just love the way that you have to think and what you have to do.”

I was taking classes with people who worked at some of the best consulting firms in the world, so I got exposure to what it means to be a consultant. I started doing research on government consulting, found government consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, and got a job there doing strategy and operations. I absolutely loved it and did it for almost three years.

How did you make the move into technology and risk consulting?

In 2008 and 2009, there was a lot of economic uncertainty, and big things were happening across the nation. I started looking at the trend in technology really becoming big and people trying to figure out what “big data“ meant. I didn’t take a single tech class in school, but I knew that we were in the information age and technology and data was taking over. Everything was expanding at an exponentially high rate, so I knew I needed to get some sort of technical skill set if I wanted to be competitive.

At that time, I started to look at companies, and Deloitte contacted me. I was looking at their strategy group as well as their technology risk group. But I realized that a company can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t understand how to manage its risk—market risk, legal risk, financial risk, whatever risk it is—that company or entity won’t be viable.

So I ultimately joined Deloitte’s Technology Risk group. It was a huge learning curve.

I bet! How did you get up to speed?

Honestly, it’s trial and error. It’s putting in extra hours and work. It’s buying every book you can think of to learn that type of stuff. It’s watching videos on social media. It’s talking to your colleagues who are more experienced in that realm. It’s sitting in meetings that you don’t need to be in and seeing how people are thinking about problems. It’s learning the jargon and making the decision that you’re going to pick up what you’re learning and try to soak everything up.

It’s doing your own research, as well as leveraging those around you who are smarter and who know that subject well. I always, always, always ask for help. I make sure I surround myself with some of the best technical guys and women Deloitte has to offer and just ask them questions. They’ve helped me get up to snuff.

I also have an executive coach that Deloitte pays for. I have really great sponsors and amazing partner coaches and mentors. They’ve really, really helped me think through things properly.

What advice would you have for people going into consulting, technology, or risk?

I think it’s a very good place to be in—because that’s where the market’s going. It’s all about risk and technology these days. If you’re not really a technical person, it’s still something you should look into, especially if you’re okay with a steep learning curve and faster pace and really want to get into something new.

Set up your own personal board of advisors for your career. Shadow people. Get coaches. If you’re going into this field and it’s not what you studied or did before, make sure you set up that safety net. You are likely going to fall, as you would at the start of any new career; but you want to make sure if you do fall, you have a net there to bounce off of and keep going.

Speaking of safety nets—you work in risk for a living. How do you think about risk in your career and personal life?

When you work in risk, you think about everything from that perspective. You end up analyzing all your decisions, and you make informed decisions that way.

It also does trickle down into my personal life a lot. This is going to sound funny, but I don’t venture out into random restaurants by myself. I will only go with a friend who has eaten there and recommends a dish. Anytime I order a dish, I ask the waiter what is most frequently ordered. My friends hate it. They’re like, “Why don’t you try a new restaurant?” I’m like, “Because I know what I like and there’s no risk associated with me getting it.” Especially with food, I don’t take risk with food at all!

At Deloitte, you are a mentor of junior employees. What advice do you often find yourself giving to your mentees?

There’s a lot I tell them! Try to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Try to figure out what your capacity is by adding things to your plate and pushing yourself. Pay attention to detail. When you’re meeting with someone, think about: What can your role be in helping that person become successful?

Know that what you put out there is your image, and your brand is everything. What do you want to be known for? How do you think you are perceived and received when you walk in a room? I like to have people become more introspective in understanding what their brand is, establishing a network, and looking for sponsors and coaches and things like that. I think I’ve just been fortunate to have people teach me that very early in my career so I try to communicate that as often as possible.

Shift and actually think about your life in terms of what makes you happy. Come up with your own personal strategic plan. Ask questions. Never feel too proud to seek help. It could be help from someone senior, someone junior, but always be comfortable with asking for help.

Finally, always push yourself, because that’s how you build capacity and how you build resilience. There’s just something special about when you go through a situation and learn in that situation. It hard codes your DNA and encrypts who you are. You just transform.