One of the themes in my career is that nothing goes in a straight line. You have to be very flexible and adaptable to understand that things evolve and change. If you keep core values close to your heart, you’ll progress over time.
I was born and raised in New Jersey to a hardworking blue-collar family.
As a child, you have dreams. You see role models such as police officers, firemen, soldiers, but I had no idea that I wanted to be a finance professional or C-level officer at a corporation.
My cousins and I were the first generation in our family to go to college. After taking a six-month break after engineering school, I starting looking for where to begin my career. There was no Internet or Facebook or LinkedIn. Your job search was mailing résumés and pounding the pavement. I spent a lot of time going door-to-door to different organizations.
My sister informed me of an opening at the United Nations. I applied for the job and did well on the interview. The human resources officer offered me a part-time position loading trucks on the dock. I pleaded with her for something more administrative. She gave me a break.
She gave me a 90-day temp position as a budget analyst, which became a full-time position. And I wound up working four years there. That started the clock on my finance career.
After deciding to get my MBA, I eventually landed at Unisys. I also took the CPA exam and passed, so I had all the requisite letters after my name and was well on my way on the finance and accounting path.
Even though I was basically trained in all the disciplines, I always considered myself a businessperson and leader more than a financial professional.
While at Unisys back in 2001, the company was trying to reinvigorate the federal division. I was asked to help turn the business around and get it on the growth path. The one year turned into five years. We won some nice contracts and made nice changes to the operating structure. We had a stellar run, taking the business from half a billion to $1.3 billion in revenue at the time.
I was with Unisys through February 2006 when I was recruited to Apptis Holdings, which was a private-equity-owned federal government contractor. I was there almost five years. We took the company through a variety of transformations, ultimately selling the services unit to URS and spinning out the product reseller unit.
From there, I joined STG at the tail end of 2010. I began following the same model that I did at Unisys in helping to build the business.
How do we grow it to take it to the next level? The cornerstone of the services business is people. I believe my role is to develop the next level of leaders to get everyone marching in the same direction to have a groundswell of effort to execute the vision.
As I was going through my teenage years or early 20s, I had no idea that I was going to go down this career path from finance, accounting and CPA to a controllership role, chief financial officer role and now a chief operating officer.
It was a journey of discovery.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief operating officer and chief financial officer of STG, Reston technology solutions provider to the government.
Career highlights: Chief financial officer, Apptis Holdings; vice president of finance, Global Public Sector, Unisys.
Education: BA, History, St. Peter’s College; MBA, Finance and a Second Concentration in Accounting, Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Personal: Lives in Doylestown, Pa., and Reston.