There are two distinct sides to Raveeta Addison.
Professionally, she’s curious and analytical, seemingly always trying to solve a problem or complete a project, even if it takes months to do so. That includes interacting with many colleagues and pulling everyone together to get things done and on time.
Then there’s her other passion, which is diving deep into the community and discovering who needs the most help with their lives and why that is. Volunteering isn’t just a way to network for better jobs, it fulfills her, with the Columbus resident drawing inspiration from the untimely passing at age 13 of her young brother, Christian, a former Arnold Magnet Academy student athlete, in 2009.
“Everyone shared a story of how Christian impacted their life and continues to keep his memory alive by presenting a student athlete with the Christian Crum Award every year,” she said. “His passing showed me that no matter what age, everyone has the ability to leave a mark in this world.”
It has been nearly four years since Addison, 33, found that she could meld her professional career with her personal desire to volunteer and help others. She landed a position as client analyst at TSYS, the credit-card and payments processor headquartered in downtown Columbus. For starters, the company allows employees up to 20 hours of paid time each year to assist organizations within the community.
The atmosphere at TSYS also has allowed the so-called “Army brat” to blossom and rise in the ranks. Last year, she was promoted to project manager, a key position that deals closely with banking, retail and other clients on a variety of tasks and issues.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited recently with Addison to discuss her job, its challenges and rewards, and how she balances that with her love for helping people. It was last fall that she received the Phil Tomlinson Heart of TSYS Award for her volunteer efforts. This interview has been edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. What was your career path?
A. I started my career in nonprofit, and once I moved up into management, I said, you know, I enjoy using a different side of my brain. I enjoy crunching numbers, looking at trends. So I started my career at TSYS as a client analyst. Coming here was a transition for sure. Very challenging, but I had support from my management, my colleagues, my team members, everyone, helping me succeed in that role of being a client analyst.
Q. You were at Big Brothers Big Sisters before that?
A. Yes, I was a senior case manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was used to working with children, their families, working in the community, an advocate of understanding what a true mentor is. So that is a passion of mine, giving back and working in the nonprofit sector. But I also enjoyed the management aspect of it as well because it goes deeper than, OK, you guys are matched. What does it mean? Because a lot of people say, how can you measure the success of a match? We had some measurable outcomes, and I loved being able to track and trend that and look at numbers to see how we could grow as an organization.
Q. Which translated to this job at TSYS?
A. It did. I actually went to school for a degree in sociology, but what I wanted to do with my sociology degree was research … like taking a project, understanding what it means. I said I will try at TSYS, see where I land, and I’m here today.
Q. Was the fact that TSYS is a major employer and offers job security part of your decision?
A. Job security for sure, and I also knew that TSYS was a leader in its industry. I wanted to see what that was like. One of the reasons I love working with TSYS is not only the support that they put around its team members, but also — I tell everyone this — what other company gives you time to do what you love, to explore your passion, and also gets to know you and helps you succeed?
Q. You’re referring to the company allowing you to volunteer in the community?
A. Yeah, they give you 20 volunteer community hours. But also, one thing that’s important for me is I need to feel that I’m competent in my job, and TSYS gives you training and support. I’ve also had those people that if there was something I needed to work on and improve, I had a great mentor team. It wasn’t just one person. It’s collectively working with other areas in the company, working with a multitude of people.
Q. What did you do as a client analyst?
A. I worked in the area of production support, so we were busy all the time … We’re client facing, so we had to be there 24/7 for the client, and that was expressed to me at the very beginning. If we call you at 2 o’clock in the morning, can you be available? I said, yes, I can. In that role, there were times I did have to be available in the middle of night, knowing I’m there to support my client and get them what they need … You could work from home. That was the great thing. You didn’t necessarily have to come in the office.
Q. When did you become a project manager?
A. I transitioned to project manager last year. From working in (United Way’s) Stuff the Bus campaign and being able to manage that large initiative, I wanted to put those skills to work. I always thought of myself as a project manager, where any project that I work on, especially in the nonprofit world, when you have to plan an event you have to oversee every aspect of that to make sure that it’s successful. You have to engage multiple people and make sure you check off every little thing. Is this done and is this done? But you also look ahead at what the risks are. What could happen if this is not done on time? Or what could happen if this person doesn’t show up? So it’s having that foresight to look at any and all obstacles.
Q. How many project managers does TSYS have here?
A. Oh, goodness. I couldn’t really tell you. You have project managers in different areas. Like I work on the North American client segment. So on the North American client segment ... there’s a lot.
Q. Explain your day-to-day life as a project manager here?
A. (laughs) I manage the life of a project … I tell my family, who doesn’t understand what I do at all, to just imagine you’re getting a new image on your credit card. The bank calls us and says, ‘Hey Raveeta, I want to have a new image on the credit card and we want it to go out in X number of days. Can you make this happen?’ I’ll say, OK, let’s see. That’s a project. They’re giving me a project to do.
Q. A project that involves lots of steps and people?
A. It involves the coordination of multiple people. You have a business team. You have a technical team. You have to understand what they’re asking for. We also want to make sure we’re advising them based on what their needs are. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until someone lets you know. So that’s another aspect of my job, being an advisor and making sure that we’re taking care of our client’s needs. I do that from start to finish. … Then you go through the series of communicating internally, communicating with the client, making sure we’re on the same path, and then it’s, OK, how do we get it done? What’s our timeframe, from every aspect of managing that time? If they give us a tight deadline, you definitely have to make sure you hit those dates. It’s also the coordination of getting all of those resources together. That is what I do.
Q. Do you handle more than one project at a time?
A. Yes. (laughs) I’m a fairly new project manager. I can average anywhere between 30 and 40, but I want to do more.
Q. How about the heavy lifters who’ve been at TSYS awhile?
A. The heavy lifters can do up to 80 projects. That’s at one time.
Q. What does it take to pull that off?
A. You rely heavily on your reports. Everybody’s different. I’ve learned a lot of different styles. We get reports to let us know where everything is. Personally, I write things down. I create a million and one spreadsheets for every big project that I have. I create a Word document so that if anyone ever comes and says, hey, what is this, I try to give them the high-level facts of what the project is, this is what we’re trying to accomplish, this is when it needs to be done. I’ll say that Microsoft Project is a wonderful tool.
Q. You create those documents and reports to send to others involved in the project?
A. No. The reports are just for me and I use that for tracking purposes. But communication is key. The relationships you build anywhere, but more so here at TSYS, is key for my personal success … Because sometimes there are areas I have no idea how it works. But I do ask people if they don’t mind taking time and walking me through it, because I want to be as knowledgeable as possible. That’s the best way for me to advise my client as well.
Q. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A. The most challenging thing, and this is me personally, if there’s something that I don’t know, I do get a little frustrated because I want to know everything. But that’s impossible … You’re constantly learning and there are times when, OK, if this comes in, do I know where it needs to go? But again, I have a great support system, so I can always say, hey, I’m a little stumped, and we can make sure this gets to the right team and we don’t lose any time. I never want to lose time on any project that I get.
Q. What else do you do during the day?
A. A typical day for me, it all depends on what I have going on, but a lot of times our meetings start early. They can start anywhere from 8:30 a.m. They can start at 9. If it’s an important project and it’s critical or we’re on a tight timeline, we may have more meetings just as touch points to make sure we’re on the right track. Or if a client says I don’t understand what you’re doing, I know you gave me all of this information, but can we please just review the process again? We may be on a call for that. Because you have a multitude of projects, you have the potential to be on calls a good part of the morning. But you still have that time to work on whatever else needs to be completed.
Q. Another challenge is juggling and keeping track of everything?
A. Yeah, making sure you’re not missing anything. You definitely have to stay organized. You have to stay on top of all the things that come through here, because you can work with a multitude of people. But you need to know what’s going on with your projects if anyone were to ask you for it.
Q. How long can a single project last?
A. A project can last for a year, from start to finish. The shortest project is within 30 days. You can have projects that come in at the beginning of the month and you’re finished with them in 10 or 15 days. You can have some that say, hey Raveeta, we need this right now, or we need this in four days. We accommodate them as best as we can.
Q. It sounds like people skills come in handy?
A. You do need to have a skill set to deal with people, their personalities, because not every personality is the same, not everyone is the same. I’m an Army brat, so we’re used to meeting people and I enjoy meeting people. There are some people who are not people people, but you still have to know how to interact. There are some people who are very focused and there are some who don’t want the pleasantries of ‘Hey, how is your day going? How are you doing? How are the kids? How is the dog? Just let them know the facts. So you have to know the people in your audience.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?
A. I love that it’s busy. I think I would be very bored if I just sat down and one or two things would come in. I love how it’s different. I love how it challenges me. That is one of the reasons I wanted to come to TSYS is because of the challenge. I knew I wouldn’t be complacent in this job. There would be something new every single day because we’re growing as a company … and just the innovation of the technology that’s coming out and you have to stay up to date.
Q. What would be the next step up for you after project manager?
A. I enjoy the career of project management. If you look at it, it’s a great career. Then you also have your PMP (project management professional) certification to be certified as a project manager. That does take some time and dedication. In reviewing that process for me, I know I would at least need to be in my role for the next five years to be a great and effective PMP.
Q. But at your core, you believe being connected to the community makes you a well-rounded employee?
A. I was an Army brat, so I didn’t have roots. Coming to Columbus, Ga., the idea of people being friends since kindergarten was a foreign concept to me. I wondered what that would be like. And then working in the community, I just saw that there was such a need and sometimes people didn’t know what was there. They didn’t know of the opportunities of how they could help. A lot of people think they have to have a certain job or have money in order to volunteer and give back. But it could be something as small as reading to someone or sharing a meal, or going to the Ronald McDonald House to cook a meal ... You do it because it’s something you truly love and have a passion for it.
Q. Which has always come easy for you?
A. They used to tell me I was a workaholic, like I would stay at work until I got things done, and then come in and early and stay late. But my stress reliever, if I ever got stressed with anything, was to go and volunteer. I’m a firm believer that you lose yourself in the service of others. It becomes less about you and more about how you can give back and help someone else. And that makes me happy. It humbles me and definitely keeps me grounded.
Current residence: Columbus
Education: Attended Hardaway High School (2001) and pursued a sociology degree from Columbus State University (2007)
Previous jobs: Senior case manager with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley
Family: Her mother, Cynthia Crum, and her late brother Christian Crum, an Arnold Magnet Academy student who passed away suddenly in 2009
Leisure time: Enjoys trying and cooking new foods, attending concerts, buying creative artwork and practicing her Spanish speaking skills
Of note: She currently serves on three boards — Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals, Urban League of Greater Columbus Young Professionals and The Family Center of Columbus — and volunteers with various organizations to include Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley, Ronald McDonald House, United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley (community investment volunteer, loaned executive, Stuff the Bus coordinator), Girls Inc., the Columbus Dream Center, and Open Door Community House