Tanisha on How Passion has Driven Her Career from Consulting to a Presidential Campaign to an MBA

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Tanisha Dozier is in Finance at Amazon and has over 10 years of experience in both the private and public sectors. Tanisha started her career in Internal Audit at Sears where she worked for two years until joining Protiviti Chicago in 2005 as a Sr. Consultant in the Internal Audit group. In 2007, Tanisha joined Obama for America where she worked in accounting and auditing during the presidential campaign and on the inaugural committee following President Obama’s win. After the election, Tanisha joined the Department of Defense (DoD) where she performed quantitative and qualitative analysis until 2013 when she left to pursue an MBA. After earning her MBA from Columbia Business School in 2015, Tanisha joined Colliers International as a Senior Associate where she worked for two years before joining Amazon. Connect with Tanisha on LinkedIn.

Give us your elevator speech of your career so far.

tanisha dozierMy career to this point has been about following my passion and growth. So at every turn, I’ve taken an opportunity to do what excites me at that moment. After leaving Protiviti, I ended up jumping on President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign to work in accounting.

From there, I transitioned into the inaugural committee where I led an auditing team. I went into a role for the Obama administration under the Department of Defense. Then I made a complete pivot and said, I want to go to business school! That’s what led me to where I am today, working in finance for Amazon.

What made you start out in Internal Audit?

I was interning with Sears in the merchandise analysis group, which was working with buyers on how much to buy, when to buy it and where to send it. During that internship, there were four different groups of interns. I enjoyed what I was doing, but felt like I wasn’t getting the robust experience I had wanted. So toward the end of the summer, I made a point to reach out to all of the VP’s that represented the other intern groups and met with each for coffee or lunch to learn what they do and see if there was a better fit for me. I ended up loving the idea of Internal Audit and what the VP explained the career trajectory to be in Internal Audit.

So when I got back to school, I had to re-interview for an Internal Audit role even though I got an offer in the Merchandise Analysis group. What really stood out to me was that in merchandising, I would understand merchandising; but internal audit gave me a chance to sit at the top of the stadium and understand all of the functions that make a business run.

How did you end up working for Obama for America and what was it like to work on a presidential campaign?

It really was a bootstrap campaign. I had never done anything like that before, but I really believed in the candidate and wanted to get involved. I was reaching out to my entire network and asking, how do I be a part of this? Some led to dead ends, but next thing I knew, I had an interview. I had no idea it would lead to an actual job. It was really exciting, very intense and a lot of work.

So you called in thinking you would volunteer and ended up with a job instead?

Yes, I thought I’d be phone banking or knocking on doors after work. I had no idea that my background would fit – thanks to Protiviti! – with the needs the campaign had at that time.

The experience was interesting because you had a mixed bag of people. Most of my team didn’t have true accounting experience, but they were people like myself who were really excited to be working on a presidential campaign and were passionate about the candidate. The sign of a good accounting team on a campaign is when you don’t hear about them. Thankfully, you didn’t hear much about us.

What’s the difference between accounting on a presidential campaign and for a public company?

It’s basic accounting transactions, but just really fast paced. The regulatory reporting requirements are also different from public companies. You have to look at donations over a certain amount and provide names for each of those donations.

Also, in 2008, Obama had made a pledge to not take money from foreign entities or any lobbyists. So we had to vet every single dollar to meet this self-imposed requirement, in addition to the legal requirements.

Another interesting role I had was with the inaugural committee after the election. It’s literally a startup. You start the committee with zero dollars in the bank. We raised 250 million dollars or so and spent it all. From November to January, think of raising that amount and spending it all! You have to account for every dollar accurately or it’s bad press for the candidate.

Where you were when President Obama was elected?

In the two weeks leading up to election night, I was asked to go to North Carolina. Prior to that, North Carolina was a long shot, but then, it was suddenly in play. There was a real chance we might carry North Carolina.

If we were going to win, a couple things needed to happen: we needed strong ground game and funding in place. So they deployed me to North Carolina to manage the budget in those two weeks. On the morning of the election, I got on a plane and headed back to Chicago. We had the momentum and felt like we were going to win. I spent election day with colleagues in Grant Park.

After the inauguration, you took a finance job with the Department of Defense. What was that experience like?

It was an amazing experience. Not having any military background, it was really a unique experience where I was learning firsthand the commitment military members make day in and day out to protect us. On the other hand, I was transitioning into government and the government does things completely differently from the private sector.

It was a period of tremendous growth and personal fulfillment. The impact of a wrong answer in the role I was in could have wide-ranging effects – not just on me, but other countries and other people. So that was huge.

What’s an example of that?

My role at the DoD (Department of Defense) was the intersection between policy and finance. For every policy decision that the President or National Security Council makes, there’s a dollar impact. One example might be that if we’re going to send a unit to a country in Africa, how much does that cost? The wrong answer could lead to them not standing up a unit and we aren’t protecting against whatever threat they thought we’d defend.

What made you pivot and go to business school?

The MBA was always the goal. I kind of went off the path with the campaign and what was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at the Pentagon. I saw it as a way to get back on path as well as a way to transition back into the private sector. I had been at DoD for a number of years and my resume was speaking to, she’s a government person, which I wasn’t!

What was business school like?

The most amazing two years! Columbia is a great school. You have two years where you just learn so much. You ask so many questions. You meet so many people who expand your idea of what business is, what’s possible for your life and what’s possible for your career. It’s just amazing. And New York is the best place to do it. What better city in the world than in New York where you have some of the top business minds in the world? You get to meet CEOs who are doing CEO business during the day, but on campus by 5 p.m. to give a lecture. Being able to soak all that up like a sponge was such an incredible experience.

What did you do after earning your MBA?

I worked for Colliers International, a real estate firm. I played with a lot of opportunities post-MBA, but I thought Colliers would be a really unique experience because I reported directly to the head of U.S. business and was his special assistant. Everything he touched, I touched first. Here I was sitting at the seat of someone who had risen through the ranks and I was sitting on his calls, getting to understand how senior leadership thinks about big problems. I did that for about two years and when he transitioned, I transitioned. That led me to Amazon.

What’s something unique about working at Amazon?

Even at the ground level, you can see why Amazon is so successful. They have very high standards with intense work environments, but healthy intense! It’s like business school in that we’re always testing things, always trying to be on the cutting edge of everything. There’s no preconceived notions about the solution; we’re allowed to questions everything and test everything.

What’s been your biggest career learning so far?

It’s almost cliché, but don’t be afraid to take risks! The reward is often greater than any perceived risk.

Who should be featured in the next Alumni Spotlight? Let us know at Alumni@Protiviti.com!

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