Forging Connections: Annie Tyson Jett

From shift manager to the COO of a top PR firm, this exec has learned it’s all about building relationships.

Sometimes, a lousy shift can offer great opportunities.

That’s what Annie Tyson Jett learned in her first job, as a manufacturing manager working the third shift. “I had to acclimate to three rotating staffs,” she recalls. “People said this experience would have value, and they were absolutely right—but when I was on the third shift, all I could think of was getting off the third shift.”

Today, Tyson Jett is the COO of B&C Associates, Inc., a consulting and public relations firm in High Point, North Carolina, founded during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, when it helped clients resolve workplace conflicts and inequities.

Before joining B&C, Tyson Jett worked in human resources and diversity for Sara Lee, and started her own human resources firm with her husband. Diversity Woman spoke with Tyson Jett about her career path and the virtues of that third shift.

DW: Did you always want a business career?
ATJ: At first, I wanted to go into social work or psychology—and in human resources, we do use those skills. But my counselors saw that I had significant math aptitude and convinced me to go into math. But once I got my degree in professional applied mathematics, I couldn’t see myself sitting all day programming, even though I was shy and still am introverted.

DW: So how did you find your way into such a people-oriented career?

ATJ: I got into manufacturing management at Burlington Industries—on the third shift, where I rotated departments and had all different employees.

DW: How did that shift have value?

ATJ: I knew how to do every job, so I understood the perspectives of both the worker and the manager. Having been exposed to so many different kinds of people in my
career—not just backgrounds, but personalities—has heightened my awareness.

DW: You started at B&C as a vice president and chief of human resources. How has your focus shifted now that you’re COO?

ATJ: We analyze the community that our client would be serving—see its makeup—then engage the leadership of the community. We meet with people, see who they are and what they need.

DW: For the past two years, you’ve been a delegate to the United Nation’s Session of the Council on the Status of Women. What has that been like?

ATJ: I’ve met women from 45 other countries. It’s hard for us to understand there are still places where women don’t get educated because they spend all day walking to get water. Many of us recognized that there is much to be addressed everywhere, even here in the United States. But on a positive note, being in the presence of female thought leaders from around the world made me proud and humbled.

DW: You still consider yourself introverted. How have you worked around that?

ATJ: My family, educators, and mentors encouraged me—some very strongly—to participate in social events, lead discussions, and take on leadership positions. Eventually, I have found engaging with others almost second nature. DW

Katrina Brown Hunt, based in San Diego, has written for Fortune Small Business, Smart Money, and the Seattle Times.

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