Alumni Spotlight

August Alumni Spotlight with Tahesha Woodson, MPA '13

aug 17 alumni spotlight

Promotions and sizable bonuses are worthwhile, but for aspiring advocates of impactful change, the allure of money and success isn’t enough. In this month’s alumni spotlight Tahesha talks about her role at New York State Lean, transitioning from the private sector to the government sector, and her experience at the Marxe School.

What do you do as Deputy Director of New York State Lean?
In my role I work with state agencies to improve processes and the delivery of services around New York State utilizing the Lean methodology. Lean is a management philosophy used by world class companies to make their operations more effective and efficient. The Performance Management Office is an initiative that has resulted from the SAGE Commission (Spending and Government Efficiency) to improve on delivering services and accountability to citizens. Lean is one component where we focus on developing Lean practitioners, examining key New York State Processes and eliminating wasteful activities.

My responsibilities include: managing the day to day operations of our program office; developing training manuals for agency leadership getting acclimated to Lean, including examples of critical behaviors for champion, deployment managers and project sponsors; working on enterprise process improvements projects and policy analysis; coordinating events including an annual conference; developing communication materials; and managing the Empire Belt training program for individuals that will ultimately be the Lean practitioners; and participating in Lean activities at their respective agencies as well as partnering with project teams to identify performance metrics and countermeasures by developing strategies to monitor performance using Toyota Production System (TPS) and various Lean tools.

Over the past 4 years we have conducted over 600 Lean projects and trained over 750 Lean practitioners and exposed over 10,000 New York State workers to the Lean methodology. I absolutely love the work that I am able to do and the change I am able to create. When we conducted Lean projects we empower many frontline staff to be able to make decisions on improving their daily task by involving those who are doing the work to be involved in the process improvement strategy – not just those in supervisory or management positions. The Lean program gives those who often do not have a voice a seat at the table.

Why did you choose to make the transition from the private sector into state government?
I was working in an executive management position at Macys.com, managing the analytics and reporting department for the company and we hit our first $1Billion in sales volume. It was a great time of celebration and we all received a pretty sizable bonus… but I was not as excited as some of my colleagues. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to spend my full-time job working to impact the lives of people and not simply working really hard to increase a company’s bottom line. I have been involved in volunteerism since I was in grammar school and served on several boards. I knew first-hand how organization that do great work struggle to manage their operations. I made a decision at that time to pursue career opportunities in the not-for-profit and government sectors. I set out to look for roles where I could utilize my business management skills from my over 13 years of experience in the private sector to help drive institutional improvement efforts; ensuring that organizations were following industry best practices in project planning, process improvement, performance evaluation, and personnel development.

What made you decide to go back to school for a graduate MPA degree?
After over 6 months of looking for new the right job opportunity in the public sector and either not receiving any callbacks or going on interviews only to be told you have great skills and experience but the positions that match your background and skill level require a master’s degree, I was getting a little discouraged and pondered if my desire to leave the private sector was really the best decision. As a woman of faith, I prayed about it and then began looking for graduate programs. I was in the process of applying to Columbia, NYU, and Harvard when a friend of mine reminded me about the National Urban Fellows (NUF) program. I was fortunate to be selected as a National Urban Fellow. The NUF leadership development program is a nationally competitive, 14-month, accelerated, graduate degree program comprising of academic course work and a nine-month mentorship assignment. The program culminates in a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree and is fully funded.

What did you gain from your education at the Marxe School?
I gained a very robust education in how public organizations work as well as how to effectively engage with agency leadership. It looks different communicating with a commissioner or deputy secretary versus a CEO. The Marxe School helped me to understand how to speak their language and identify what public organization priorities are. I also learned how to drive change in public organizations through policy as well as operational improvements. The case studies that we had to review and comment on were eye-opening. I have found in my current role drawing back on some of the case studies for baselines data as we look at improving some New York State agencies' public facing processes. I have always been a data person; working in corporate financial planning and analysis for many years. Taking economics courses and the statistics courses really helped me to understand how to process and analyze public data and present it in a way that is easily digestible. I also gained access to a wide network of resources, many of whom are located in Albany. Whenever I have a questions I can always reach out to someone for advice or reference a tool that they are more than willing to share with me.