Tawny Dotson has been fighting for her dream career since college. She looked to the military for financial help to get her degree, then commissioned into the US Air Force. During her active duty, she developed a drive for excellence that led her to pursue a doctorate and career in higher education.
Now the Vice President for Strategic Development at Clover Park Technical College in Washington State, Dotson is helping masses of students achieve their dreams. She shared how she balances a VP position and being a mom, her top tips for people entering the workforce and what she loves about working in education.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Tawny Dotson
Vice President for Strategic Development, Clover Park Technical College
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
It took a lot of grit and luck to get where I am today. I needed a way to pay for college, and looked into the military to help. I commissioned into the US Air Force upon graduation from Washington State. My time on active duty gave me a sense of belonging and contribution to society that still drives me today.
I transitioned off active duty in 2006 and joined the world of higher education shortly afterward. I have been able to use my military leadership and communication skills throughout my civilian career. The drive for excellence instilled in me as an Airman has kept me focused through my masters degree and doctorate. I’m so grateful for the ability to continue to serve through the Washington Air National Guard and for Clover Park Technical College’s willingness to support me.
Most importantly, I’m where I am today because I’ve said yes to all the challenges life has thrown at me. I used them to catapult me to a better version of me and never let them get me down.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
My greatest accomplishment is being a strong role model for my children. Every day they see me balance my career goals with my commitment to my kids. I make sure they see and understand that I’m not letting my dreams go because I’m a mom. I’m pursuing both being a great mom and having a great career with all that I have to give — and then some!
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
Col. Anne Maziar has gone out of her way to develop real leaders, and I’m proud to be one of them. She is willing to go against the grain, fights for diversity when not popular, and puts her people before herself. She’s the kind of leader I hope to emulate.
What do you do when you're not working?
Drive my kids to their sports games, run on the treadmill and read voraciously!
If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?
President Barack Obama and his wife (did I just cheat?). What an inspirational couple who have given so much to this country. I’d like to ask them about committing to a life of public service knowing they wouldn’t always be treated kindly. I’d like to focus on understanding how they kept themselves above the fray whenever possible.
Lightning Round: What is your go-to karaoke song?
Drinking Class by Lee Brice — but I do not sing!
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
"Gone With the Wind."
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
"Start with Why" by Simon Sinek.
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
Every outfit produced by The Loft, Nordstrom’s TBD and Banana Republic.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Perseverance is required. No great career happens without a great deal of hard work. The truth is you have to be better, faster and work harder to make it happen. Most importantly, you have to be willing to get back up every time life knocks you down.
Why do you love where you work?
America’s community colleges are the place where the real American Dream becomes reality. I love where I work because I am a part of seeing people start from anywhere and find a passion, a career and a way to a brighter future. There are few places you can have the kind of depth and breadth of impact I have at CPTC.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.