Senior Director of Operations
Five Rivers Services
Andrea Vohsman is a senior director of operations for Five Rivers Services. She has been with the Akima family of companies for nine years.
As a student at Arizona State University, Andrea Vohsman wasn’t so sure of her professional path. She took a variety of classes—from psychology to communications—and switched majors several times. After moving to Colorado, a friend’s suggestion that she look into programming sparked a broader interest in the information technology field in general. Soon she was graduating with her degree in computer information systems management, and the job offers soon started coming in. Andrea picked one that offered a technical advisory role at Schriever Air Force Base, and it turned out to be the right move.
“I ended up becoming very effective in that job,” Andrea says. She shared an office with an Air Force captain and a government civilian and learned more about her environment and her higher-ups. It wasn’t uncommon that she was the only woman in meetings—and being new to the field, she had no idea what all those military acronyms meant, Andrea recalls.
Her career took an unexpected detour when, during the dot-com era, she took a job with a startup that eventually went under. Fortunately, people she had previously worked with remembered her and wanted her to be on their team—she found herself back at Schriever working for Northrop Grumman, where she was promoted to a senior manager, taking on more responsibilities and growing further as a professional.
One day, Andrea was approached by someone who wanted her to come work with him at the IT services company, Five Rivers Services (FRS). There was one very appealing aspect of the job: It was only minutes from where Andrea lived, whereas the Air Force base had been a 45-minute drive away. “I had young children at the time, so that was important to me,” she says.
Andrea began her new job, working side-by-side with her peer, Lori Thomas, who today is the company’s president. As FRS grew, matured, and became more successful, Andrea did as well.
In its early days, FRS was in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program with only a few contracts. Because of its outstanding performance, FRS’ reputation grew, and it soon secured some direct awards, but more importantly, some competitive wins. Revenue began to grow, and because of the company’s depth of experience and proven track record of outstanding performance, FRS expanded further after graduating from the 8(a) program, Andrea says.
Thanks to its success, FRS won larger contracts and began competing with more prominent firms. Throughout the years, the company has operated in 32 locations across the nation and globally. With employees all over the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Guam, Andrea says one of her key roles is to help them succeed in their day-to-day jobs.
“From an operations standpoint, if they have any problems, questions or if they ever need anything, I want to be here for them and have that open door policy,” she says. “To want to be here for the people and knowing that they can rely on me—that is what keeps me going.”
The key to her success—and her advice for those who want to follow her path—is to be willing and able to learn from anyone.
Balance is also crucial, “and I don’t necessarily think you need to work 12-hour days to get ahead,” Andrea says. “I just think you need to work smart… As a woman in technology, you have to have that balance, and you’ll be a happier person to be around. You’ll be able to influence others, so you can’t burn out. You’ve got to have that balance.”