Vanessa Vaughn: My Experience as a Young Leader in Resilience
Vanessa S. Vaughn is the founder of Asfalis, a boutique-consulting firm focused on Crisis Management & Business Continuity. Prior to owning her own firm, she gained her experience through two major corporations, government agencies and a university. Her expertise encompasses business resilience, which includes crisis management and business continuity. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina and is a Certified Business Continuity Professional through DRI International. Here, she shares her experiences and thoughts as a business continuity professional.
How did you become involved in resilience and its related industries (business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency management, information risk management, etc.)?
I majored in Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) at Savannah State University. My education taught me how the system worked from a government perspective. I secured about 5 internships in undergrad to teach me other components about the industry, and the last internship was a job at corporate. My role was to develop a business continuity management program for a global company.
What is your current position?
I am the founder of Asfalis, a Crisis Management/Business Continuity boutique consulting firm and also work for a Fortune 100 international corporation.
How would you describe your job to someone who is unfamiliar with the industry?
I educate leaders on what their business cannot survive without, and teach them strategies to help protect their investments.
What do you consider the greatest advantage of being a resilience professional?
The greatest advantage is that we are always thinking about continuity. At work, home, and with the organizations I volunteer with. I’m always the person that is looking for Plan B up front, before “it” happens.
What is your biggest challenge as a resilience professional? As a recent entrant to the field?
The biggest challenge is no one really knows what a resilience professional is or what we do. It usually requires an example to explain. As a recent entrant to the field there’s no pathway to success defined. We have to create it, which can be a good thing.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or milestone as a resilience professional?
I was in a tornado in 2008 that almost ended my life. Since that day I made it a priority to make people more aware of threats/hazards and give them solutions to protect their families and businesses. My greatest achievement is living out my passion and leaving someone with a better understanding of not only what we do, but also how it is essential to normal day-to-day operations of most people’s lives.
Why do you consider resilience and its related industries to be significant?
Unexpected events will always happen and people and businesses will be the most affected. The statistics regarding business failures after an event are alarming; we have more work to do.
What do you consider the most important issues facing professionals new to the resilience fields?
The most important issues are how to get people to invest in us. Crises and disasters are happening more frequently, and with increasing intensity. We have to know the pain points of the business leaders to stay on their radar.
What advice do you have for those who are interested in joining this field?
Be creative, passionate, and get comfortable with making others uncomfortable in order to influence change.
What have been the most important developments in resilience since you’ve entered the field? Why?
When I started out, the HSEM curriculum was new to colleges and universities. After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina our federal government learned we needed a structured response from the private and public sectors. Those developments were the most important, because we would not be where we are today without it.
What advances do you hope to see in resilience in the next decade? Why?
I hope to see small businesses take a better approach at Resilience. They keep our economy going. They have fewer resources than corporate, but are the most critical.
What challenges do you face as a professional new to the resilience fields?
The challenge is creating your path. Taking what you learn and figuring out what impact you want to make in the world.