Maggie Gleason: Fast Associate Partner, Griz for Life

Gleason

April 5, 2018
 
Maggie Gleason is an associate partner at FAST Enterprises, a provider of software and consulting services for governments. Headquartered in Centennial, Colorado, FAST has a global workforce of more than 1,200 consultants and consistently earns “best workplace” recognition, including five consecutive awards from online jobs and career community Glassdoor for being a great place to work by a variety of measures.
 
Gleason joined the company in 2002 after graduating from UM with her bachelor’s in management information systems. The College of Business marketing team spoke with Maggie in March about her background, about working at FAST, and about giving back to UM — which Gleason does in a number of ways, including sitting on our Business Advisory Council.
 
Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
 
COB: Tell us about where you grew up and how you ended up at UM.
 
MG: I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and am the youngest of five kids. At a pretty young age, I became really interested in golf and developed a goal to play division one golf at a university. Through a long period of recruiting and interviews, I ended up at the University of Montana with a golf scholarship, and I was thrilled. I loved Missoula right away.
 
COB: How do you feel like being a student athlete shaped your time at school?
 
Golf, more than any other sport, had the most days away from class. It required a lot of coordination with all my professors, and asking things such as, “I’m going to be out this Monday and Tuesday. What are the assignments ahead of time?” I did a lot of homework on the road. It’s not that I received any special treatment, but people were definitely really respectful.
 
The University is surrounded by the city of Missoula, and I don’t mean only geographically, but that’s what makes the city tick. I loved being in a place that really supported the students and supported student athletes, because I felt really included.
 
COB: Did you always know you wanted to be an MIS major?
 
One of my older sisters was a marketing major. She’s about ten years older than me and very successful, and I thought, “I want to be just like her, so I’m going to go into marketing. I’m going to go into business.” I spent about a year thinking that’s what I was going to do. I took the 270 course (MIS Foundations for Business) and that’s where I changed my mind.
 
I thought, “Well this is super interesting. It’s also something I think I can do.” This was late ‘90’s, probably ‘99, and I felt like it was a time where there was a lot of opportunity for MIS opportunities in the market overall.
 
And then when I got in the program, I loved it. I loved the coursework. It felt pretty cutting edge, super marketable. It felt like I was opening my doors to so many more opportunities. I could do something more technical, or less technical, but still have the business foundation from taking marketing and management and accounting and finance courses. I still felt like I had a great foundation to be able to do anything I wanted after I graduated.
 
COB: How did you end up at FAST?
 
I traveled around Europe for a few months after graduation in 2002, and when I came back I started really looking for a job. I worked with a recruiting company through a family friend and she had a neighbor who worked for FAST. She said, “This is a great company. It’s a tech start-up. They have this little office in Boise.” I thought it was great. I thought, “I love Missoula, but I really love Boise and I can’t wait to live in Boise for the rest of my life.”
 
I interviewed and had a lovely interview. I got the offer — it was to join FAST but to move to one of their new projects, which at that time was in Louisiana. So I had a decision to make, and I thought to myself, “This isn’t exactly what I expected.” I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last 16 years is that life isn’t going to be exactly what you expect but that it is going to work out anyway.
 
I talked things over with my family and it was my dad who said, “What do you have to lose? If you don’t like it, you come back. Go give it a shot!” It was less about whether you’re going to succeed or not succeed, and more about just give it a shot, give it an opportunity and see where that goes. So I took the job and in maybe a week or two I was living in Louisiana. Since then I’ve spent three years in Louisiana, one year in Arizona, three years in West Virginia, four years in Georgia, one year in Malaysia, and now Boston, where I’ve been since 2014.
 
COB: You were named Associate Partner at FAST in 2014. Can you talk about the opportunity for growth you’ve had in your career?
 
When you have a career in a place like FAST, it really underscores that you to have to open up your mind to new ideas, people, and different situations. You never know what to expect. Every time I moved to a new project, my house and commute was going to be different, the people I’m working with are different, and clients and their needs are different, and if you embrace that with pretty open arms it’s an opportunity to really grow personally and professionally.
 
One of the biggest strengths about working in FAST is the fact that you really learn from your mistakes quickly and get opportunities to continually practice your skills and improve.  The way our projects are structured are such that you have this opportunity to start fresh with people, to collaborate on the best ideas, and iterate through that rapidly.
 
I love the idea of making your own luck, or making your own opportunities. There are opportunities all over the place, you just have to be ready to sprint through a door when it opens.
 
COB: FAST routinely recruits UM students. Why is that?
 
We recruit at about 150 schools. The UM program itself really lends itself and its students well to what we do. We typically hire implementation consultants, so we need people who have a bit of a technical background, but also have the ability to interact with clients positively, and have an understanding of things like math and accounting. We also have a lot of happy, successful employees coming from the UM MIS program so we continue to come back to pull from that foundation.
 
And it’s interesting, you wonder if it is the program itself, or is it the type of student that’s attracted to UM, and that’s what we like. There’s a bit of that “make your own luck” kind of spirit at UM. Our job isn’t for everybody, but we look for people who are ready to do something meaningful and just have it be a learning experience. It’s a true lifelong learning experience. If you’re interested in that, then that’s what you’re going to get with FAST.
 
COB: We feel so fortunate to have alumni like you who stay connected with UM and the College of Business. Why do you feel compelled to engage in all the ways that you do?  
 
I feel strongly about helping other UM students succeed. My experience being a student was completely transformative. I came into college in a totally different way than I came out. Part of that was my experience playing on the golf team and part of that was formed at the School of Business.
 
But I know there are lots of other people at UM who are like me and they’re ready for an awesome opportunity. They’re got that Montana “grit” and are ready to keep learning. I feel really strongly about that with my connection with Montana. I see some of myself in them. People at UM are genuinely, authentically excited about an opportunity, sincerely want to work hard, and they’re interested in what we’re doing. That’s the type of person we want.