Behind the code and finding the “why”
Tonya’s tech roots were planted in 2002 when she opened a small, minority-owned tech company to build custom applications with small teams of developers.
“I fell in love with requirements, automation, collaboration, iterative development and relentless improvement,” Tonya said of her first experience in the field. “I didn’t find out about Agile until years later, and I went back to school for my MBA in project management in order to enhance my understanding and knowledge about the project management discipline.”
Post-graduation, Tonya hit the ground running with her new passion and skills.
She was hired as a business analyst with the Department of Revenue, where she participated in Agile transformation. She moved on to a pharmaceutical company, where she led the cloud platform Agile team as a process specialist and trainer, coach and consulting liaison. Afterwards, she became senior scrum master and Agile coach at an automotive technology company. But in these positions, Tonya said she found the project management process to be – well, not agile.
“It was very heavy, very rigorous, very stringent,” Tonya said about one experience. “No one led with the ‘why,’ so people didn’t understand why we were doing things the way we were doing them, and if we lack buy-in, it creates gaps.”
A friend who worked at Cox recommended that Tonya explore a position with the company. In 2018, Tonya became a senior release train engineer for Cox Automotive’s DealerTrack brand. Not only did Tonya find Cox’s tech teams more conducive to Agile, but her leadership skills blossomed in Cox’s flexible environment too. Tonya has since spearheaded initiatives, facilitated DISC personality trainings and served as a thought leader in the industry.
Tonya has the heart of a teacher, and that translates to her life outside of work too. She loves being able to nurture and coach her daughter and five sons.
“The way I parent is the way I coach an agile team,” she said. “I believe the strong foundational principles of having the confidence to fail fast, self-organize, be courageous and transparent and drive toward relentless improvement builds solid character. I will often run mini retrospectives after practices and games!”
Giving everyone a voice
Tonya contrasted Cox with other companies when it comes to valuing employees.
“I love that Cox gives engineers a voice,” she said. “I’ve seen workplaces where it’s more of a ‘just sit there and code’ type of environment. Not here. They encourage communication and transparency. All teams have the ability to share ideas. We have senior leaders inboxing engineers to say things like ‘How are you? Is everything going okay? I saw you did XYZ today and I wanted to thank you.’ I’ve never had that at any other company.”
Tonya said one reason why voices are elevated at Cox is because it’s a culture of achievement.
“This is an organization of high-performers,” Tonya said (and she would know!). “What we do matters. We’re creating things that will progress our culture, our environment, our world and how we do business tomorrow.”
Tonya, who is part of Cox’s diversity and inclusion working group, added that Cox is intentional about its stance on increasing numbers of minority employees in leadership positions and nurturing talent and diverse employees within the company.
And the cherry on top?
“Sometimes in companies, you’ll find personalities clashing and a cutthroat environment. I’ve found that people here are nice. I mean, actually, genuinely nice. We’re constantly pushing the message of collaboration, communication and respect. I’ve never seen leaders so accommodating and caring.”