EDITOR’S NOTE: The DRJ Career Development Committee is supporting this series of articles featuring the career paths of industry professionals. Throughout this series of candid interviews, we hope to provide career advice to our readers by highlighting lessons learned, highs and lows, opportunities and challenges. The DRJ Career Development Committee promotes education, opportunity, inclusion, and excellence surrounding the exploration and evolution of career paths in all aspects of business continuity and risk management. Key elements of our mission include promoting open and candid discussions of career opportunities, providing mentorship, resources, and guidance to equip our membership with the necessary knowledge, best practices, and tools to succeed in their chosen career path.
Ashley Goosman began her career in disaster work when she took a position with the American Red Cross in New York to work on the Sept. 11 recovery program in the city as their recovery program client enrollment and services coordinator in 2003. Once her participation in the program ended, she took a grant position in her home state as an emergency management coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
What actually started as a two-year contract position escalated into a full-time role. One of the determining factors was the state’s response to supporting individuals airlifted from New Orleans to Cape Cod after Hurricane Katrina. Goosman played a key role in this process.
Shortly after Goosman got the job, the previous director left to work in Washington, D.C. for SAMHSA. Goosman became director of emergency management services less than a year later, taking on the dual roles of being a federal disaster behavioral health coordinator for Massachusetts and leading development of continuity of operations planning for the department.
In addition, she partnered with the commonwealth’s executive office of health and human services, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency on various crisis response, recovery, and planning activities.
From her experience of continuity of operations planning (COOP), Goosman began to build an interest in business continuity planning and moved into the private sector in 2012.
Currently Goosman works for Liberty Mutual Insurance as part of the enterprise security and business continuity’s global business continuity group. She has been with the company for the past seven years and has seen a broad spectrum of growth during that time. She joined as a business continuity project manager and progressed last year into the role of business continuity and crisis management specialist.
“I support business continuity program development and implementation, conduct business impact analysis across the enterprise, as well as coordinate crisis management improvement activities for operations in the U.S.,” she said.
A key aspect of Goosman’s success in making the shift from the public to private sector was gaining a CBCP credential. It helped that I was also an adjunct senior instructor at Cambridge College, heading up a graduate-level course for their healthcare administration program on disaster and terrorism.
One of the most significant challenges Goosman has faced was making the leap from the public to the private sector. Although the work is similar, the lens is different. For example, one’s mission in the public sector appears very simple: the person is responsible for saving and helping to rebuild lives and property at a community, state, and national level. In the private sector, the base mission is the same, but the goal is to protect employees, visitors, business operations, and limit damage to the company’s offices. In Goosman’s case, this means across the globe.
Since making the change, Goosman has never looked back. Although she misses working with her public sector colleagues at times, she is fortunate to work with amazing people every day.
Another challenge was being a female in a field that still mostly consisted of men, particularly with those who came into business continuity from an IT, emergency management, or law enforcement background. Some of Goosman’s key experience in the public sector was working with IT personnel on state audits and alongside emergency management and first responders.
“I came from the health and human services side with a focus on planning and recovery,” she said. “I never felt excluded in any way but was labeled in my role at the department of mental health as only coordinating emotional resilience support for disaster recovery.”
Goosman said at first people were perplexed when she made the switch to the private sector. Still, she saw it as a natural extension of focusing on continuity of operations planning and just taking it to the business side. She learned fast and came to believe business continuity planning was not a luxury but a necessity for all small and large businesses.
In the United States, there are no national regulations which say one must have business continuity plans. It’s a non-mandatory practice except for finance or critical institutions like government or life safety organizations such as hospitals.
Instead, there is a web of regulations and laws which influence the need for continuity planning. Goosman said in some ways she likes that businesses elect to engage in planning because it is the right thing to do. Still, many smaller organizations do not see it as a priority.
“I see it as a massive gap in our overall national resilience,” Goosman said. “It’s must less of an issue internationally, where many countries have written standards like ISO 22301 and local regulations in place.”
However, she said it is usually still a struggle as businesspeople often view business continuity as an add-on task which takes them away from other important work. This viewpoint seems to be changing but working for an insurance company helps because there is a fundamental understanding of risk and limiting exposure to threats which could impact one’s overall success.
During her career, Goosman has experienced many successes. She said it was a challenging and humbling experience to be part of the American Red Cross’s Sept. 11 recovery program.
“I like to say I came in as a ‘second string’ relief player for my co-workers, the majority of which worked for the Red Cross at Ground Zero,” she said. “Before that, I had never worked on a disaster recovery program, for an NGO, and had only been to New York City twice. It launched me into this work and I will always value the experience.”
Another experience for Goosman was working as part of Operation Helping Hand with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The state volunteered to accept 2,500 citizens from New Orleans at the Mass Military Reservation in Bourne, Mass. Now Joint Base Cape Cod, a coalition of state workers and National Guard coordinated to help the 237 people who were eventually airlifted by FEMA to the base. Goosman spent two weeks on that mission and then worked many more days with SAMHSA to launch a disaster behavioral health grant to provide psychological first aid support to our guests from Louisiana.
“In the commonwealth, it was the largest but first of many responses and recovery operations,” Goosman said.
She collaborated with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Office Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Management on multiple events and training exercises.
Another memorable experience was participating in the 2009-10 response to H1N1.
Now, Goosman is excited about the opportunities she has with working at Liberty Mutual to conduct business impact analysis and plan development globally across multiple business units. On the crisis management side, her department has launched several improvements to coordinate services more effectively on behalf of the company.
According to Goosman, working with Liberty Mutual’s many business lines is like working with multiple companies bound together under its insurance umbrella. As the footprint of the company is truly global, it seems there is always a risk or crisis event which is being monitored.
“It’s been an exciting opportunity to support the organization to respond and recover from various challenging events,” she said. “I am proud to participate in and manage new initiatives in this area.”
Over the years, Goosman has had a chance to reflect on her work responding to Hurricane Katrina. This experience taught her to engage people first through their humanity. It enabled her to interact with people at all levels and she learned everyone has something to contribute.
“Now, I connect with people throughout my company daily and it teaches me to stay humble,” Goosman said. “Disaster work can be challenging, and it is continuously inspiring to see how people come together during the worst of circumstances to help each other. It is always rewarding when they are interested in participating in preparedness activities as well.”
Goosman continued, “No matter how much I know in the business continuity field, there are always opportunities to learn new things. It’s what makes my job challenging, continually stimulating, and fun.”
She also said many smaller companies provide chances for a business continuity professional to wear multiple hats in disaster recovery, as a planner, crisis manager, and program manager. Larger companies offer the opportunity to specialize in a critical area but provide exposure to many lines of business.
“I suggest looking for an entry-level position in either type of organization with the ability to grow,” said Goosman. “I was fortunate to join a large organization that has provided me with internal opportunities to continue to develop along with enterprise wide organizational changes.”
She said it is crucial to learn where one’s strengths are and to leverage them while continually building on weaknesses.
“I also advise going into the work with an understanding there is no single recipe book for business continuity and crisis management,” she said. “Every company does business continuity a little differently. Be prepared to be flexible to adjust to the needs of where you work but continue to advocate to close known gaps.”
Goosman said to commit to a life-long learner and continue to build one’s network.
“I am amazed by the people I meet in our field that I engage with every day. I would not be where I am today without my network, so I value it highly.”
For more information on the DRJ Career Development Committee, contact Tracey Forbes Rice. Rice is a member of the Disaster Recovery Journal Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) and chairperson of the Career Development Committee. Rice has 20 years of experience in business continuity and risk management. As vice president of customer engagement at Fusion Risk Management, Rice brings customers together, partnering with them to develop innovative solutions and to achieve new levels of program success. Rice welcomes your feedback at [email protected].