Recognizing that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the UTSA College of Business, Ann Janson, ’97 is giving back to the institution that helped her launch her career in human resources.
Janson, a human resources manager on the leadership team at Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery near New Orleans, has volunteered as part of the college’s Career Action program for the past several years.
“I’m grateful to UTSA for helping me start my career,” said Janson. “I give back to the college’s Center for Student Professional Development because I know how valuable that professional start is for business students.”
Sharing her 25 years of experience with business students, Janson encourages students to network to build their professional connections. “Have your 30-second pitches ready and be willing to have those conversations. You never know who you will meet.”
Just this past year, she decided to establish a $250,000 gift in her will to benefit the college and solidify that support.
Traveling to San Antonio regularly to visit family, Janson is in awe of the changes that have occurred on campus. “UTSA was vastly different when I was a student than now,” she said. “There were four buildings along with the Convocation Center. I lived in brand new on-campus apartments. About 13,000 students were enrolled, and the bulk of them were commuters.”
Fate can be credited with bringing Janson to UTSA. She received her first acceptance letter from UTSA, and she chose the school due to its proximity to her family living in Dallas as well as the reasonable cost. She visited San Antonio for the first time as part of freshmen orientation.
Janson knew she was interested in business, but did not settle on a major right away. Struggling in an accounting course, she considered dropping out of school, but she soon found her penchant for human resources after counseling her father about an issue at his workplace based on knowledge she’d gained from a human resources management course.
Building a network of friends and future colleagues in the college’s human resource management program, Janson appreciated the insights she learned from faculty members Gary Raffaele and Brian Murray.
“My HR professors made the topics engaging and talked about real-life business issues,” she said. “They encouraged us to take the Professional Human Resources exam, and I’ve maintained my certification all these years.”
Janson learned about an internship opportunity at Rush Enterprises in the human resource department that a UTSA alumnus had posted through Murray. Not only did she get the internship, but they also made her a full-time offer before she graduated. “They were a growing company, and I had exposure to the chief executive leaders,” she said.
Traveling with the owner Marvin Rush on the corporate jet, she was asked to take on a role as a salesman to help diversify their team at a Peterbilt dealership the company was acquiring in Denver. With no background in sales, she quickly got herself up to speed by spending time with the sales, service and other dealership departments to learn about semitrucks. She even got her commercial driver’s license.
“Being an actual field employee was an eye-opening experience,” said Janson, who held that role for one year before returning to human resources. “It was a really interesting experience to be at a dealership, not corporate, post-acquisition. Within the first three weeks I sold my first truck, and I soon outsold others.”
The next two companies that she worked for ultimately closed down, and she gained valuable experience in learning how to close a company and managing mass layoffs. Once again, her UTSA connections served her well. Later in her career while lining up companies to attend a job fair for her transitioning employees, she learned about a position with Valero’s regional office in Colorado. The hiring manager knew Janson through UTSA connections, and thus began her career in the oil and gas industry.
Fast-forward to today, she heads a human resources department for Phillips 66 near New Orleans. Her team includes employee relations, labor relations, training, medical, communications and public relations.
“My whole career I’ve enjoyed being an HR generalist,” said Janson, who has lived in New Orleans for six years. “I enjoy the variety of overseeing various departments and partnering with my colleagues to meet the goals of the company.”
This career move did offer a unique opportunity for Janson. Working at a union site, she was able to put into practice labor relations experience that she learned from Raffaele. “I immediately pulled out notes from my days at UTSA. It was a flood of memories. Dr. Raffaele had us do a mock arbitration as part of his labor relations class, and he gave us very meaningful feedback. Who knew his class would shape my career so many years later?”
While she is not working, her true passion is traveling. Janson has visited 59 countries with a goal of visiting 100 countries before she dies. Some of her favorite locales have been Thailand, Iceland and Vietnam. When the pandemic ends, she hopes to resume her travel schedule with a trip to Greenland.
“Never in my life did I think I would be in the position that I’m in now, both personally and professionally,” said Janson. “UTSA was critical to my success, and that’s not lost on me.”