When asked if she is proof that women can have it all, Ann Oleson referred to a quote by journalist and former California first lady Maria Shriver.
“Women can have it all; they just can’t do it all at the same time,” Oleson said. “It’s a matter of prioritizing, of defining your priorities and deciding where you place your focus.”
With that philosophy, Oleson has accumulated a portfolio of successes — at home, at work and in the community. She runs one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country, serves as a role model for community service, and is a softball and baseball mom of two active teenagers.
In 2011, Oleson left a successful marketing and research career to found Converge Consulting, a digital marketing company for higher education.
Since then, the business has grown from two to around 50 employees, with locations in both Cedar Rapids and Raleigh, N.C., and has partnered with over 200 colleges and universities across North America.
“We work with people on how to recruit students,” Oleson said.
Converge has made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing businesses for three consecutive years. The company’s five-year plan includes continued growth at least at the current level, Oleson said.
Oleson’s business success has not come without personal sacrifice, in particular, frequent travel that takes her away from her family.
“It’s not a normal nine-to-five job,” she said. “As a business owner in a sales position, I have to travel away from home one to two nights a week.”
Despite her hectic schedule, Oleson remains fully engaged in the lives of her two children, volunteering at their schools, attending their sporting events and taking her daughter on college visits.
While she may not be able to make 100 percent of their activities, she attends as many as possible, she said.
One thing that Oleson, out of necessity, has placed on the back burner for now is her involvement in community and professional organizations.
“Things that take less of a priority are, unfortunately, things I love doing,” she said.
Even so, her community service efforts continue to reap benefits, such as her volunteer work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids. Oleson has maintained a relationship with her “little sister,” Mary, for more than 15 years, helping Mary become the first member of her family to attend and graduate from college. Their pairing has been lauded by the organization as one of its most successful.
Oleson offered some advice for other women striving to have it all.
“Pick a goal, stay in your lane and continue to focus, even if others have doubts,” she said.
“Put your warrior self out there every day.”
• Once a month, Business 380 will spotlight one of HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.