Robin January was a college student, a single mother to a young daughter diagnosed with a serious medical condition and a full-time Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) TSO in 2002. Stressors? She had them. Pressures? You bet.
“My plate was full,” January recalled. “I was trying to meet my daughter’s needs, complete my college degree and work full-time. There are only so many hours in a day, and I had to make some difficult decisions on how to prioritize what I had to accomplish early on.“
January compartmentalized to stay focused. It’s a coping mechanism she picked up from her father.
“You can’t stay in that box forever,” said January, acknowledging that all of life requires full attention. “But while at work, I was single-mindedly dedicated to the mission.”
Grateful for a supportive family who taught her at a tender and inexperienced age how to balance life’s demands, January pays it forward in her current role as an ATL Communication Solutions Specialist (CSS). She was one of the first CSSs hired in 2017 and is now part of a growing team, approaching a dozen CSSs at large and medium hub airports across the nation.
On a daily basis, January and her colleagues combine their personal grit and professional skills while helping people resolve issues at the lowest level possible.
“I work with TSA Georgia and other airports nationwide to help mitigate or resolve employee concerns,” said January, adding that “all people really want is to be heard.”
With a background in healthcare business administration, January’s original intent was to work for Health and Human Services.
“I planned for TSA to be my stepping stone,” said January, who wanted to break into the federal system anywhere she could. “As it turned out, I remained with TSA and was able to advance my career,” serving as lead TSA officer, supervisory officer, Customer Service Quality Improvement manager and Integrated Conflict Management System coordinator and program manager.
Relatable and effective – she sees and hears you
January is relatable because she’s walked many miles in many different pairs of shoes — including ones similar to yours.
“Having started my career with TSA as an officer, I understand the importance of being in the right frame of mind as [officers] screen both passengers and property,” said January.
A trained mediator and gifted communicator, January is effective in brokering solutions because she humanizes each person and their challenges on and off the job.
“When there is a concern or issue that is weighing heavily on you, it makes it difficult to focus on your task,” cautioned January. “At times, some concerns can be overwhelming. That has the potential to compromise the mission, making you and the agency extremely vulnerable.”
When January discusses a work problem, she uses a holistic approach, helping everyone from uniformed officers to leadership view an obstacle as others might see it. Respectful but no-nonsense, she expands the micro specifics of a case to the macro perspective, helping find the best solution that suits the mission, the employee and coworkers.
What I do matters
“I have a direct and positive impact on helping employees resolve their challenges and reclaim their focus on the mission,” January said. “Each person needs to be provided with an opportunity to develop themselves and get the support they need. Understanding that need may be different for each person, there is not a once-size-fits-all approach.
“In addition to providing support for employees on day-to-day issues and challenges, I also partner with ATL leadership in developing and implementing strategic plans and processes designed to support the organizational health of the TSA ATL workplace. The support I provide ranges from working individually with a leader to help them understand the differences between the intent of their actions versus the impact of those actions on the workforce to help leaders build community and strength within their teams.”