10.24.18

Leadership Fellows Spotlight: Marine Veteran Erik Thomson

For Erik Thomson, learning more about the culture of Boulder County is an impactful aspect of Leadership Fellows Boulder County – a joint leadership development and networking program of the Community Foundation and Boulder Chamber.

 
“The Boulder community and businesses have a unique partnership here,” says Erik, a Vice President of Sales with Zayo Group, a global telecommunications firm headquartered in Boulder. “There are a lot of big and small companies that make that possible, with the underpinning of community organizations and local government agencies that are committed to making our community thrive.”
 
Erik currently leads Zayo’s Premier Accounts team, serving approximately 60% of Zayo’s customers. Previously, he led the Strategic Marketing and Partnerships team for the fiber network and communications infrastructure provider, building relationships with partners to find mutually beneficial results. Erik has also led the Big Data, IT Operations, and IT Finance teams. 
 
“Through Leadership Fellows, I have the opportunity to expand and refine my approach to attracting and retaining the talent we need to succeed,” continues Erik who, prior to Zayo, was a business partner at Goldman Sachs, conducting data analysis and coaching managers. “I’m also learning about the inner workings of our community as a whole, and the many organizations and efforts underway to preserve our environment, to improve local housing and transportation, and to strengthen the other perks of living here.
 
“Zayo requires innovative people who can learn quickly and keep pace with technology. In my work to bring on talented people who could choose to live and settle down anywhere, our community and government entities play a meaningful role in positioning this area as an ideal place to live – in addition to a great place to drive accelerated career growth.”
 
Erik’s public sector experience comes via the Marine Corps, where he served as a Scout Sniper Platoon Commander and Aerial Interdiction Force Commander. He led a counter-narcotics raid force consisting of Marines, DEA, and the Afghan National Interdiction Unit in southern
Afghanistan. He also helped build the Afghan Sniper School curriculum while training the first graduates. 
 
Support our local vets by donating to the Veterans Fund at the Community Foundation by Veterans Day, November 11.
 
“One thing you’ll find with veterans in the workplace is that we’re obsessed with mission accomplishment,” laughs Erik, further reflecting on his work. “I can’t sleep at night if I feel like my team isn’t  making progress and getting closer to achieving our goals.
 

Erik's wife, Alissa Thomson, sees him off on a deployment to Afghanistan.

Erik's wife, Alissa Thomson, sees him off on a deployment to Afghanistan.

Erik's wife, Alissa Thomson, sees him off on a deployment to Afghanistan.

“You couldn’t think of a better translation of that mindset than the entrepreneurial environment where you have to think and move fast – whether you’re supporting the mission of a startup, or a nonprofit, or any other organization or cause. For me, the transition to life here was easy.” Indeed, Erik isn’t a newbie to the area – he earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Colorado State University and an MBA from the University of Colorado Denver, and he’ll join the University of Colorado Boulder as adjunct faculty in the Spring."
 
Adds Erik, “I hire vets purposefully, knowing they’re similarly obsessed with mission accomplishment. That kind of enthusiasm leads to positive results.
 
“When I talk to other employers about hiring vets, I tell them that the number one reason to hire vets is profitability. As an employer, hiring a vet means bringing someone on your team with five or more years of solid leadership experience, and someone who is used to working on teams.”
 
That said, Erik also points out “what vets are bad at.”
 
“We’re terrible at networking and personal branding,” he says. “Vets won’t come to you – you have to go to them if you want to reach the top 5% of veteran talent.” To do so, Erik works closely with the CU Boulder Veterans Alumni Association to find strong candidates. 
 
Embracing a key tenet of the Leadership Fellows program – a commitment to diversity and equity in local leadership – Erik also emphasizes diversity in Zayo’s hiring practices. “We have over 55% diversity on my immediate team,” he concludes. “And in Boulder overall, more than 50% of the team is women. We’ve just exceeded parity in terms of gender balance, and we hope to extend our best practices here to other areas of the business.”
 
Did you know? Graduates of the Leadership Fellows Boulder County commit to taking on local leadership roles within six months of completing the program (e.g., join a nonprofit or government board or commission, work on a candidate or initiative campaign, lead a neighborhood or school association, or run for office). Learn more.