A graduate of West Point Prep and West Point, Michael Tollerton served as a second lieutenant and later, captain, in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2016, holding roles such as battle future operations planner, unit movement officer, brigade budget comptroller and battalion operations office for basic training. Her military career took her from the U.S. Military Academy in New York to Fort Lewis, Wash., and as far afield as the United Arab Emirates.
Despite her success and bright future prospects in the military, in 2016 Tollerton decided it was time to give the private sector a chance.
“While you have a great opportunity in the Army, it wasn’t exactly the opportunity I wanted to have for the next 20 years,” she says. “The higher you go, you get more and more roles offered to you, but it’s less and less with the soldiers, engaging with them on a daily basis.”
In short, while Tollerton liked working “in the mud” with soldiers, the administrative and political side was far less appealing.
Tollerton wasted little time in doing what it takes to climb the ranks in the corporate world. Not yet 30, she’s already an operations team leader at Conmed Corp., a medical device manufacturer based in Largo, where she oversees the budgets and day-to-day operations of two factories of lathes and molding machines. Using her talents for strategy honed in the military, she’s already thinking a few steps ahead.
“I recently had a one-on-one with my boss and he said, ‘Where would you like to go next?’ I said ‘international relations’ and he said that I just lit up when I started talking about that. I’m really interested in how we sell and do business internationally. That would be fun.”
— Brian Hartz
(This story was updated to reflect Tollerton's military rank and the correct number of factories she oversees.)
Name: Michael Tollerton
City of residence: Bradenton
Title: Team Leader
Years on the Gulf Coast: From birth: 24 (without Army travels), After the Army: 9 months
Marital status/children: Engaged, no children
Alma mater/degree: United States Military Academy (West Point)/B.S. International Relations (Engineer track in Computer Science)
Best place to network: The best place is an event where no one is attending specifically to network. (i.e. networking lunches or happy hours)
Messy desk or clean workspace: Currently, messy desk
Eat lunch out or at your desk: I bring my lunch and eat with my peers and employees at our onsite cafeteria.
Best business lesson ever learned: Persistence is the key to success.
Weirdest job you’ve ever had: Never had a weird job
A website that makes your job easier: Kronos workforce central
App you use the most: Since I just bought a house, Pinterest.
One thing you do everyday: I try to engage with every person I work with as well as employees no matter if I need something from them or not. That is a level of engaged leadership and involvement I try to achieve.
Community group you’re most involved with: Haven’t been here long enough to really dig in with one group but I recently just got involved with Bay Area Legal Services to raise funds to expand their Veteran Legal Services initiative.
Favorite off-hours activity: Rescuing animals
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Michio Kaku and Catherine the Great
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Financial management
Top item on your bucket list: Backpack the entire John Muir Trail
Your happy place is: Anywhere with animals and my fiancé, Elvis
Your biggest fear: To reach the end of my life, look back and think I didn’t do enough or didn’t accomplish all I wanted.
Favorite Ted Talk: Any talk by Simon Sinek. He is the epitome of an engaged speaker.
Skill you’d like to learn: To become proficient in a third language
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Hopefully Sandra Bullock
Describe yourself in three words: Tough as nails.