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Meet Anne Russell, a Principal Geospatial Sciences Program Lead for the Greater North region and co-lead of SWCA’s Disability and Critical/Chronic Illness Employee Resource Group (ERG) alongside Stacy Mitchell, a Total Rewards analyst out of our Phoenix, AZ office. Anne shares what leading the ERG means to her and the group’s current priorities.

Anne Russell, a Principal Geospatial Sciences Program Lead and co-lead of SWCA’s Disability and Critical/Chronic Illness Employee Resource Group (ERG).

Q: Tell us about yourself and your career.

A: I’ve been with SWCA for over 15 years. I started as a part-time GIS tech in Albuquerque and worked my way up to a lead geospatial scientist. I’m passionate about teaching GIS through mentoring my direct reports and helping develop standards and tools for the team. There’s always something to learn in GIS, so it means a lot to me when I can help an emerging GIS professional.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?

A: My hobbies center around relaxation; I enjoy painting, drawing, birding (and taking pictures of birds to use as art references), and I consider myself a Lego master! My house has a room dedicated to Legos for building my own intricate castle designs. Gidget, my beloved rescue boxer, is incredibly special to me.

Q: What does leading the Disability and Critical/Chronic Illness ERG mean to you, and how did you become involved with it?

A: When I had breast cancer in 2021 it was harrowing. A group of women at SWCA came together for me and they made a huge difference in my life. They supported me with care packages and meals, listened to me, and helped me get through treatment. Within about a year of completing treatment, I discovered I wanted to contribute something of my own to pay it forward in this space. I had the idea to create a Critical and Chronic Illness ERG, but upon connecting with Stacy, we realized there was more opportunity in merging the groups.

This is part of my journey – I want to tell my story to empower other survivors. People go through all kinds of challenges. As a leader, I strive to be an ear for group members with critical illness, chronic illness, and disability alike. It’s about being a true listener and ally, and respectful of others’ confidentiality.

Q: What are the goals and activities of the group?

A: Currently, we’re working to get the word out that the Disability ERG has expanded to include Critical and Chronic Illness. We’re focusing on crossover with other ERGs and building a MySWCA page as a collection of resources. Our collaboration with the People Support team is helping to further develop the company’s current practices, making our processes and communication more streamlined for employees going through major challenges in life.

My goal is to hold this as a safe space and a support network. I value self-care activities, and the group wants to support self-care classes like meditation, yoga, and art therapy.

Q: As One SWCA, how can we work toward more unity and positive beliefs about individuals with disabilities, critical illnesses, and chronic illnesses?

A: People aren’t always comfortable talking about critical illnesses due to stigma. Openness starts with you. Start conversations and help others talk about their stories. Support your colleagues in their work-life balance.

When I had cancer, it took over my life and it changed me. After, I became more invested in my own life, health, and happiness. Always take care of yourself. Seek to be a source of joy for people in your life and at work. You might not know what someone’s going through – and how much your positivity could mean.