Audra Cona, TPA Talent Acquisition Manager
She is the first impression of the Airport for many new TPA employees. She is Audra Cona, the airport’s kind, bubbly, red-haired Talent Acquisition Manager.
She also is incredibly hard-working, once completing 12 phone interviews in a single day.
Before Audra was hired, the county regulated all of the hiring for the Aviation Authority through the Civil Service. Today, Audra helps shape the Authority by recruiting and developing top talent.
“When people ask what I do for a living I say, ‘I promote people and I give people jobs.' I mean, how cool is that?” Audra said.
The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is watching people transform and grow – something Audra has personal experience with through the many trials of her life.
Audra was born in Mississippi. Her father worked as a morning show disc jockey who was in high demand and moved his family around the country. Audra felt that her life was similar to that of an Army Brat. Relocating eight times before she was 17, she was always the new girl in school and found it difficult fitting in.
Audra graduated from Bloomingdale High School in Valrico in 1996 and began working in a call center for Verizon Wireless (GTE at the time), where she met her future husband, Steve Cona.
He sat two chairs to her left, and she at first had little interest in him.
She had recently discovered that she was pregnant from a previous relationship and after much soul searching, counseling and prayer, was deciding to move forward with a private adoption process for her baby girl.
But Valentine’s Day in 1997, two dozen roses were delivered to her desk at work. They were from Steve. Steve was persistent but it would be 4 months later before she decided to go out to lunch with him, but just as friends.
This May, she and Steve will celebrate two decades of marriage.
Audra is proud of her story of overcoming adversity and has used it to inspire young women.
As for Audra’s professional journey, she started out pursuing a degree in orthodontics, while working in the Verizon call center. But her hard work caught the attention of Verizon management, and they tapped her for a job in the Human Resources department as the liaison between the Family and Medical Leave Act vendor and call center management.
She had found her niche and has worked in HR ever since.
In 2005, she accepted a job as the HR Payroll Coordinator at a company that specializes in arbitration. Shortly after that she went to work for Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay, where she was hired as a Payroll Manager and ultimately promoted to Director of HR and Finance at BCOTB.
In 2015 she was eager and excited to have the opportunity to join the Aviation Authority.
As successful as Audra has been in her career, she is also the superglue that holds her close family together. She spends as much time as she can with her husband and her teen-age kids, Giana and Steve, and they meet for Sunday dinners every week with extended family.
If I could tell my younger self one thing it would be ‘you have no idea what’s in store for you. Just have hope and everything will work out.
There is a happy ending to Audra’s private adoption story. In 2014, her first born daughter and family (who’s adopted parents had always stayed in touch via letters and pictures sent annually) reached out to meet. From the moment they hugged and cried in 2014, it was like they had always been in each other’s lives. They regularly spend holidays with one another and her oldest has enjoyed and embraced everything that comes with her beautiful extended family.
“Having that sense of family is so important,” Audra said. “We are definitely that family that sits at the dinner table every single night.”
Her husband, Steve, was recently elected to serve on the Hillsborough County School Board while working as the President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. Audra and her entire family helped him with his campaign and on several occasions, she said, and provided a steady voice while he navigated the rough-and -tumble world of politics.
“I always look at my husband and I’m so proud of him and what he’s accomplished,” Audra said. “He’s always been my rock and I’ve recently had the opportunity to be his.”
In June 2018, Audra shared her personal journey as the Keynote Speaker for the PACE Center for Girls. Following her speech, a few tears and lots of hugs, she accepted an invitation to serve on the Board of Directors for PACE. This opportunity has added value to her life and helps her feel well rounded, she said.
“If I could tell my younger self one thing it would be ‘you have no idea what’s in store for you,” she said. “Just have hope and everything will work out.”