How do you gain the experience and skills you need to go out on your own as a consultant? In this episode, Tiffany Newhouse, CEO of Newhouse Project Consulting, takes us through her path to consulting which had plenty of curves, including a key decision to leave law school to pursue a career more aligned with her interests and passions. Throughout her journey, Tiffany gained experience and skills across a variety of industries and sectors, which prepared her to start and lead her highly successful consulting firm working with companies and organizations on transformational change initiatives. This episode is an excellent example of how careers take shape over time and how experiences and relationships can be fully leveraged to open the door to a career of your dreams.
Tiffany Newhouse, CEO, Newhouse Project Consulting (NPC), has 25 years of experience as an Executive Consultant, Leader and Transformational Change Expert in the private and public sector. She has a proven track record for driving results and business excellence in multiple industries with dynamic and diverse workforces.
Prior to founding NPC, Tiffany held a variety of executive and leadership positions with Fortune 100 companies including Microsoft, Genentech Inc., Chevron Texaco, Kaiser Permanente, and Pacific Gas & Electric. Her proven accomplishments span the areas of organization development, change management, technology implementation, leadership development, general program and project management, human resources, global deployment, and workforce planning.
As a leader in Transformational Change, Tiffany’s been responsible for guiding many companies through enterprise-wide change initiatives and delivering comprehensive, industry standard change strategies. The key to Tiffany’s success is her unique ability to bridge gaps between her clients, labor unions and customers with measurable success in deployment, adoption, sustainment and ROI for the company.
Tiffany formed NPC with the goal of helping clients deliver on their business goals and commitments through effectiveness and leadership skills. Leveraging her vast experience as a leader and consultant, Tiffany uses an inclusive approach to consulting that enables her clients to increase their competence in navigating the intensity and politics of the business environment, resulting in improved performance and achieved goals.
Tiffany’s most recent passion is RESILIENCE, a Mental Health Literacy Program, under the NPC brand and delivered to over 7,000 people across the United States. The program data and client feedback have deemed RESILIENCE a success – reducing stigma, increasing knowledge and awareness, and finally increasing one’s confidence to support themselves and others in a mental health crisis.
Beth Davies, host: Welcome to Career Curves, where we talk to people who have interesting careers and explore how they got, where they are. I'm your host Beth Davies.
On this episode, we're joined by Tiffany Newhouse, CEO of Newhouse Project Consulting, which leads organizations through successful transformational change. She's delivered successful change initiatives for small, mid-size, and Fortune 500 companies from Genentech to Cadence to the California Courts.
I'm excited to have Tiffany here to shed light on how she became a consultant – how she developed the skills and the credibility – and what she sees as the pros and cons of this type of work. There's a lot to be learned from her experiences. And so with that, let's get started.
Tiffany Newhouse, guest: Hello.
Beth: I'm really glad you're here. And the first thing I want to talk with you about is this word "consultant". I think it gets used a lot and yet what does it even really mean? So when you hear somebody say that they're a consultant, what do you think that means? Or what are they saying to you about what it is that they do?
Tiffany: When I hear someone say that they're a consultant, I want to hear them say that they're a trusted advisor to their client, that they're also always anticipating and looking for what the client needs, that they're delivering excellent customer service and a great experience for the client. And that comes through partnering with the client. That comes through anticipating what their needs are. But really, you should be a subject matter expert in a particular area.
Beth: Is it the kind of thing that can be for any field or is consulting really focused on a specific type of industry or specific type of field?
Tiffany: I think it can be across any field. I think is industry agnostic. And I believe that strong consultant is really, once again, about that subject matter expertise. But more importantly, is are you a strong relationship builder? And I think that is really the key to being a really great consultant because you have to build relationships across the organization. That means from the C-suite down to maybe employees on the manufacturing floor.
Beth: So from a relationship building, which you already said is so essential, it sounds like as a consultant, you've gotta be able to get the relationships to get the clients and then the relationships to be able to work inside that organization that you now have contracted with.
Tiffany: Absolutely. You nailed it.
Beth: Where is your subject matter expertise? What type of consulting do you do?
Tiffany: So my subject matter expertise is really in the space around organizational development, change management, technology implementation.
Beth: What is change management? How would you define that for somebody who isn't in the business world or maybe is even junior in their career and has just not heard this term before?
Tiffany: What change management is really supporting organizations to adopt change. It can be transformational change, it can be smaller changes. We look at people, process, and technology. So how do we ensure that these projects are landed in the organization? That they're received by the business? That they're received by the employees? So that the organization can actually get their return on investment.
When organizations are investing millions and millions of dollars on these large technology implementations, there's a business benefit. And so they want to realize that. So I'm working with the employee population to help them receive that and help that become a part of the day-to-day operations.
Beth: What type of work do you actually do when you're doing change management?
Tiffany: Some of the key areas that we focus on in change management is really around leadership alignment: making sure the leaders in the organization are aligned around what is being delivered and that we're all on the same page. Looking at the organizational design and structure: Is the organization set up for this new change that's going to be coming down the pipe? Also we focus on stakeholder management: Are we engaging the right people? Do we have the right stakeholders at the table? Do they know what's coming their way? Do they know what they need to do to adjust, to adopt, and to accept the change? We also focus on communications: making sure that we're communicating across the organization, across ALL levels of the organization. And two more areas that we focus on are really around business readiness: Is the business ready to receive this? Do we have the right talent, the right skills? Do we have the right people in the right roles in order to receive. It could be technology change. It could be a process change, as well. And then finally, we want to make sure that everyone has training. And so that is that last piece.
Typically when people think about changing management, they say, "Oh, you do training." They always say that to me, "Oh, you do training." I'm like, "I do some training. I'm not really a training expert, but it is a part of the change management methodology."
Beth: So to do what you do, you have a deep skill set. I can tell by all the things that you're describing, whether it's the relationships, the understanding of the psychology, understanding to be able to speak about technology, if it's a technology change. So what I'd love to do is find out how you got to know all this stuff and how you got where you are. And so what I'd love to do is go all the way back to when you were a child. Tell me about yourself as a child. Where did you grow up? And tell me about your family.
Tiffany: I've had a really unique childhood. I have a young parent and we moved from Galveston, Texas to San Francisco, California. We moved in with my great aunt and uncle. At the time, they were like 60 years old. They're amazing. We affectionately call them Nanny and Uncle John. Very dear to my heart. And they really helped shape my life, providing opportunities that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise if we hadn't moved to California.
And Nanny was just an amazing person. She always let me express myself. She always made room in the house for us to have spirited conversations. I've always been a child who always wanted my opinion to be heard. And I wanted to be heard. And from that, I also always have been kind of the leader of the pack when he came to the other children in the neighborhood and just taking the leadership role. And so as a child, I think I've really been encouraged to do that.
And then also through church, which has been very instrumental in my life in terms of building my public speaking skills and always being tapped on the shoulder to say, "Can you come speak? Can you do this? Can you do that at the church?" And you always get that encouragement there. So I think the church and learning how to do public speaking there has really been instrumental in my growth
Beth: When you were a child, were people saying things to you about what you could and should do when you grew up?
Tiffany: Absolutely. Everyone was like, "You should be an attorney. You like to argue." Right? And so I was always that. I have my opinion and I wanted it to be heard. And I also am really passionate about people. I just love people. I don't like injustice. I don't like to see unfair treatment of people. And so I really had an opinion about that. And so they were like, "You should be an attorney," and I said, "Okay, that sounds like a good idea."
Beth: And so did you then pursue that path at all?
Tiffany: I actually did pursue that path and it was very interesting. After I completed my BA at San Francisco State, I decided, "Hey, I'm going to go and I'm going to follow my dream. And I would love to be an attorney." So I studied for the LSAT and I did everything that you needed to do. I got accepted into law school.
On the very first day of law school, they had this gentleman speaking and he was talking about the passion you had to have and all this time you had to spend in the library and all of this. And I was, "I'm not sure if I really want to do this." So I went home, I thought about it, and I called my mom after she had spent tons of money on me taking the LSAT and moving away to college and going to law school and all of that.
And I just let her know. I said, "I don't think that this is for me. I'm not sure that I really want to do this."
My amazing mom, because she is amazing, she said, "Well, I already knew that. I was just waiting for you to give me a call to let me know." So it wasn't like this big moment, like I thought she was going to be so upset, but...
Beth: You thought she'd be upset and disappointed...
Tiffany: Yeah, upset and disappointed and what she said to me, it was like, "Okay, I get that, but you're not allowed to come home until you're enrolled into a graduate school program." My mother is very adamant about education and it's very important to her. She gave up her education for me, having me as a young parent. So she is on it. And so I came back home and that's how I got into the graduate program at USF.
Beth: What was your undergraduate major?
Tiffany: Communications. Actually really Broadcast Communications. One evening I was watching the news and I was still trying to figure out, "Well, what do I want to do with my life?" I'm quite a fashionista. I love fashion. I love current events. I love sports.
I was just looking at the anchor delivering the news. I said, "You know what? I think I want to do that. That might be for me," and San Francisco State has an amazing broadcasting program. So I decided that was going to be my major.
Beth: How were you making the connection between being a communications major and law school?
Tiffany: At that point, I think I was looking ahead to law school, but I wasn't really sure if I was going to pursue that avenue or not. I did decide once I decided to go into the broadcast communications, one thing that I really enjoyed is, I really enjoy sports. I was a great athlete, so I really enjoyed sports. I love current events. And then we combine that with the fashionista piece. And I said, "Hey, I'm going to give this a try," and I did that.
Had some great experiences. Had a great experience in an internship, which really solidified that I did not want to go down that path.
Beth: Tell me more about that. What was the internship and what was it that happened that had you go, "Thank you for this experience, because this is not what I want to do."
Tiffany: Talk about career curves! Here I am. I'm going down this path. I had an amazing internship; it was very tough to get into. It Was with KRON4 News in San Francisco with Gary Radnich. At the time, he was like the who's who of sports broadcasting,
Beth: He was.
Tiffany: And so I was able to work on his team and quickly realized there was a lot of grunt work that you had to do. Had an opportunity to talk with a lot of the anchors and they shared with me their journey and their experience of having to move to these remote places with no friends, no family. And I just really started to understand the business and I really decided that really wasn't a path that I wanted to take. And then I decided from there, "Hey, let me really follow my true passion" which is becoming an attorney. And then from there, I started to study for the LSAT and all of that.
Beth: Other than the people in your life saying to you, "Tiffany, you should be an attorney. Tiffany, you should be an attorney," what were the indications for you that that was going to be a true passion?
Tiffany: I don't know if it ever really was a true passion. Sometimes people can influence you – your friends and your family – because you have certain traits or certain skills. Because I was really good at presenting and I was kind of argumentative and all of that, that was kind of put into my head. I was like, "Hey, why not? I can do it. I'm a smart person. I'm going to pursue it." But I really have to honestly say, I didn't really have that burning passion in my gut, and that's why on day one, I knew it wasn't for me. But I wanted to pursue it because once I set a goal for myself, I'm going to achieve it. That is just the type of person that I am.
Beth: So, I want to understand a little bit more about how you made this change out of law school and into the other master's program. Did you still complete that first semester of law school?
Tiffany: I did not complete one semester. I did not go back after that first day. I said, "Mom, I will not waste your money because I know that I'm not going to be passionate about this."
So when I went back and had the conversation with my mom and she said, "Hey, you need to find a graduate program," I went online. I don't know what made me.
I knew I was going back to San Francisco, so I looked at USF and the organizational development program had just begun. I was super excited about it because it combined two of my passions, which are human beings. I just am passionate about human beings; I just love people. And then also I'm pretty business savvy. And so I was able to combine the two together, which really was my sweet spot and I was really excited about it. I kind of started to feel, you know how you feel it in your gut, like, this is the right thing for me? Unfortunately I was already one week behind and they had a lot of pre-work, so I started into the program a little behind but quickly caught up.
Beth: So you were even able to start that program that same semester?
Tiffany: Yes. Yes.
Beth: Okay. Interesting. Interesting.
Tiffany: So I went from going to being an attorney to now going into a graduate degree for organizational development.
Beth: Just the quick reading of what that program was about, you were like, "yes, it resonates really nicely."
Tiffany: It really did.
Beth: And what happened during that master's program that validated for you that this time you had chosen the right thing?
Tiffany: Everything about the master's program at USF validated the fact that I was going in the right direction. We had amazing professors, the way the program was set up. It was set up for working professional. We had a cohort of 13. We only had one night of class from 6:00 – 10:00. So it was really set up for success and for me to also find a job, because now I'm not going to law school, so my mom's like, "Okay, what else are you going to do besides go to school...
Beth: One night a week.
Tiffany: Yeah, one night a week. "What else do you have planned for yourself?"
And then, from day one, I think that the professor that inspired me the most is the professor who started to talk about consulting, because I had never really heard of consulting before, until she said, "I'm a consultant and this is what I do." And so I started asking a lot of questions and I'm like, "I think I would like that." I liked the independence of it. I liked the ability to not have to only focus in one organization as well. And so I was really excited. I think everything about the program, I totally loved. But my professor was definitely a game changer in my life.
Beth: When you think about some of the things that you heard, like from this professor that you were saying, "That feels like me, that sounds like me," how did you get that level of self awareness to know that that was speaking to you more say than things like law?
Tiffany: Once again, I'll go back to my childhood. The discussions that we had and the openness, and just really knowing and helping them help me figure out who I was as a person. It's just really been a blessing in my life. And so I've always been able to kind of intuitively know, and follow my gut on what is going to be right for me. And then having the ability to speak up and say it.
Beth: While you were in grad school, you mentioned that you had to also be working at the same time. What type of a job did you get while you were in school?
Tiffany: I ended up doing a little work at Deloitte & Touche, not as a consultant, but I wanted to get some experience and kind of observe what the consulting world looked like. And so I got a job as a training coordinator. I was just supporting. It was like a fancy admin opportunity, but it had a nice title, "training coordinator," so I took that opportunity.
From there I worked for Charles Schwab. At that point I was finishing up my degree, so then you can kind of claim, "Hey, I'm right there. I'm almost done," and took an opportunity with Schwab Institutional, one of their larger groups at Schwab, and doing a lot of work in the leadership development space.
Beth: After you graduated?
Tiffany: After I graduated.
Beth: Oh great, so you were able to take that school job and converted that into full time.
Beth: So you went into Schwab doing leadership development, you said. So tell me about that experience. How long were you there and what did you learn about yourself during that time?
Tiffany: That was a tough one. I was at Schwab maybe about a year or so. The first six months went great. I got great performance reviews. The last six months was really tough and I'm not quite sure where it went wrong, but it did go wrong. It just ended up not being a really great relationship between myself and the person that I was reporting into.
Some of that could have been, in retrospect, some of my lack of experience. I hadn't done a lot of work in the corporate environment. Really didn't understand how it worked. Didn't really understand the politics and some of the nuances. So if I have to kind of own it – and you have to own it – and be accountable for my role in it. And then I also think that she was in a role where she wasn't really prepared to do a lot of mentoring with a person who was a little bit more junior. And I think I would definitely call myself junior at that point.
So from there, I just had that consulting...consulting...consulting on my brain. And so from there I just said, "Hey, you know what, I'm going to just take a shot out there. There's not many people that do change management." And I kept seeing these opportunities pop up on the job boards where they're like, "Oh, we need someone with change management or org development," and not many people had that experience.
So I connected with an executive recruiter and she was able to get me some amazing opportunities that I don't think I would have been able to get on my own. Then they would call me for other opportunities as they arose because there wasn't a lot of people doing that type of work and it was needed. It was just a great opportunity for me. Right place, right time, I would say
Beth: When you were working with these recruiters, was the goal for them to help you find that next role after Schwab, or were they more helping you find a short term project where you were a consultant and they almost were doing business development for you. And then when that would finish, you'd go and get a next assignment.
Tiffany: That is exactly how it worked and so that allowed me to build my subject matter expertise. By going to various projects and working at various companies, I'd had the opportunity to really deliver and support the rollout of some large technology implementations. But I did have to jump around quite a bit in order to get that experience.
I would say for anyone who's looking to go into consulting and building that experience, you may not have a five year project or two year project. Typically they're going to be six month projects, and then you move on to the next experience, but each one builds that subject matter expertise.
Beth: Interesting. Okay. So what I'm imagining here is me looking at you from the outside and from the outside, I might look at somebody who's doing what you just described and say, "Oh, you're a temp. And you're going from project to project to project as a temp." And, dare I say, sometimes we hear somebody's a temp and almost look down on that. And what you're really saying is, "No, there's actually something really to value in being a temp and how that can build your skills in ways that other opportunities can't."
Tiffany: Exactly, because you won't have the opportunity as a full time employee in an organization to learn as much as I did in a short period of time and across industry. So if I'm an employee, I'm learning about that particular industry and I may be a subject matter in that industry. But what I was learning was like, "Hey, I can use the skills that I'm learning and developing across all industries on any project, whether it's an SAP project, whether it's a PeopleSoft project."
And there's a difference, too, of project work – I think this is really important – project work versus being an internal employee. Projects are their own beast. They have their own little...
Beth: They have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Tiffany: Exactly. There's a beginning, there's a middle and there's an end, but there's a certain methodology that happens when you're working on a project. So if you work on one project, then you can feel pretty confident when you go to the next project, it's going to be set up very similarly. There may be a different product. We may not be rolling out SAP, we may be rolling out PeopleSoft, but the structure and the methodology of the project will be the same.
Beth: You were a communications major. So, one of the things I'm sure you learned in communications is framing and how important framing a message is. Clearly, if you were out there telling people, "I'm a temp," that frames that experience one way. How did you frame or describe these years to others If people said, "What is it that you're doing?" because I have a sneaky feeling you didn't say to people, "I'm a temp."
Tiffany: No, absolutely not.
Beth: So what did you say?
Tiffany: I just let them know that I was on short-term projects as an organizational development consultant or change consultant, and then their asking, "Well, what does that mean?" And so, just explaining to them, as I did earlier, supporting the adoption of large technology implementations. So I really framed it up as, "I am a consultant."
Beth: You were claiming the title you were going for.
Tiffany: I was claiming the title as a consultant early on.
Beth: I love it.
Tiffany: And then just having these great experiences at different organizations. I had great opportunities at Cisco great opportunities. You mentioned at the Administrative Office of the Courts. And so once I started to build that skillset, then I was able to really say, "Okay, well now I'm no longer a junior consultant." Right? Because I think when you're doing that, you're learning and I'm no longer a "junior consultant," now I'm just a "consultant" with three years of experience. And that was a big deal to get three years underneath my belt...
Beth: Since this was a new and emerging and growing area.
Beth: As you were getting all these different experiences – different companies, different types of projects – what did you learn about the type of work you wanted to be doing and the types of companies you wanted to be doing it with?
Tiffany: I think what I was learning was I really loved project work. I think that is really important because there were other consulting opportunities where they were not on projects. I was just an independent consultant, kind of staff augmentation. You're here to continue to support some work that we're doing.
But on a project, you become really close to people. You're able to learn from more senior consultants who are on the project, and the opportunity to really build my toolkit. When you're a consultant, I have to say, that is so important. That was one of the lessons that we learned in our graduate program: building your toolkit for when you go to other organizations. How do you manage stakeholder management? Do you have a tool for that? How do you understand what the impact is going to be to the organization? Do you have a tool for that?
And so I felt like by doing the project work, I was really building that toolkit that I still use today. When I mentor some of our juniors consultants who come on board and I always say, "Put that in your toolkit because you'll need that later."
Beth: One of the things I've heard some people say about consulting that is tough for them is that they don't get the ongoing relationships, that they're somewhere for a short amount of time and then they move on. How have you managed that piece? Has that been a problem for you?
Tiffany: No, it hasn't been a problem for me because I still have really great relationships with a lot of people that I've worked with in the past on projects. Projects can typically be can be three to six months early on, but as I gained experience, then our projects that I would be on would be like a year, sometimes two years. So you become a part of a family because we're all rolling up our sleeves trying to deliver this product together and it's tough sometimes. So, you start to become like a little family and so I think the tough part for me is when the project's over and saying, "Oh no, what am I going to do now? Now I have to go find a new family."
In my career, I've just made sure that I've stayed connected with people on projects and that's how I leverage a relationship. It was never really tough for me because I just maintain those relationships long-term.
Beth: You reached a point where you no longer needed to be using executive recruiters to find your next client and your next job. Did these relationships factor into that transition for you?
Tiffany: I just think that that was just like the best time in my career, because at that point it was based on what I had done. Every job that I've gotten after the recruiters has really been based on my performance on a project and an executive referring me to another executive and saying, "Hey, you should bring Tiffany on board. She knows how to deliver. This project was totally successful." Now you start to have advocates for you.
When you're an independent consultant, that's absolutely critical because no one's bringing you clients. You have to go out and seek those clients. And so all you really have is what we say in consulting is your reputation. You have your reputation and then you have the quality of the work that you have delivered. Once you deliver great work, then executives and others in the organization will be a cheerleader for you and say, "Hey, you should think about bringing her on board." And literally every job and every consulting opportunity that I've had since then has been through a referral.
Beth: So while you were doing the shorter project assignments, was there ever a time that you took a longer term role? And if so, what was it and how did that happen?
Tiffany: So I had a really great opportunity that I was not even looking for. I actually just got a random call from a recruiter at Microsoft and I was told that someone had, once again, referred me for a position. (I never found out who the person was who referred me for the position.) They really loved my resume and they wanted to know if I was open to coming and interviewing for a director role at Microsoft, the largest software company in the world. Yes, absolutely. Right?
The only catch to it was, "Hey, if you take this role, it will require you to move to Redmond, Washington," and I've never moved away from the Bay Area. I'm very close to my mom and my friends, and so it was a big deal.
I went and I interviewed for the opportunity and they're like, "We love you. We want you to come and we're willing to pack you up and move you here," and all of that. And so I had to talk with my husband about it and say, "Is this something that we should pursue? Are you interested in going?"
He said, "Absolutely, I want you to have this opportunity," and so we moved to Redmond, Washington, and I took a role there as a director over their Global OD...
Beth: Which is Organizational Development.
Tiffany: Organizational development, in their second largest revenue generating organization, which was sales and services. So I took a global role. It was a brand new team that was being formed. A really great experience. We were totally a high performing team. I loved it. I loved being a part of that team
Beth: At that point did you feel like you were stepping away from this idea of, "I am building towards being a consultant"?
You're nodding your head, "Yes." And so what made you say I'm comfortable leaving this path and this plan that I've been on for this opportunity?
Tiffany: I felt comfortable because I really wanted to get some experience as a leader in an organization and working as an independent consultant, it's just that – it's independent. I am working on a project team and with others and I did lead a couple of project initiatives, but they didn't directly work for me. I didn't really lead those individuals.
I've always loved mentoring and sharing what I know and developing teams. This was just an opportunity to really do that and do something different, but it was still in my wheelhouse because it was still around organizational development, which was great. I didn't have to learn something new. It was just a new experience. And so I was really excited about it.
Beth: And how long did you stay at Microsoft?
Tiffany: I was there for two years.
Beth: And then what was it that led you to decide to move on from that?
Tiffany: Wanting to have a child and knowing that we were far away from home. My husband and I wanted to make sure when we had our kid that we had our family and we had our network. So we decided to pack up and move back to California to attempt to have a little one.
Beth: And was it then, too, that you and your husband were having the conversations that said let's form our own consulting business?
Tiffany: Right. In a three year kind of time period, we got pregnant, had Jeremiah, I stayed home for a long time. My husband was a little worried. He's like, "Are you going to go back to work? What are you doing? You're like spending up all the money. What are you doing?"
And so I'm like, "Okay, let me figure out what I want to do," and so he said, "Hey, Tiffany, I really believe in you. I believe in your talents. I believe together that we can build something great and let's just step out on faith and build our own company."
My husband is amazing. He has an MBA from Purdue. He's super smart, super sharp. Worked as an executive as well, doing mergers and acquisitions. And so he said, "Let's just combine our talents together," and I really have to give him credit for Newhouse Project Consulting being born.
Beth: Tell me about that. What is it like being in business? What are the kind of pros and cons of running this business with somebody that's family?
Tiffany: Really we complement each other because I'm really in the people space, focusing on the change management aspects. He has an MBA, so he's a numbers guy and an operations guy. So I'm more of the business development person. I'll go out, I'll bring the business in. And then once the business comes in, then he really takes ownership of that and does everything else related to operations.
So we complement each other, but I think the challenge that we have is that we're together all the time, and we sometimes don't know when to turn off business, particularly me. Will have family time and I'm asking about, "Well, how did that conversation go? Or did you get that done?" And he's like, "I thought we weren't talking about business, Tiffany," and so I think that's one of the challenges.
We have a seven year old and it's been a challenge for us now during the pandemic of leading the company, being the CEO of a company, and also becoming a teacher. That's been a tough journey for us, but I think really the challenges of working with my spouse has really just been that: not really knowing how to turn it off. But, I think there's been more opportunities for us to partner and more success than has been challenges.
Beth: Another challenge I've heard people say when they're consulting, particularly going out on their own, is they have a hard time asking for what they're worth and valuing their services. What are some lessons that you've had on valuing yourself and valuing your service?
Tiffany: I think that is an excellent question. And I think even now, just for full transparency and honesty, is something that still we struggle with because we are a small consulting company and we want the business, but we also know what we bring to the table. We look at a Big 5 and they're bringing in junior consultants and they're charging maybe $300 an hour for that consultant. And I'm like, "Well, they have no experience. How are they getting $300 an hour?"
I have experienced consultants that I'm bringing on board, still not feeling totally comfortable about saying, "Hey, they're $300," because we want the business. It's like this funny dance and it's something that, honestly, we still continue to push through and think through.
I think now, seven years into having our company, we're comfortable saying this is what we're worth, this is the value that we bring to the table. So it's taken a long time for us to feel comfortable saying, "This is what we're worth. Take it or leave it."
Beth: That's scary.
Tiffany: It's scary because we need to take care of our family. We're running a business. We have employees. But, we feel comfortable now doing that because we know that we deliver excellence.
Beth: I'd like to talk to you a bit about intersectionality. You are, of course, the intersectionality of many things in your life. You're smart, you're talented, you're accomplished. You're self-aware. You also are a woman and you're also African American. And I'm wondering how the intersectionality of all of that, how that's been positive for you, how that's helped you, but also perhaps what challenges that's presented for you?
Tiffany: I'll start with the challenges first and I think that some of the challenges that women of color have in the workplace is that (A) there's just not a lot of us there in the workplace. And so I think I've had more challenges with other women and competing in that space, which has really been disappointing to me because I think we're just women. Right?
And so I don't look at, "You're African American or you're not African American," but I think there's been some challenges around just understanding what I brought to the table and always having to explain why do I have a seat at the table? What was your education? What was your background? And I didn't hear them asking other women who didn't look like me that question. "Well, where did you get your master's degree from? Oh." And asking those types of questions.
It was like the other women automatically had a seat at the table and I really had to earn my seat at the table by saying, "Yes, I am coming to the table with a master's degree. I am coming to the table with previous experience." And so it's always just trying to prove yourself in a way, which is always a little bit challenging, but I'm up for the challenge.
And I turn those challenges into positives. So some of those women actually became really great friends and they were like, because you were willing to explain to me later on how that made me feel, like why did I have to explain that to you? Why didn't I automatically have a seat at the table? And so we just started to dialogue and I think that's what we have to do more in this country. It just opened up the door for communication. I think that's so, so important.
And as an African American woman, it means a lot to me because I want to be a mentor and a role model to other young African American women and other women of color that they can achieve. That they can push through and be resilient and handle and tackle challenges face on.
I think it's really important for me to open up the door. I have nieces who look up to me. They're like, "Hey, I'm going to go into org development. I see what you're doing with your organization." So, that also was instilled in me as a young kid, that you have an obligation not only to yourself, but to your community. Just wanting to be that role model has really been important to me and making sure that that I'm representing myself, I'm representing women, and I'm representing women of color in a way that inspires other young women to want to achieve and potentially go into this type of field and maybe eventually become a CEO of their own company.
Beth: When we think about your son, and now you said he's seven, you talked about the adults in your life and how positively they influenced you while you were growing up. What are some of the messages that you find yourself wanting to essentially get across to your son and share with your son as you're preparing him for the world ahead.
Tiffany: I always let them know how amazing he is and that he can do anything. He told me, "I can do anything I want."
"Absolutely, you can do anything that you want." Can't is not a word that we use in our vocabulary. Just letting him know that we're there to really support him.
The other day he was playing with a couple of our neighbors' children and he came home, he said, "Hey Mama, I going to have a business meeting tomorrow. I need wear a suit. I'm going to need my briefcase. I need my folder," and he was all ready. So, I think that we are inspiring him to be a young entrepreneur.
And we were really touched by that because, as I mentioned, we're doing a lot of work during this time of COVID, but for him to receive it, not as my parents are ignoring me, but this is something that I would want to do. Building a company and a legacy that he really can step into is really our ultimate goal.
Beth: It's so interesting. The role modeling that can be happening now with COVID that you just didn't even think about.
Tiffany: No, because he wasn't really around us during the work day. We'd just pick them up. We do homework and all of that, but now he actually sees what we do day-to-day. We just thought that was just so cute and we were just very inspired to continue to do the work that we do so that he does have opportunity.
We talked about being an African American woman. As we know, it's even more challenging as an African American male. And so we just want to make sure that he has an opportunity and a space to step into and to be a leader of his own company and hopefully leave him a legacy behind as well.
Beth: You've talked in these last few minutes, quite a bit about inspiring others. And there's no doubt that sharing your story through our podcast is going to also inspire lots of people that may never get the chance to meet you personally. So thank you for telling your story.
I have just a few more questions that I want to ask you.
What would you say is the smartest career move you made, whether intentionally or accidentally?
Tiffany: The smartest career move that I made was not becoming an attorney and moving into this space of consulting and OD and change management.
Beth: If you could have one do-over, what would it be and why?
Tiffany: I really don't have too many do-overs in life because I think every experience you build upon. I think I just take every experience and every lesson learned and incorporate it into my life today. As my mom taught me, whatever you learn, and if it's something that you didn't like, then you can change it when you have your own company and when you're doing your own thing.
So, I don't really think I have anything that I would necessarily change. I think I've had some tough times, but I think I've been able to grow from them.
Beth: What's one piece of career advice that you wish you could go back in time and give to your younger self?
Tiffany: Oh, absolutely not to take everything so personal. I think I was a person who took everything personal. Even when I received feedback, it was personal. But it really wasn't personal. It was really other leaders and managers giving you feedback for you to grow.
I also learned that when people give you feedback, you take what you need to take to help you grow. And the other stuff, you don't have to take it with you, but I took everything in. I took every comment in and personalized it. And you just can't do that in the business environment.
Beth: And my last question, how do you define success?
Tiffany: I define success as building an organizational culture that can thrive and survive many years after my husband and I maybe have retired. I want to make sure that we build a culture where we're really focused on the individuals that work for us and that we're growing them, that we're developing them and that they can step into leadership roles. And that we're providing those opportunities. That's really, really important to me.
Tiffany, it has been a pleasure getting to know you and hearing your story. It's quite a unique one and just also really quite inspiring. So thank you for being with us.
Tiffany: Thank you so much. Thanks for the opportunity.