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How She Got There: Terra Winston, Founder and Principal of inTerract Consulting and inTerractions

Name:  Terra Winston
Age: 40 (and proud!)
Job Title and Description:  Ringleader of inTerractions / Founder and Principal of inTerract Consulting.  I help transform achievers into high potential players at work and beyond.  My company offers leadership consulting, coaching, and training.
College/Major: University of Virginia/B.S. Systems Engineering; Stanford University/MBA
Website: www.interractions.com
Twitter Handle: @terrawinston

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Terra Winston: When I finally have a typical day, I promise to let you know!   Being an entrepreneur, there is so much variety in my work. [Each] day is different from the last.  I spend some days completely in front of an audience, delivering speeches or classes.  Other days, I am in wall-to-wall corporate client meetings, talking through strategies and ideas to help their employees be their best. I [often] find myself shifting between lots of tasks: a few hours writing for my blog; one or two coaching calls with individual clients; getting my hands dirty [while] creating training or communications for my consulting projects; doing business development to get more work or handling all of the administrative [duties] that come with running any type of business.  Whew! No wonder I’m so tired…

What is the best part of your job?

TW: I know that it sounds a bit cheesy, but I really do love that I get to help people. I have one of the best jobs in the world! I spend most of my time figuring out how to help people create fulfilling careers and enjoy their lives.  I often get emails or phone calls from coaching clients or attendees who have been in my classes.  They tell me how they have been able to change their lives using the insights that they gained with me.  That is the very best part of my job.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

TW: I did a lot of interning in college, but my first full-time, entry-level job was as a systems analyst in Deloitte Consulting, a global management consulting firm.  I interviewed with them on campus to get the job – luckily my alma mater was one of their target recruiting schools.  One interesting note – I was usually very prepared for my interviews.  By some twist of fate, I had forgotten to bring copies of my resume. As I nervously sat in the lounge waiting to be called, I consoled myself by remembering that the interviewers usually have their own copies.  Guess what – not this time.  My interviewer had also forgotten his!  Arghhhh.  We made the best of the situation and I got the job (and surprise, ended up working for the interviewer).

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

TW: Relationships matter. Everyone knows the importance of networking, but consulting shows you how much relationships really play into success or failure. I have seen great performers that never received the recognition that they deserve because people didn’t know them well enough. I’ve seen important projects cancelled because of a leadership change.  Don’t get me wrong, you have to be a strong performer regardless, but your ability to build and maintain relationships can make or break your career.  Please don’t think this is only relevant for the consulting industry. The higher up you go in any career, the more relationships matter.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

TW: My very first coach, Kevin Ward, changed my professional life.  In 2008, I quit my corporate job with absolutely no idea what I was going to do next.  I was burned out and knew within my heart that there was something else I was meant to do. I just didn’t know what.  I took a well-deserved sabbatical (Argentina, baby!) and then attended one of Kevin’s classes to help me figure out my next steps.  The gift that Kevin gave me was that he helped me to admit that I was blocked by fear.  A few weeks later, I started my business!

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

TW: By far my favorite is the popular quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

TW: Only one mistake?  I’ve definitely amassed my share!  I once accepted a promotion into a role and an organization that I knew from the very beginning was not a good fit for me.  Nothing about the opportunity was attractive other than the higher title, salary, and perks that came with it.  Thus began the worst year of my career.  By the end of the year, I looked and felt rundown (stress induced acne, ugh) and even worse, was not performing with my personal standard of excellence.  This experience taught me the importance of listening to my gut.  I knew that this was a bad idea going into it, but I used very logical reasoning to convince myself that taking this role was the right sacrifice for my career. Instead, my performance could have really damaged a reputation that took years to build.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  I now factor in BOTH my gut and my logic when making decisions.

Where do you see yourself (and inTerractions) in 10 years?

TW: This is one of my favorite questions to use with coaching clients!  Ten years from now, inTerractions will be a global community of high achievers learning, growing and playing together as they build fulfilling careers and extraordinary lives. Through inTerractions, the community will be able to create identify and connect with the types of opportunities that nurture businesses, deliver promotions and build relationships. As for me, I’ll still be the ringleader, although my need for variety will continue to pull me into new and exciting projects, both for- and non-profit. 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

TW: Resourcefulness and initiative. Not only do I look for this in hiring, but these are also my biggest pet peeves!   In an interview, I want to hear how you break down a problem or task and figure out what to do next.  I want someone that can determine what questions to ask, and before asking me, does some research to see if the answers are readily available from their networks, the internet or other resources.  I also look for someone that understands when and how to take initiative.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

TW: Develop your emotional intelligence. You will be immensely successful if you learn how the master the soft skills like assessing people, influence and empathy.  By understanding how to authentically connect with, motivate and lead others, you will be unstoppable in any career you choose!


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Kelsey is a senior at Boston University, studying Magazine Journalism  in the College of Communication. As a magazine junkie and fashion fanatic, she loves being a part of the Her Campus team! At BU, Kelsey is president of Ed2010 at Boston University.  She has interned for Time Out New York, Lucky, Anthropologie, and Marie Claire. Kelsey also has a fashion blog, The Trendologist, where she covers the latest trends, fashion shows, and red carpet reports. When she isn't busy, Kelsey loves hanging out with her friends and family, shopping, reading style blogs, going for a nice jog, listening to music, creating baked goods in the kitchen, watching movies, and eating tons of frozen yogurt and sushi! After graduation, Kelsey hopes to work as an editor for a fashion magazine. Follow Kelsey on Twitter and Instagram at @kmulvs and don't  forget to check out her "Catwalk to Campus" blog posts!