This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with leading professionals. In this series of blogs, I have an exclusive interview with Teresa Hennig. Teresa is an international authority on MS Access, a top user group leader, a best selling author and a recognized and profiled MVP.
The Secret of Success
Stephen: You seem to enjoy and are quite successful in a variety of areas. What is your secret, what keys to success can you share with others?
Teresa: Oh my, where do we start? There are so many factors that get rolled into this. I know that my energy and positive attitude carry me through a lot. I’ve endured my share of knocks and setbacks, but from every experience, I’ve gained insights and learned valuable lessons. They prepared me for future events and gave me strength and confidence that I otherwise would not have.
- Be reliable and set high standards. You are building a reputation and that will be your most valuable asset. Some people think that I demand a lot of myself, but for me, it is a standard I grew up with. I’m committed to success, to getting a job done and doing it well. But, I also have a realistic balance of what is practical and doing the right job for the circumstances. Sometimes, it is important to recognize that we don’t have the big picture, so we need to accept certain boundaries or limits. Understanding how we fit into the grand scheme isn’t always easy, but it is particularly important in the corporate world. So obviously you need to be a team player.
- Leverage your expertise, and those of your colleagues. As I explained earlier, I love project management, working with people and leadership. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been able to walk into a business and almost intuitively understand their processes and needs to be able to design solutions. Thankfully, I’m also able to clearly communicate with the client and transform their needs into requirements so that developers can deliver effective solutions. It’s a wonderful partnership that allows each of us to make the most of what we do best. As one of my colleagues expressed it:
“Teresa has the rare ability to understand a project from the concept perspective BEFORE we are all buried in the application feature detail. The ability to quickly understand the business concept combined with Teresa’s exceptional communication skills allows her to design clear, concise and user friendly software applications.”
- Stretch yourself and take on challenges. Life is full of challenges, these are opportunities that enrich our lives and fill it with excitement. People should not limit themselves based on their past experiences or current knowledge and they certainly shouldn’t limit themselves based on their own perceptions! Some of my own accomplishments illustrate that. If you know something can be done and you have access to resources, then you have the potential to accomplish the task. Remember, you are not required to go solo, you have a network of colleagues and friends who also want you to succeed. Keep in mind that success is not necessarily being first across the finish line.
When I mentioned not limiting yourself based on your own perceptions, you can take that to heart. I don’t see myself as athletic, I loathe exercise, have never gone to a gym. But, in order to raise awareness and help find a cure for paralysis, I finished the STP, riding 220 miles from Seattle to Portland. The fact that I didn’t ride or even own a bike didn’t stop me.
Challenges can be a great motivator. You can anticipate the inherit reward of adrenalin rush and sense of accomplishment. You don’t have to finish first, but you need to get into the game. And then, make the most of it.
Stephen: With everything that you are involved with, where do you see your career going from here?
Teresa: Well, I intend to live my motto:
Live is full of opportunities, celebrate them all.
We need to enjoy our lives as we live them. Yes, they are full of choices, but isn’t it wonderful to have so many things to choose amongst. This year, I vowed to be more open to new adventures and opportunities and to travel more.
That is exactly what is happening. As the MVP Summit was approaching, I was still finishing our book, consulting on an Access Experts book and talking about another title. And, just before the summit, I was invited to create a demo tape for the Access training videos. It was a tight squeeze, but I managed to create the demo tape less than an hour before heading to the MVP Summit. Now I’m about to go to New York for the test screening. After that, I’ll only have 2 months to create the video content. Plus I’ve already teamed up for yet another book that we’ll finish in August. Right in the middle, I’m also hoping to be at TechEd to help INETA with webcasts and the Leadership Summit and Birds of a Feather. Those are just the highlights of things that are supporting the Access and ICT communities.
In addition to that, I’m always looking for ways to expand both my experiences and my client base. That’s one of the wonders of project management, instead of having a niche in one industry or region, I am constantly introduced to new industries and situations. They all benefit from my diverse background and wealth of contacts. I’m fortunate to already have clients across the country, and although it is often helpful to visit their offices, I have also created solutions and prototypes without meeting in person.
Since I really enjoy consulting and public speaking, I’m looking forward to opportunities to speak at conferences and maybe do some management team consulting to help companies define their projects or even redirect projects that seem to have missed the mark. That was a skill that I honed as a federal employee. I was recognized for turning projects around, dealing with tense situations and building consensus.
Although I don’t know where my career is going right now, I am enjoying the opportunities as they are presented. That’s the most important factor in success. To do what you enjoy and to enjoy what you are doing.
Stephen: Teresa, we thank you for sharing your time with us and we wish you continued success for the future.
Teresa: Thank you for this opportunity. You’ve asked some really good questions that deserve a lot of thought. We’ve spent a lot more time than either of us anticipated, but it is for a worthwhile purpose. I hope that people will gain a lot from our discussion. There are some really great tips, not just for user groups, but for running good meetings in general. I’d like to express that it was a privilege to spend this time with you and I hope to hear from some of the readers.
I encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.