Teresa Wolande is a retired insurance and risk management professional. After a lifetime in the corporate world as a working mother, Teresa now focuses on building a network of women helping women in different stages of life. Teresa has learned the value of taking time for yourself, even when you are just starting in your field. She has been a successful mentor since well before her retirement in 2000 and has helped many advance their own success through her guidance.
Tell us a bit about what you did.
I was with one company for the majority of my career and most of that time was spent running their international commercial brokerage division. The challenges there were working with an entrepreneur and having to think like one. He would require more than just an idea. He would want you to present an idea as well as the capitalization strategy for at least five years that would show the returns on the idea. That included how you were going to reach the customer base and how to get it off the ground. This strategy had a lot to do with my development as an employee because it forced me to see the big picture, not just the immediate future.
When we first started the international division, it was small, but we could see that it was going to grow. We could see the need for investment now in the talent and the product. We were working with clients that were in manufacturing, as well as distribution and export. We had to discuss with management how we were going to support our clients. We began exploring building our own international offices and ended up acquiring several brokerages overseas to provide that support. Throughout this whole process, we consistently had to present our capitalization and returns to management.
What is your favorite thing about your chosen profession?
I loved meeting with our different clients. We worked with so many clients, like Nike and Delta Airlines. It is such a diverse community and it gives you a broad view of how each different company works. Even the manufacturing end of things was fascinating for me. You would learn the most amazing things about how things are made. You are privy to creativity and are introduced to new methods for so many things. It was always such an exciting career for me because I was constantly learning new things and having new, wonderful experiences.
What keys to being productive can you share with us?
I organize what needs to be done and I don’t overwhelm myself. At the beginning of each week, I sit down and prioritize what I need to focus on. I would isolate the top three things that absolutely needed to be done that week and make sure to follow through on them. At the time we were building the division, we didn’t have all of today’s technology in the palm of our hands. There wasn’t that constant communication that you can have now. It took a lot more effort to stay updated on where we were with things. If you took on too much at once, you’re more likely to get nothing done, so creating that focus right at the beginning of each week really helped me to stay productive with everything.
Tell us one long-term goal you have in your career.
One long-term goal I’d had in my career was just getting to that point where I could be a real mentor to people. I wanted to be able to look at someone’s success and know that I had a hand in that. Mentoring is such an important part of the business world, but it can be difficult. You have to make sure you’re putting your time toward the right people. Some people will want to learn from you and quickly move on, while others will keep coming to you for advice and that was a very fulfilling part of what I did. I appreciated that I was seen as an approachable person and that I could give guidance when it was needed.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned through the course of your career?
I learned the importance of not being afraid to say you’ve made a mistake. There were times when we had a product, I thought would be successful, or even a workflow I thought was necessary that didn’t work the way I had planned. I was lucky enough to have people around me that were comfortable enough to tell me if something wasn’t working. I would take the time to reevaluate and change the process when it was necessary. Really, no matter what field you are in, I think it is so important to have that willingness to make the changes needed, even if it means admitting that you were wrong. No one is perfect, but some people aren’t willing to say that what they expected didn’t pan out how they thought it would.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?
I think the biggest thing is to have patience. Even today, I see a lot of impatience in the field. You have to be patient with the clients, with the process, and with yourself. You have to understand that everything has its time. When I was younger, I feel like I was in such a hurry to get things done, I missed out on a lot of other things. As I got older and more experienced, I stopped doing that and I believe I got even better because I wasn’t overlooking some steps I may have before then.
Name a few influential books you’ve read or websites you’ve kept up with that you’d recommend to readers.
Especially at my age, The Whole Brainchild by Daniel J Siegal, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD is a truly great book to read. It explains how the brain develops from a young age and into the teenage years. I think for parents and grandparents it is a must-read. Malcolm Gladwell has several podcasts based on his books, like The Tipping Point, that I really enjoy. He offers a lot of sound advice on learning how to be your best self.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to slow down and not worry so much. Everything will come together as it should with consistent effort. There is no need to push yourself to exhaustion. I always wanted to get to the next thing and never took the time to step back and appreciate what I had already accomplished. Now that I am looking back, I wish I had taken that time.