Voices, Work

Interview with Tammy Meinershagen

November 3, 2022 by

The biggest mistake is not betting on yourself. Most of the things we worry about are not going to happen, and we limit ourselves more than we should. We need to ask for the opportunities we want and not be afraid to take them when they come.

Photo: Courtesy of Tammy Meinershagen
-Tammy Meinershagen

A former professional musician and public school teacher, Tammy Meinershagen is the first Asian American representative on the Frisco City Council. A Frisco resident since 2004, Meinershagen has championed the arts and diversity. She is also the chief innovation officer at Blackshaw Partners, where she oversees business operations and strategy. Meinershagen spoke at the 2019 Women in Business Summit. An excerpt of her interview below. Click for full interview

How has the business world changed since the start of your career?

When I graduated from Northwestern University in 1997, it was a very different time. Email was still a novelty, and handheld cell phones were the newest item on the market. Because everyone was much more siloed, there was a limited, linear career path to follow, making it difficult to change jobs or move to other industries. There’s no question that mobility within the workforce has changed greatly due to the advances in technology!

The business world has become much more interconnected and accessible at all levels of entry, and post-pandemic, there’s even more fluidity. You are no longer stuck down one path in your career; you can explore different opportunities and learn about them quickly through online sources and social media, which did not exist when I first entered the workplace.

What obstacles did you face?

When I decided to leave the workforce to raise our three beautiful girls, I began volunteering in many capacities in the public sector. I had a passion to change our city for the better and increase arts, culture and diversity, but because I had not followed a traditional career path, my resume was much lighter than those of the people around me. I wondered if I could really have a significant voice or impact without their titles, and I also felt uncomfortable at times being the only Asian American woman in the room. All of this caused me to deeply question my abilities and strengths. What I realize now is that my biggest obstacle was not the other people around me or the circumstances, but how I viewed myself.

What experiences, training or education best prepared you?

Being a musician has taught me the value of stepping into another’s world, taking time to reflect and persevering to the end. Through the arts, I learned important life lessons of practicing until you get it right and taking things from concept to reality, no matter how difficult it is along the way.

It’s also given me the perspective that success is not always a straight climb up the corporate ladder; sometimes, it looks more like a spiral staircase. There’s still movement forward, even if you feel like you’re just going in circles.

All of my separate experiences in brand management, business strategy, cross-cultural connections, public relations and philanthropy are utilized in my current role as Chief Innovation Officer of Blackshaw Partners, a 40-plus-year global executive search company. I oversee all business operations and strategies for expanding the Blackshaw Partners brand, both in the U.S. and internationally. I also lead the firm’s Global DEI Practice and Client Engagement in Dallas/Frisco. Our team is ethnically diverse and majority female, and we help build talented, diverse teams with top leaders from around the world. I love what I do, and I’m thankful for each of the experiences that prepared me for it.

What has helped you the most during your career?

What has helped me the most in my career is the willingness of trusted leaders to build into me personally and professionally. They have given me a larger perspective when I can’t see a path forward, and they’ve encouraged me to persevere through many obstacles. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their wisdom.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

I’ve received so much great advice, it’s hard to pick just one! Here are 3 of my favorites:
“You can do it all, but you just can’t do it all at the same time. There’s no such thing as balance.”
“Obstacles are not always a wall, but a speed bump.”
“Just show up. You never know what will happen if you are present.”
What is the worst advice?

I don’t believe in skipping dessert. I may not finish it, but I’ll definitely enjoy a few bites!

What do you wish you had known earlier?

Everything you have done up to this point in your career has value. Sometimes all we see are the messy, loose threads on the back of the tapestry, and it feels like the years have been haphazard or fruitless. However, when you turn the tapestry around, it’s actually a beautiful masterpiece that tells your unique story. Every part of your career, whether it’s the volunteer work, the people you’ve met along the way, the seemingly insignificant roles you’ve had — it’s all important; nothing is wasted. Your lived experience has purpose, and the beauty is in the process of discovery.

What advice would you give to others?

Raise your hand and take the leap to the next level. If not now, when? If not you, then who? You don’t have to have all the answers; just do it scared.

What is the biggest mistake you see women making when it comes to advancing their career?

I think the biggest mistake is not betting on yourself. Most of the things we worry about are not going to happen, and we limit ourselves more than we should. We need to ask for the opportunities we want and not be afraid to take them when they come.

What’s a recurring hurdle for you? (time, money, attitude, location, knowledge, etc.) What strategies are you using to overcome that?

One of my recurring hurdles is not playing my piano and violin regularly. Music is really my first love, and it’s very cathartic to play; it’s like visiting with old friends. One strategy I recently employed is saying “yes” to a request to host a solo concert. My first one was this past Valentine’s at the Nack Theater in Frisco; I arranged love song medleys from the ’80s, ’90s, jazz, pop, and classical, and I performed on both instruments to a sold-out crowd of 200. I was overwhelmed with the support, and planning a concert forced me to practice for months ahead of time. To keep up the streak, I’ve said “yes” to performing a holiday concert this December, so the pressure is back on to start practicing again!

Disclosure: MyAsianVoice is committed to publishing original and third-party content that is relevant and useful to the Asian female. The content posted are strictly the views of the author’s own and does not reflect the views of MyAsianVoice.

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