**This ongoing series profiles female powerhouses who are making their mark in their leadership roles. In the spirit of paying it forward, each profiled woman is asked to nominate another peer to fuel the series.**
Prior to meeting her, I had heard great things about Theresa Moore, who came referred to me from a fellow Women in Leadership nominee Maeve Donahue. “You are just going to love Theresa!,” Maeve promised. And she was right.
There is something refreshingly authentic and grounded about Theresa, while being balanced with an insatiable zeal for life, work, passion and adventure. Theresa tells me about her plans to “own the 95 corridor from Boston to DC” through her work at her company T-Time Productions. And I have no doubt this woman will continue to make considerable impact through her media production company.
What follows is a glimpse into our conversation about giving voice to your story, being an advocate for others and learning from your mistakes…
Me: Theresa, I am so glad we were able to connect! Your fellow Women in Leadership nominee Maeve Donohue had such wonderful things to say about you! How did the two of you connect?
Theresa: She is a special soul, isn’t she?! We are working on this wonderful initiative that is launching in October through the Rhode Island Foundation—an educational initiative to explore the life and contributions of Roger Williams to the state and country. I was brought on to the project to help determine how we could make things come to life in a digital fashion. As a part of that process, we began the search for a great web programmer to be a collaborator with us. We interviewed a bunch of people and Maeve’s company, Nami Studios, was selected. We’ve been working together ever since and have become fast friends. We are very similar and she has this great energy. I love that I can say I have a new person in my network and a new friend.
Me: I couldn’t agree more; Maeve definitely has a special, unique spirit. So when you heard about this series—which has a particular focus on leadership—what thoughts about leadership popped up for you?
Theresa: I believe a leader is someone who can look at a situation, consider the individuals involved and figure out how to move everyone toward a particular goal or a better place. A leader can do all of that while at the same time appreciating the individuality of everyone and figuring out how can we collaborate as a team. A leader realizes that 1 plus 1 can equal 3.
Me: It really speaks to the notion of Jim Collin’s “Level 5 Leadership” in that strong leaders focus more on empowering and uniting a team, rather than their own success. They focus on harnessing the strengths of others.
Theresa: Exactly! Have you heard of Gallup’s Strengths Finder?
Me: Yes, our Atrion leadership team went through a Strengths Finder assessment and training earlier this year; it was interesting uncovering my strengths!
Theresa: It was, wasn’t it! I am also doing some work with the Highlander Institute, an educational nonprofit located here in Rhode Island, and we just had an offsite and performed the Strengths Finder assessment. I was the only one on the team who got “Maximizer” as a core strength, meaning I derive fuel from uncovering the strengths of others along with myself. A Maximizer recognizes the special qualities in each individual and leads their team by playing to those unique skill sets.
Me: That’s a great strength to have and it makes sense that you got that given how you described leadership above.
Theresa: It certainly feels fitting! I believe strongly that leadership has evolved so that it’s no longer about people in positions of power being authoritative; rather, it’s about empowering people to have their voice and to not feel threatened that someone else could add a differing perspective, perhaps even one that challenges yours.
The concept of a “Maximizer” was this interesting concept I hadn’t really thought about but I think it goes back to my upbringing. I grew up as an avid runner and was captain of my high school and college track teams. Though it’s an individual sport to a degree, as a team you are trying to maximize points. My experience with sports taught me at a young age to appreciate the skill sets of all my teammates and understand that their contributions will make us all successful.
Me: Absolutely! So to fast-forward, you founded your own company T-Time Productions about 10 years ago. You are focused on producing unique programming and content for various media platforms. But I’d love to learn me more about your company, particularly why you founded it.
Theresa: When I founded T-Time, I had spent many years in male-dominated industries. I started out in insurance as an East Coast girl trying to make it work in LA! From there I went to Coca-Cola where I worked as a Project/Marketing Manager for the Olympic Games and other sports properties and Director of Corporate External Affairs for a little over five years.
At the time, the President of ESPN was delivering the keynote at a conference I was attending and I remember so vividly him exclaiming: “Where there are opportunities take them and where there aren’t, create them”. Following that conference, I wrote to him and explained why I should work at ESPN. Four months later I got the job in NYC.
I worked six years at ESPN and had some amazing experiences in various business affairs, marketing and sales roles. But I found myself getting frustrated that we only seemed to be telling certain stories. There were these groups of people who had no voice and when they did, their voice seemed to be cast in a negative light. During my time at ESPN, I had created some programming that had aired on the network and it whet my appetite. It reminded me that rather than complain about what’s not there, I could identify the problem and be part of the solution.
I had been taking all these classes at NYU in production and development and my final course was to create my own production company. I used it as the model to create T-Time Productions. Soon thereafter, I left ESPN and launched it with the commitment that we would serve underserved audiences and tell the stories of people who often don’t get their voices heard.
Me: What an amazing story and a true testament to carving your own path. What kinds of stories do you cover?
Theresa: We’ve created documentaries about Title IX, focusing on women leadership in sports. In March, I was down in Washington at the March on Washington Film Festival on a panel in which they showcased our film called “Third and Long,” which explores the history of African Americans in pro football and juxtaposes it with the Civil Rights Movement. The programming features football luminaries such as Jim Brown, Deacon Jones, Willie Lanier, Steelers Chairman Emeritus Dan Rooney and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
What was wonderful about that was that in the film, we made sure to include the perspectives of the athletes’ wives, who so often don’t get to tell their story.
Recently, we created a sub-division of the company called T-Time Learning. Coming off that film, we thought how great it would be for kids to learn about the Civil Rights movement. But we knew they wouldn’t be able to watch a two-hour movie. So we created an interactive app for kids to use in schools and now it’s being tested in schools in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts!
Me: How wonderful!
Theresa: Thank you! We never thought we would create more than that one app but we’ve had such great response that we’ve realized this is a way to create a portfolio of apps that explores historical events while at the same time increasing the representations of women and people of color in educational curricula.
Me: Can you describe a challenge you experienced along the way in starting T-Time or in producing a specific film?
Theresa: The ultimate lesson for me was in trying to get the film “Third and Long” made. When we first started out to raise money for the film, we had to present to a room of investors. One of the gentlemen said to me, “You are a woman; why do you think you can tell this story?” A hush fell over the room as everyone wondered where I was going to take the conversation.
What I said is, “The unfounded discrimination that these black players faced on the football field is very similar to the discrimination you have about a woman not being able to tell the story. When we create the film, you will see an amazing product.”
He didn’t end up providing us money, but when the film came out, I received a cryptic note from him saying, “Good job.”
Me: Wow! It’s amazing that questions like that can still pop up so regularly. That’s a great example of the challenges that can exist as individuals pursue their dreams—no matter their gender, age, vocation, etc. There can be so many barriers preventing our success. And it’s because a lot of individuals struggle to be strong, empowering leaders. Do you think as women we have an added responsibility to be advocates for one another?
Theresa: I do believe that. But unfortunately I think sometimes we fall short of that. Though you certainly have women that are extremely supportive of each other, others feel that if they are supportive, they will lose their role or their influence. You have to find the people who aren’t threatened by helping give access, resources or exposure to other women.
I’ve had female colleagues and bosses who have so embraced and created opportunities for me that were amazing. But I’ve also been on the side where any exposure or credit I was getting was seen as a threat to them and other people. What’s so jarring is that sometimes someone you think is supporting you is fine supporting you up until a point. But when you reach that point where they feel you are getting too much exposure, praise or credit, sometimes they can go from a mentor to an adversary with the flip of a switch.
I always quote Madeleine Albright who said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women!”
Me: I love that; I couldn’t agree more!
Theresa: I feel a personal responsibility to help younger generations as well. That’s how you leave behind a legacy. Our role is to help the next group so that they may surpass us. And when they do, we can know that we played a critical role as stepping stone. I like to think that my legacy can be opening up a different door for someone.
Me: What lessons have you learned about leadership along the way, particularly as you look back at previous roles you’ve held?
Theresa: When I am talking to students, I find that a number of them think they have it all figured out. But oftentimes we don’t; it’s about the lessons we learn along the way. If you find yourself in the wrong place, learn from it. I learned early on that insurance wasn’t right for me but it led me to Coca-Cola. You have to take the lessons with you.
The other thing I’ve learned is that you can’t let failure paralyze you. You won’t win every game or every race but you can always analyze what went well and what to do differently next time. I have a placard of a Chinese saying that says, “Fall seven times, get up eight.” As long as you get back up and dust yourself off, that’s what is important.
People often talk about different characteristics of success and persistence being one of them—the ability to continue on. For me, persistence is understanding that “no” can just mean “not now” or the “timing is wrong.” It doesn’t mean your idea isn’t a good one, so find another way to move forward. If it is a “no,” figure out if it could be turned into a “yes.”
Me: Great advice! What other advice would you dispense to the younger generations coming up and looking to take on their first leadership roles?
Theresa: Something I want them to understand is that you are the author of your own story. Don’t give someone else the power to tell your own story. When you hand it off to someone else to tell it, it’s the same as giving away your power which is unfortunate.
And expose yourself to things. I used to laugh when I lived in New York City and watched the kids trekking home, lugging a bunch of textbooks that represent hours of homework. Today, kids don’t get to be kids. Academics are very important but I think about how we got to go to the playground or see a different side of the city. Some of these kids don’t get this chance today. So, as adults, it’s about how we can give kids the opportunity to see other things and expand their worldview. It’s about how to give them that fresh, and possibly life-changing, perspective.
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as Marketing Principal for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.