In the past year Tekisha Harvey, MBA ’08, has visited Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, the Netherlands, Bali, the Philippines, Thailand and Japan. “It’s crazy that this is my life,” she says.
The adventures were hard-earned for Harvey, who — after 16 years of climbing the corporate ladder — decided to branch out on her own as a marketing consultant while simultaneously jet setting across continents. “I wanted flexibility,” Harvey says. “I wanted to not have to wear a suit, I wanted to be creative, I wanted to be coaching or developing others and I wanted to not have a traditional office.”
So how do you go from the typical 9-to-5 to being your own world-traveling boss?
Although Harvey had built a successful career at ConAgra Brands working in shopper marketing, the call to explore new places became impossible to ignore. “I had the seven-year itch,” Harvey says. “After I was promoted, I thought, ‘Things will be different. Before I worked on up to 10 accounts at a time, and now I have this one large account, so I can really dig in and make changes.’ But I realized that the higher you go, that doesn't necessarily mean you have more power and authority.”
Harvey questioned whether she was in the job for the right reasons. Ultimately, the allure of working for herself won out. “ConAgra was a great experience,” she says. “But I felt like it was over, so I left.”
Deciding to quit a cushy corporate job was the first step. Figuring out what to do after that … well, sometimes the other steps don’t fall into place so easily. “I had no clue what I wanted to do after I left ConAgra,” Harvey says. “That was the scary part.”
But by leveraging her network, she connected with like-minded individuals who had made it on their own and who gave her the confidence to flex her entrepreneurship muscles.
“I surrounded myself with people doing different things,” she says. “I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was scared because it seems extremely insecure — but I thought, ‘You know what, let me just find out more about how this works from other people and how they are living.”
Harvey’s first freelance project was a marketing plan for a fitness equipment business owner. One of the challenges she faced early on was realizing that without the barometers of a mega corporation, knowing if you have what it takes can be daunting.
“When you're starting out on your own, there are no hard markers for whether you're doing a good job,” Harvey says. “I delivered the marketing plan and asked for some candid feedback. Ninety percent was that he liked everything, and 10 percent was how I could improve.”
That information was empowering for Harvey. “I thought, ‘Oh, that's not hard. I get that. I could do that.’ That spurred me on to actually consider marketing consulting as the next step for what I wanted to do on my own,” she says.
IN HER OWN WORDS
Read about Harvey’s journey to becoming her own boss on her blog at tekishaharvey.com.
Media Relations Manager
About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.