There’s an old adage that says careers aren’t linear anymore – they’re jungle gyms. Tamara has lived that philosophy her whole life. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Tamara moved to Hollywood, California just in time for High School. No matter where or when she was, Tamara always quietly rebelled. Though surrounded by movie stars, she went to any length – even breaking her nose – to stay out of a photographs or films. At her small, high school in North Hollywood, The Oakwood School, Tamara refused to take part in the various ‘sit-in’s’ and counterculture activities and applied to Ivy Leagues Colleges on the East Coast. When she decided to attend Radcliffe College at Harvard University, she left for the East Coast never having even seen Boston.
With so many avenues of study at Harvard, Tamara tried to get a taste of everything Harvard had to offer. Eventually she ended up with a degree in Biology and History (Modern European). Like many of her friends she worked and borrowed to afford the tuition. Her jobs varied between laboratory research technician at a well-known cancer research institute, and night watchman at a parking garage, and her favourite position as assistant in the archives of the Harvard Theatre Collection.
Tamara excelled at her undergraduate studies, but when she completed her degree and it came time to take the next step. she wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to follow. After graduation she toured Europe with her mother – the two of them often sleeping in trains and youth hostels as they traversed the continent. While they were somewhere in Switzerland her father made contact saying that she had received an ‘all expenses paid’ invitation to study for a PhD at what was to become The Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University. With an ‘offer she couldn’t refuse’, Tamara headed back to Boston to resume her studies. She would finish her PhD in Physiology, carry out many lecturing and teaching jobs, and do a year’s post-doctoral research before finally leaving the academic world in favor of the business world.
Beginnings in Business
Tamara’s first full-time job in the commercial world was located near the National Institutes of Health in Gaithersburg, Maryland at one of the first Biotechnology companies. After working in Maryland for about 6 months, she married and moved to the newly established European offices based near Frankfurt, in Germany. There, in the Benelux and northern France, she sold and helped establish distributorships for products to help researchers involved with DNA cloning and monoclonal antibody research and diagnostics. She also had many adventures - most memorably getting lost in Eastern Holland, driving along the top of a dyke and ending up in the middle of a mock battle re-enactment in which the Dutch successfully beat off the invading Germans.
Her first European job kicked off what was to be a lifetime of experience in selling and marketing all over Europe. From Germany, Tamara moved to the UK to be trained as an IBM Salesman. In those days, IBM put all its salesmen through a one-year business and selling skill course. Being in a new country, new job, and new business area meant learning the names of British companies, the geography, and the different business culture. It was at this job that she first started noting the differences between British and American business culture.
Misunderstandings about the differences between British English and US English led to some amusing incidents which were easily forgiven and broke the ice in new business relationships. After almost 5 years with IBM UK, Tamara moved to The PA Consulting Group to take up a newly-created position in sales and marketing management. She carried out this role for a year until she was headhunted to work for Digital Equipment Corporation developing and delivering competitive sales programs in 23 European countries. Two years into the job Tamara moved to Rome, Italy to be closer to some of the more challenging markets.
Tamara’s career took off, which started an exciting time with lots of travel that was interrupted briefly by the birth of her first child, a daughter named Tabitha. Fortunately, the birth was very late - Tamara was able to keep traveling until her tenth month of pregnancy. Interestingly, her daughter hates flying…perhaps she had enough before she was born. In Italy, both Tamara, her husband, and her new daughter needed to learn the rudiments of another language and culture. Italy proved to be a gastronomic education as well - when Tamara enrolled Tabitha in an Italian nursery school run by nuns, the first thing the nuns wanted to know was how many courses her daughter would require for her lunch!
After 2 ½ years in Italy, Tamara returned to the UK to take up a position with an IT services supplier, now known as Capgemini. She performed many jobs over her 8 years with the company, including developing a new team selling process which helped shift the company’s approach to a more integrated solution sale. As a Divisional Director, her job often took her to Paris (Capgemini’s headquarters) and to the company chateau outside of the capital where business training courses were held, including one which she presented to sales teams from around the world.
Around the turn of the millennium, various personal tragedies struck. A son, Toby, who had been born in 1994, died suddenly and tragically on Christmas morning in 1999. A few months later, Tamara’s brother discovered he had stomach cancer and died in the summer of 2000. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law suffered a breakdown and died by the end of the same year.
By the end of 2001, Tamara decided to leave Capgemini and focus her attention on her family. Soon divorced and on her own with her daughter, Tamara set up a small consulting business – T.H. Howard & Associates, so she could work closer to home and spend more time with Tabitha. As a small business owner, Tamara was able to perfect her specialist consulting skills. She spent the rest of her time experimenting with baking and writing a cookbook (still to be published) and regularly sent the test cookies and cakes to school with her daughter.
After a few years, Tamara joined with other colleagues to form Verve Consulting Ltd, and today, she is still a co-owner. Verve Consulting Ltd is a boutique consulting firm, specializing in helping organisations of all sizes improve their strategic focus and plans, driving improved sales, and managing business growth. As she consulted to more and more small businesses, Tamara noticed that while there were many resources for American businesses, there were none geared towards the British market. With her expertise on both sides of the pond, Tamara had a unique insight into what issues small British businesses faced, and how best to break down these issues and explain them.
It was this insight that got Tamara writing. Her first business book, Who’s Paying for Lunch? was published in September, 2014. A second book, 100+ Top Tips for Effective Sales Management is due out in early 2015. Tamara is now working on her third book- Putting the Soul Back into Business - which chronicles a new social movement in the Western business world.
In her spare time, Tamara reads (a lot!), and enjoys cooking and gardening - particularly growing edible plants. She has many other ideas in the works and just needs to find the time to write them all, while also consulting! Tamara also finds time to hold other board positions for a small business, the Harvard Club of London, and a charitable foundation in between trips to visit her daughter who now lives in the United States.