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“It’s our job as parents to give our children the confidence to reach for their goals”, with Katie Tierney and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Kids have to believe in themselves. It’s our job as parents to give them the confidence to reach for their goals. But we also have to teach them to accept failure gracefully and learn from their failures to build their accomplishments. I have always told my kids that the way to success is to say […]


Kids have to believe in themselves. It’s our job as parents to give them the confidence to reach for their goals. But we also have to teach them to accept failure gracefully and learn from their failures to build their accomplishments.

I have always told my kids that the way to success is to say “yes” when everyone else around you is saying “no.” It’s how I rose from a sales engineer to leading a team of 66 sales professionals in less than seven years. I said “yes” when my colleagues thought it was impossible. And, no, I didn’t always succeed, but the failures showed me growth opportunities. And when I succeeded, I was a hero.


 I had the pleasure to interview Katie Tierney. Katie is the vice president of strategic sales at Symphony SummitAI, a leading provider of AI-enabled IT service management solutions. She joined the company in July 2018, having previously worked for WhiteHat Security, CyPhy Works and BMC, among others. Symphony SummitAI is a portfolio company of SymphonyAI, a group of companies that provide leading AI-centric solutions for transforming the business enterprise by driving revenue growth and operational excellence.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career ?

I started programming when I was 9 years old. Yep — you heard that right. I was checking out a friend’s new VIC-20, and got tired of playing Pong, so I asked her dad if I could borrow the manual to see if the computer could do something more interesting. It turns out, it could! I wrote a BASIC program to run my name across the screen a bunch of times. I was hooked on technology from that point forward.

I graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in business analysis and research, which is just an old-fashioned way of saying “management information systems.” I immediately started working as a consultant for a boutique consulting company that was moving companies from mainframes to client-server environments. I then moved to a software company where I did post-sales consulting, which I loved.

In late 2000, I had my first child and retired from the software game… or so I thought. In 2007, I was approached by the CEO of my first company to help him start a new company that was focused on social media and Enterprise 2.0. I started part-time with that company and then quickly became full-time, running the recruiting function.

In late 2008, one of my recruiters went to work for BMC Software, and saw that they were hiring for a sales engineer (basically a technical sales rep) in Minneapolis. He knew I wanted to get back into technology, so he thought it would be a great fit. After a grueling interview process, I was hired and my career in sales began. I spent 8 years at BMC, a year and a half at White Hat Security, and am now running the sales organization for North America for Symphony SummitAI.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have 4 children, ages 18, 16, 15, and 12

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

I would say I was mid-career when my first daughter was born.

Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mother. Since I was a little girl, being a mother was my dream. Plus, I always wanted a big family, probably because I am one of five kids. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.

Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?

Motherhood happened exactly when I hoped it would. I had time to travel and work, and then we were ready to settle down.

Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?

No two days are alike for me. I travel a lot for work, so I can be in three states in the same week. When I am home, I try to keep a pretty regular schedule. I will exercise at 6:15 a.m., then come home and shower and start my day. My kids are usually gone by the time I get home from exercising, so I’ll send a few Snapchats to them to let them know I love them.

Once I get started at the desk, usually around 8:30 a.m., I have a mixture of internal meetings, customer meetings and follow up work to do. After the kids get home, I’ll make dinner (I love to cook) and then my husband and I will figure out which kid needs to be where, and we’ll make it happen.

We’re usually home by around 9:30 p.m., at which time I’ll do some follow up work, and then my husband and I will relax and head to bed around 10:30 p.m. or so.

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

I had always planned to be a stay-at-home mom, so I would say that my career path changed the way I parent. Once I decided to take the opportunity to go back to work in 2007, I had to make significant adjustments to the way we lived our lives. My husband had always been an amazing partner, but once I went back to work, he had to pick up my slack. We’ve made it work, though.

Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?

I think that being a mother has given me more empathy, which is essential in sales. By having to understand someone else’s situation (especially someone who is in diapers and can’t articulate it), I have learned to be more patient.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?

Initially, the biggest challenge we had was building our network of support. We live hundreds of miles from our families, so we had to figure out how to build a support system in our town to get us through the trials and tribulations of having a dual-working-parent household.

Nowadays, as the kids have gotten older, my biggest challenges revolve around trying to be in four places at once and missing out on activities due to my travel schedule.

Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?

We have quite a few traditions, but probably the most meaningful is our family dinner policy. We always eat at the dinner table, even if some of us are off traveling or at events and we don’t allow phones or TV. And we always have a blast.

For example, one night many years ago, my husband asked our then 8-year-old for the Russian dressing. She replied “I’m RUSSIAN to get it to you!” and now every time he asks for his dressing, someone says “I’m RUSSIAN to get it to you.” He’s now added “I’m PUTIN it back, now!” when he’s done. We still laugh. Every. Single. Time.

These are the things our kids will remember. They’ll remember that we made it a priority to spend time with them and to make that time enjoyable.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

  1. When you promise your kid that you’ll “be there” for something, BE THERE. That means that you’ve put work aside and you’re fully focused on your child. If you are constantly checking the phone, they will see it, and they won’t feel that you care about them.
  2. Set aside time to spend with your kids. For us, it’s from about 5:30 p.m. until they’re in bed.
  3. Engage with your kids outside your house or their school. Take the kids camping, go snowshoeing, take them to the local beach or pool. Make time for them outside of the places where they normally go and make it memorable.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Kids have to believe in themselves. It’s our job as parents to give them the confidence to reach for their goals. But we also have to teach them to accept failure gracefully and learn from their failures to build their accomplishments.

I am a big fan of goal-setting, and I try to get my kids to set SMART goals to help them achieve great things. As of right now, my kids want to be: a world-famous economist, a litigator, a fetal surgeon and a mechanical engineer. In their every day lives, I have them set small goals to help them achieve those dreams.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

It’s funny, but I don’t listen to parenting advice, so the podcasts that inspire me to be better are actually ones on economics: Planet Money and Freakonomics. I love the way these two podcasts explain the world in ways that make sense. The kids, my husband, and I have detailed conversations about the concepts in these podcasts which improves our ability to connect on a parent-child level.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

I have always told my kids that the way to success is to say “yes” when everyone else around you is saying “no.” It’s how I rose from a sales engineer to leading a team of 66 sales professionals in less than seven years. I said “yes” when my colleagues thought it was impossible. And, no, I didn’t always succeed, but the failures showed me growth opportunities. And when I succeeded, I was a hero.

If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?

I don’t like to give parenting advice (mainly because I don’t like to take it, either!), so I’ll share my favorite tactic for potty training:

DON’T USE PULL UPS DURING THE DAY! Kids don’t feel uncomfortable, so it’s not a big deal for them to keep using them.

Instead, get a bunch of gallon-sized Ziploc bags, fill them with clean underpants, pants, and socks, and always carry them with you. If your child has an “oops,” quietly take them out of the situation, calmly and quietly get her changed, and then let them go back to what they were doing. They learn that “oops” is uncomfortable and it removes them from play for a while. Shaming a kid for an oops will always backfire.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.


About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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