Jylla Tearte has reinvented herself at least three times since she obtained her MBA in 1978 from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Her first career was at IBM, where she became a vice president responsible for global channels; her second, an entrepreneur as CEO of Crystal Stairs, Inc., where she provides executive coaching and publishes books; and now, she is at it again as COO of the Tearte Family Foundation.
This progression of leadership and engagement has become the subject of her scholar-practitioner life that fuels her passion, Encore Leadership.
She leads by example as she encourages other individuals who have achieved various levels of success to focus on leaving a legacy that matters. For her, The Consortium stands out as an organization that changed the arc of her life.
Now, she wants to provide the Consortium opportunity to other potential fellows while encouraging other “Encore Leaders” to give back, so that The Consortium can continue to matter.
How did you first learn of The Consortium and what compelled you to apply for a fellowship?
Leaving the comforts of a small North Carolina town after having attended Livingstone College, a small historically black college, definitely put me out of my element. Yet, when John Daniels, a Livingstonian and a Consortium alum, told me about the fellowship, I knew I had to pursue the opportunity, if for no other reason than to escape the world as I knew it.
My acceptance without work experience was quite a feat, in hindsight, with no business courses or experience under my belt. The Consortium took a risk and I seized the opportunity. I left small town USA and entered a foreign country—Indiana. The Midwest. I never looked back.
Upon graduation in 1978, The Consortium and an MBA were major credentials on my resume that landed me a job at IBM. My 20-plus-year tenure with IBM afforded me the opportunity to lead teams across the globe, while taking on increasing roles of responsibility about every two years.
I never lost sight of The Consortium and engaged IBM and The Consortium in sponsoring an event at the National Black MBA Conference, so alums could gather and connect. There was an immediate connection and common ground whenever I crossed the path of another Consortium alum.
Why have you decided to become so deeply involved financially with The Consortium?
My husband Curtis and I established a family foundation in 2012. The experience of traveling across the world as IBM executives fueled our interest in providing global study opportunities for Consortium students. One of the tenets of the Tearte Family Foundation is to know the students we support; and thus, the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta was selected for the awards.
The eight fellows who have had the opportunity to study abroad as Tearte Scholars during their mid-semester module have exhibited the results we desired and have exceeded our expectations in terms of their opportunity for growth. Their stories have been personally fulfilling as we hear and observe the profound impact that the grants have provided to the fellows.
Further, when I received the Wallace L. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, I attended part of the weekend training for the new fellows and realized I needed to do even more to support The Consortium.
I recalled my days at the St. Louis orientation and remembered how pivotal the experience had been. I had been introduced to individuals from across the country who would also be attending Indiana University.
It is a proven theory that forming “networks” are crucial to success in business and this was my first real “network.” I want to keep that vehicle for building a network open for students who pursue the MBA via The Consortium. Thinking about the day-to-day operations required and the continued staff support necessary to sustain quality production of the Consortium programming compelled me to become an Eagle Club donor, in addition to maintaining my relationship with Goizueta fellows.
When is the last time you referred someone—either a student prospect or a business associate—to The Consortium?
At the recent 100 Black Men of North Metro Atlanta New Year’s party, a young man who is attending Morehouse as a Tearte Scholar shared with me that his brother was thinking about pursuing an MBA.
We immediately put contact information into our phones, highlighted the Consortium website, and connected him with The Consortium. I have always recommended The Consortium to talented individuals interested in pursuing an MBA who I have the privilege of meeting.
What haunts me is the continued existence of The Consortium. I think that without my help and the help of other alums who have benefitted tremendously from the support of The Consortium at a point in our lives when it truly mattered, it will have a better chance of continued growth. It’s up to us to reach back and give back so that The Consortium can continue to change the arc of the lives of those who are privileged to be selected into the program.
The Consortium truly changed the arc of my life! I hope other Consortium alum who are at a phase of life as Encore Leaders will just take a moment to remember from whence we have come.