Tonya McNeal-Weary: on the role of mentorship for entrepreneurial success

Tonya McNeal-Weary is the Founder and Managing Director of IBS Global Consulting Inc.
Tonya McNeal-Weary is the Founder and Managing Director of IBS Global Consulting Inc.

Tonya McNeal-Weary is the Founder and Managing Director of IBS Global Consulting Inc., a woman owned global management consulting firm with offices in the United States and United Kingdom. Founded in 2009, IBS Global Consulting specialize in providing innovative marketing and business development solutions for small and medium-sized companies looking to expand internationally. Tonya has proven experience in assisting start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in conducting international trade. She has also worked with government agencies and international institutions including the U.S. Department of Commerce and European Commission.

1. How have you developed as a leader forming and working at IBS Global Consulting?

Working at IBS Global Consulting has given me the unique opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, people from different cultures and backgrounds. This experience has given me greater awareness of cultural diversity and the important role it has in the workplace. I have learned to not only embrace individual differences, but to leverage those differences to create a competitive advantage within my organization. Our diversity is what makes us unique, and this diversity is the foundation of our leadership. I believe that through inclusive leadership – one that encourage contributions from all team members – you see more creative and innovative ideas, as well as develop more leaders within the organization. And, this is the type of leader I have grown to become at IBS Global Consulting.

2. What were the highlights and challenges of creating and developing your company, IBS Global Consulting?

Creating and developing IBS Global Consulting has definitely broaden my horizons. It’s wonderful to work with such a diverse group of talented people who bring different viewpoints. So now, I look at people differently – I look at the world differently. More importantly, I look at myself differently. And, I have this greater sense of confidence within myself.

As a minority female, one of my challenges has been working in a male-dominated industry. I often meet and negotiate with men, some of which are from companies where males dominate senior positions within their organizations, or are from male-dominated cultures where women are not traditionally at the negotiating table. I think there is a negative stereotype about women's negotiating abilities. I would disagree. I think that women are just as good of a negotiator as our male counterparts.

Finding balance between business and family life is also a challenge. Managing a global team across multiple countries and time zones adds to this challenge. Management Consulting, in itself, is not your traditional 9 to 5. Then, you add on top of that a 12-hour time difference. Needless to say, I have had many late night conference calls.

3. How does the mission of Powers Education speak to you and why do you think it is important for Powers Education to exist?

Working in management consulting, I understand first-hand the unique challenges of women working in a male-dominated industry. When it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions, women (especially minority women) remain widely under-represented. It’s time to close the gender gap and increase the number of women in STEM, and Powers Education is playing a huge role in achieving just that. Powers Education has built a solid foundation for women helping women succeed in STEM careers by providing access to tutoring and female mentors. And, I think this is so important, especially in today’s society.

Mentors can play a significant role in motivating and inspiring young women to pursue their dreams, and in helping them to overcome the challenges and obstacles ahead. We must continue to break barriers and open new doors for young girls, just as the many influential women before us have done. It’s extremely important for young women have a strong support system, whether it’s a parent or outside influencer such as a teacher or mentor.

4. Which female leaders do you admire and why?

When thinking about the female leaders I admire, so many great names come to mind. Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey – and so many others. I admire these women for their passion, drive and perseverance. All these women have led by example. They have opened doors and given hope to so many by showing that the impossible is possible and that there is no challenge you can’t overcome.

But more importantly, I admire the everyday woman struggling to find her way. And through the struggle, through the adversity – she never gives up. She not only fights for a better way for herself, but also for the future generation of women just like her. These are the women whom I have true admiration for – the “unsung heroes”.

5. To follow that, what advice can you offer women who want a career in your industry?

I encourage women to be courageous, creative and confident – no matter what industry they’re pursuing. But especially when getting into a male-dominated industry, you can’t be afraid to show your strength. You can’t be afraid to “stand out” and take risks.

In management consulting specifically, it’s important to build a professional network. Consulting is a very competitive field. So, having the right connections is key. Also, be sure to equip yourself with the required skills, for example analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. For someone interested in working for an international consulting firm, I suggest learning a foreign language, or studying abroad to gain some international experience – or whatever will make you more marketable and attractive to potential employers. Also, seek mentorship from someone in the industry who you can learn from.

6. What do you want IBS Global Consulting to achieve in 2017?

Looking ahead, I look forward to continuous improvement and always delivering services that exceed our clients’ expectations and developing a strong team of leaders within our company who can continue to move the business forward.

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