How I Went from Literature Nerd to InterWorks Operations Manager


How I Went from Literature Nerd to InterWorks Operations Manager

by Nicole Wolf

"How I Went from" is an ongoing blog series that highlights our employees' different journeys to InterWorks. The results are pretty diverse, but each story is special in its own right.

My journey has taken me all over the country across a variety of different locations, fields, disciplines and positions. I haven’t always been in BI Operations, and the road that took me here has been an interesting one.

My story is part of our ongoing “How I Went from _____ to InterWorks Consultant” blog series. Check out the original “Life as InterWorks Consultant” post for more stories like, and others very much unlike, my own.

It All Began In the City

I grew up in New York City – Manhattan to be exact. My father was a research bio-geneticist and my mother composed show tunes. Throughout my youth, I spent a lot of time in my father’s lab looking through microscopes and learning how to think creatively. Fun fact: I’m actually published as a participant in part of a study he did on how to get frogs to eat frozen hamburger meat. I also played flute in a youth orchestra. 

I went to a posh private school called where I played field hockey, went to birthday parties at country clubs and was pushed harder and put down more than any other time in my life.

Then Everything Changed

When my parents got divorced in fifth grade, it threw my life into a tailspin. I went from a private school education to the rough New York City Public School System. Teachers there were scared of some kids. A classmate of mine, an innocent bystander, got caught up in a gang shootout and died. They told my mom that the likelihood of me graduating was slim.

Northampton Junior Prom

Above: Me (back row, second from the left) at Williston Northampton Junior Prom.

Luckily, my mom sent me to an alternative boarding school in Connecticut that I loved. I finished middle school there and went to a second boarding school for high school, this time a prep school in Western Massachusetts. 

College Adventure

When it was time to look at colleges, I decided I was going to treat it as one big adventure. I only applied to colleges in states I thought I would never visit otherwise. I originally wanted to study neuro-psychology at Emory University, but I was completely taken in with San Antonio, TX.

I began my freshman year as a pre-med major at Trinity University and spent that first semester learning that I wasn’t going to be following in my father’s footsteps. I received less than stellar grades, which I wasn’t used to. I was an A-B student in high school. To keep my financial aid, I had to get my grades up, fast. My best grades were in English, and I loved to read. So, I switched majors and was able to sneak by with a 3.0 that year (the minimum requirement).

I ended up with an English literature degree. My specialty was in early American literature, predominantly from the 18th century. I have never used it. I just enjoyed it. Most people consider me weird for that.

“What Can You Do with a B.A. in English?”

There aren’t a lot of jobs for an English major straight out of college, especially if you aren’t going to be a teacher. There is actually a song in the musical “Avenue Q” entitled “What Can You Do with a B.A. in English?” They say the answer is nothing. 

Graduation from Trinity University

Above: Graduation from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX.

I did get a job stocking watch parts and filling out orders for a watch wholesaler. The watch wholesaler had just lost their Marketing Assistant who was the sole person responsible for the catalog and website. Desperate to make more than $6.50 an hour, working 14-20 hours a week, I decided I would take it on. 

I spent the next two weeks teaching myself Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and FrontPage. All the while, I tested and printed everything and asked anyone and everyone for feedback and/or help. Luckily, management was very patient with me. After a year, I was working 100% on the website and loving it.

Striking Out on My Own  

After leaving my position at the watch wholesaler, I worked as a freelance web developer in San Antonio. I basically walked door to door talking to business owners about what I could do for them. In most cases, I would dissect their websites and offer to make them better. I was an SEO expert, web developer, graphic designer and PR agent, depending on what the situation required.

Chasing a Publishing Career and Moving Back East

At a career event at my college, I met someone from a major publishing company. They were doing some great things, and I was excited to possibly work there. The only offices potentially hiring were back on the East Coast, so it was time to move back. I packed a rental car with everything I could fit. I sold or gave away the rest. My sister flew down, and we made a cross country road trip out of the move back

Road Trip Memphis

Above: My sister Erica (right) and I (left) on Beale Street in Memphis, TN.

In Boston, I moved in with a roommate I had only met in person once and worked at a temp agency – applying to jobs, going to networking events and basically stalking my dream company. Eventually, they hired me. I started working as a grunt, answering calls and taking orders. After another year, I was finally in the Media Department doing what I wanted: customizing websites.

After five years of working at the publishing company, I hit a hiring ceiling. They were not able to promote me any further unless I quit, worked somewhere else for a year and reapplied. I started looking for new jobs.

Hello Oklahoma, Hello InterWorks

Invigorated by the sense of adventure again, I began looking for jobs based on where in the country I wanted to live. My husband had spent some of his childhood in Tulsa, OK, so it was on the list. I found the job I would have at InterWorks on Craigslist. It was for a Project Manager to work with the Website Department on-site in Tulsa. I remember reading the job description and thinking, “I can do that.” I gave them a call.

Downtown Tulsa, OK

Above: Downtown Tulsa, OK. 

After passing the first two interviews, InterWorks flew me down to Oklahoma for an in-person interview. I showed up to the Stillwater office complete with a briefcase and three-piece suit. I knew right away that this was not going to be anything like the corporate world I was coming from. I was introduced to a man in a polo shirt and jeans with a Buddha on his desk. This man was Dalton Parsons, my future boss. I felt really overdressed. After a few minutes of talking to Dalton, I felt at ease and knew this was a place at which I wanted to work. 

Spoiler Alert: I Got the Job!

When I got the call that I was hired, it was emotional. I was so excited, and I had exactly two weeks to be in Stillwater ready to start. I quit my job, packed everything I could into a small U-Haul and, once again, drove cross-country. I arrived in Stillwater the day before my first day.

InterWorks' Tulsa Office

Above: Opening the InterWorks Tulsa office in 2011.

I worked for one year as the Web Project Manager and loved it. Form the very first day, I was taken aback by the intelligence and creativity of my InterWorks co-workers. I had been a web developer for five years, but these guys were in a whole other league.

Taking On a Different Role

The first thing that struck me about InterWorks was that there was this general impression that, “if you are here, you deserve to be.” From the first day on, everyone trusted me to do a good job. It was up to me to keep that impression going. If I think all my co-workers are amazing at their jobs, doesn’t that mean I might also be amazing?

After a little over a year on the Web Team, word came down that it was changing gears. At first, I thought I was being downsized. I should have known better though, because InterWorks doesn’t squander resources. I was “repurposed” as I like to call it. After working with the Web Team, getting them to a much more stable point than they were at when I first arrived, I met with Will Joyce and Kirsten Fullerton. We discussed whether I’d be interested in working with their newest and fastest growing department: Business Intelligence.

Data Love TCC13

Above: Kirsten Fullerton (right) and I (left) showing off our data love stickers at TCC13.

My New Life in BI

During my first day as a member of BI Operations, I sat in a conference room with the other team members discussing daily tasks, problem areas and strategies for the future. By the end of the day, we had a detailed task list of responsibilities and new department initiatives that I was going to take ownership of. It was right up my alley, and I knew I was home.

First Boston Red Sox Game

Above: Me at my first Boston Red Sox game.

Today, I continue to work with the amazing BI team. My responsibilities mainly focus on optimizing the efficiency of our sales processes. Working mainly behind the scenes, I work with software that collects data and creates reports. I also work with account executives to coordinate on the opportunities they are pursuing.

InterWorks is all about helping their employees succeed and excel. With the freedom of working at a tech company, I’ve been able to move back to Boston, closer to family, and continue to work with the same amazing people. My experience of working with, for and on behalf of InterWorks has been an amazing experience. My journey here has been a whirlwind, and I can’t wait to see where it leads to next. To quote one of my favorite authors:

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

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