WashingtonExec: Tell me about a time in your life when you had to really stretch yourself in order to learn and grow.
Altman: Being self-aware is so important. In high school, I tackled what has been a lifelong pursuit to overcome shyness and discomfort in public speaking. Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie and Junior Achievement helped me at that time of my life. Then, when I was also 17, my car engine died. The option was no wheels or fix a car without a working engine. Re-building a car taught me that with determination and commitment, anything can be accomplished. Graduating with a degree in marketing, the next big stretch was accepting a position with IBM as a systems engineer. Over the course of my first year, there was a combined work study program. Attending classes in Dallas, Texas, I learned everything from Assembler and Job Control Language to problem solving client systems. In those early years at IBM, I learned that “jumping into the deep end” and not drowning would serve me well throughout my career.
Grit and determination and remembering why we do what we do is what it is all about. You learn a great deal about yourself when you decide to “go for it.”