Nissa Whittle '06 uses theater to communicate in business
By Nikolai Wright | Thursday, April 5, 2018
By Nikolai Wright
Thursday, April 5, 2018
New York City is home to about 8.5 million people. One of those people is Nissa (Perrott) Whittle '06: entrepreneur, UMass Theater alumna, and chai latte enthusiast. I had the privilege of talking with her on a regular Friday afternoon, after she had finished teaching a public speaking class and running a meeting. On top of running meetings and teaching at the City College of New York, Nissa owns her own business, Talkologie. While Nissa works in the communications industry and not strictly theater, she said she uses many of the skills she developed as a theater major in her work with clients and managing her business. I was excited at the chance to get to learn from her, as my area of focus at UMass also involves bringing art and business together. Needless to say I was eager to ask her about her secrets to success, and how she manages to keep her business thriving.
Talkologie is a recent venture which has already had success within the New York City area and beyond. The idea behind Talkologie, Nissa explained, is to help businesses and individuals to increase efficient and effective communication in a variety of different ways, whether it be presentations or group dynamics. Nissa helps them to better communicate through a number of different programs, workshops, one-on-one classes, and team development exercises. For example, she helps different communication companies and private clients tasked with high-end presentations and keynotes. She also offers customized workshops centered around “enrichment offerings on feedback skills.”
According to Nissa, her background in theater makes its way into Talkologie and her professional career. The skills she learned at UMass are very transferable, especially when considering communication. Theater helped to foster her love for people. With regards to professional development, and generally interacting with individuals, she said, “How can I tell this story that makes people empathize with my characters?” As a thought process, this has helped her to find more meaningful connections with individuals, and has contributed to her success in the business sphere. Additionally, Nissa pointed out that theater is a 'hard deadline' art, meaning that as a result of years meeting strict deadlines for performances and shows, she is now attuned to meeting deadlines in a business setting, which contributes to her success.
Related to time, Nissa believes that setting goals needs to be a priority, particularly when running a business, for anyone looking to succeed. She highlighted that it is important to leave time for reflection, asking, “What gave me the most joy? What can I Improve next month?” This is something, Nissa said, that she urges her clients to address, and I have kept in mind since our conversation. Her advice has been relevant beyond work, especially here at school for me.
Nissa had a very positive experience at UMass and praises the Department of Theater. When I asked what she would suggest to current theater majors, she replied by advising college students to learn a second skill outside their major focus area. Nissa told me that “it’s really meaningful to find another way to contribute,” and that “not everything is going to be acting.” As a student studying interdisciplinary work, I found this validating, because I have based my degree around being skilled in multiple areas of focus. One of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to talk with Nissa is because of how she has bridged the gap between art and business. She said the way to branch out and learn new skills is to meet as many different people as possible. “You recognize that you can learn from so many people’s different experiences and they will push you forward in your life, and lift you up when you need it,” she said. Many people have gotten her to where she is today, she added.
I closed by asking Nissa if she had indeed found the perfect chai latte. She admitted that she is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to that. She's discovered that there will never be one perfect cup of chai, but rather a lot of different experiences. Perfect will never be attained and as we spoke, I could tell that Nissa believed that that is part of the fun. She closed with a thought that I am still exploring today: “Perfection is really the enemy of good.” Nissa said that what is important is “to put the good thing out there and allow ourselves to reiterate on that."
Nissa attributes a fair bit of her success to the skills she learned in the Theater program, which have helped shape the way she accomplishes tasks and manages her business. Nissa keeps busy in New York City meeting new people, searching for the perfect chai and teaching others how to communicate more effectively. Her last piece of advice to me was to keep going for it and embrace challenge. I thanked her for her time and immediately began thinking of ways I could utilize Nissa’s advice to better my academic pursuits while finding that perfect cup of chai.