Third Act Podcast

Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.

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The Career Coach with Donna Peters


On today’s show, Liz talks with Donna Peters – The Career Coach. Donna and Liz are fellow Accenture Managing Directors and have both become podcasters in their Third Acts. But Donna has a big leg up – she started her career in theater, spending ten years as an actor learning a bit more about how to use your voice, before going to business school and becoming a consultant.

Interestingly, she and her husband, or “the corporation”, as they fondly refer to themselves, decided early that they wanted to retire at 48, so they created a spreadsheet that governed their big purchase and job decisions. While Donna didn’t retire at 48, she came close —retiring at 52, and she knew what she wanted to in her third act.

In this podcast, Donna says that while at Accenture, her phone rang the most from employees and clients seeking her advice in the career development space. Today Donna runs her own career coaching company, where she counsels career-driven, life-minded professionals. She is also the host of the award-winning podcast, The Me-Suite, where she interviews people, including me, on how they cultivated work into their personal lives and made it work.

3:06 Growing up in the family business
9:53 Working with George Lucas (yes, that’s Star Wars George Lucas)
12:51 Great storyteller=great consultant
15:39 Aspiration to retire early
19:38 Getting started in career coaching
25:42 Launching her career coaching business
29:32 The Me-Suite Podcast
33:55 Starting with core values
38:18 Donna’s fourth act

Donna can be found on LinkedIn here Donna Peters. Her coaching site and podcast can be found at The Me-Suite.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and share a review. Engage with more stories of those finding fulfillment in the third act of their lives on Liz Tinkham’s Third Act podcast at

Liz Tinkham (00:11):
Hi, this is Liz Tinkham, and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends, but your show’s not finished. Hi and welcome to Third Act, and welcome to 2022. On today’s show, I talk with Donna Peters, the career coach. Donna and I are fellow managing directors from Accenture and have both become podcasters in our third act. So she was a delight to interview. But Donna had a big leg up on me. She started her career in the theater, spending 10 years as an actor, learning a bit more about how to use her voice before going to business school and becoming a consultant. Interestingly, she and her husband, or the corporation, as they finally refer to themselves, decided early that they wanted to retire at age 48.

Liz Tinkham (01:12):
So they created a spreadsheet that governed their big purchases and job decisions. While Donna didn’t quite retire at 48, she came close, retiring at 52, and unlike me, knew what she wanted to do in her third act. In this podcast, Donna tells me that while at Accenture, her phone rang the most from employees and clients seeking her advice in the career development space. Today, Donna runs her own career coaching company where she counsels career-driven, life-minded professionals. She is also the host of the award-winning podcast, The Me-Suite, where she interviews people, including me, on how they cultivated work into their personal lives and made it work. Donna, welcome to Third Act. I’m so excited to have you on the show as a fellow Accenture person and as a fellow podcaster. I was just a guest on your show yesterday, which was so fun, the award-winning Me-Suite Podcast. I hope I’m able to live up to your standards.

Donna Peters (02:10):
Oh, heavens. Thank you for having me, and thank you for all that you’re doing.

Liz Tinkham (02:14):
Oh, you too. So there’s a lot to talk about because we have so much in common. So I kind of want to explore all that and how you’re thinking about some of the things, like what do you do after Accenture, podcasting, life in your third act, but let’s get into it. So I have this hypothesis that I thought you would be a perfect candidate to test on, which is one of the reasons that I launched this show, which is that women who are in a particular age group and some men as well, who were kind of the first of which we are in our generation, particularly at Accenture, did really well in school, in their first act at university, and then were super high achievers at work. So did you fit that mold? And tell us a little bit about your first act.

Donna Peters (02:51):
So maybe I’m a little unusual. I’m not sure, but I did come from a family where both of my parents worked full time. That was unusual in my community. Most of my friends didn’t have mothers who had careers.

Liz Tinkham (03:05):
Wait, what did your mother do?

Donna Peters (03:06):
My mother worked in a transplant lab in a hospital. And by the time she retired from that job, she was managing a transplant lab at a university hospital. She’s not a medical doctor, but obviously in the medical field. And so we used to joke that when she would go off to work and I went to the daycare center that she was saving lives and stamping out disease. That’s what we used to say when mom went off to work. Yeah. And I’m sure that that had an enormous influence in my career choices and my mentality that I knew I was going to have a career. That was never even a consideration for me. At the same time, my father owned a business. He manufactured medical examination tables. And so it was a factory. And so I grew up working in that factory floor, and my father had not finished college, and I did not know that until I was in my late 20s. He had chosen to keep it from me because he didn’t want me to think that not going to college was an option. Do you see what I’m saying?

Liz Tinkham (04:15):

Donna Peters (04:15):
Okay. So maybe too long of a way to answer the question that you asked was, was I always making straight A’s, et cetera? The answer is yes. And I think it was partly driven by, I just didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I was just terrified of disappointing them. I can’t describe it. It’s not that they were mean, horrible people by any means. They were fantastic and loving and wonderful, but I didn’t want to disappoint them. And the thought of going home with not an A wasn’t even an option. I can’t describe it other than I just felt I had to work hard.

Liz Tinkham (04:56):
Mine was kind of weird maybe because I was good from the beginning. After I got a little older, maybe like junior high school, I was super competitive. I mean, I wasn’t sports-competitive at all. As a matter of fact, I was sort of the last one picked on any team, but you challenged me academically and I just would give you a look like uh-uh, ain’t happening so.

Donna Peters (05:18):
Well, I will say though, I just went to, I think it was a 35th high school reunion, it got delayed because of COVID, and I was there with girlfriends and there were six or seven of us at this little event and I looked around, I was the only woman in that group of women who did not have a degree from Harvard.

Liz Tinkham (05:41):
No, you’re kidding.

Donna Peters (05:42):
And these are high school girlfriends.

Liz Tinkham (05:44):
Oh my gosh. Yeah, some super classes coming out of late ’70s, ’80s. Okay.

Donna Peters (05:48):
Isn’t that amazing?

Liz Tinkham (05:49):
It is.

Donna Peters (05:50):
So we got a big joke out of that. I mean, I became a meme where they always joked about well, but you didn’t go to Harvard. It became a real fun joke across us. It was so fun. I had a blast. But anyway, just to indicate, while I did really strive to make straight A’s, I was absolutely not the smartest woman in this room.

Liz Tinkham (06:07):
Okay. But so interestingly, you become an actor. So tell us about that. You had a long acting career, which I just realized in prepping for this show. Tell us about that.

Donna Peters (06:19):
Wild, isn’t it? So I had been very active in theater as a high school kid. It was my equivalent of playing sports. I did theater, it was my thing. And my parents encouraged it and it was my hobby. When I went to college, I was planning to graduate from college and go to law school. And I was thinking about being a defense attorney or a prosecuting attorney, something, trial attorney. And I had my deposit into law school and I was going at graduation. And at a graduation party, I had a professor pull me aside and it was a woman. Her name is Sue Anthony. She’s one of the most pivotal moments that have mattered in my career trajectory.

Donna Peters (07:00):
Sue Anthony pulled me aside and she said, “I know that you have this deposit into law school, and I know that you want to go to law school. I want to encourage you to pursue your passion in theater.” She knew I had continued it through college. I didn’t major in it. I was just in every show and she just knew that it was a passion and I was good at it. And she was trying to encourage me to think differently and less traditionally. Well, that started me thinking, well, I’m not going to go to law school now, I’m going to go pursue this theater thing, and then you have to worry about the parents, right? What are the parents going to say? And I got lucky on this dimension. My father, I learned later, remember I had not known that he had dropped out of college, I learned later in my life that my father was in school and had wanted to become a forester.

Donna Peters (07:49):
He has always been a naturalist and very involved in the environment way before it was cool to do so. And he was forced, I guess, to pursue a different path in chemistry by apparently his father, wanted to encourage him to do a more traditional career path. And I think when he saw I had a passion and wanted to do something that wasn’t maybe a straight line of a logical career, he supported me in going to pursue my theater passion. So I didn’t even have parental resistance when I decided that I’m going to give it a shot. And I am sure that that alone is what gave me the guts to go do it.

Liz Tinkham (08:39):
Okay. So you’re an actor for how long?

Donna Peters (08:41):
I did that professionally for about 10 years, and it was mainly stage theater, where you go to a live show. But truthfully, to make a living doing it, you do whatever you can. So I had a little bit of what we call industrials. And that’s for example, when you start a new job and you go through HR training, and there are actors in your cybersecurity training video, right?

Liz Tinkham (09:04):
Oh no, you did those? Oh my God.

Donna Peters (09:08):
Yes. That’s called industrials, and a wonderful way to make a living and persist and exist as an actor.

Liz Tinkham (09:17):
Okay. So you were the girl in the perfect blue suit during my, whatever, my not cyber security back then, but it would’ve been like foreign transactions, corruption, sexual harassment, something like that. Right?

Donna Peters (09:32):
Exactly. I would’ve been that person, and I did have an opportunity to, I guess, probably… I had two, I pulled them in a category of claims to fame. I had a chance to do a movie with George Lucas.

Liz Tinkham (09:44):
Yeah, I saw that on here. Tell us about that.

Donna Peters (09:45):
Yeah. It’s a movie that if you’re having trouble sleeping, I recommend it.

Liz Tinkham (09:50):

Donna Peters (09:53):
It’s called Radioland Murders, and it had a cast of famous people a mile long, but the movie itself is a comedy that isn’t terrifically funny, but George Lucas was at the time testing this new technology that he had that was going to inform the filming of the star wars prequels.

Liz Tinkham (10:12):
Oh my gosh. Okay. All right.

Donna Peters (10:13):
Yeah. So it was amazing and wonderful. And it was the first film audition I had ever had. I went in, I got part, it had about 15 words, and I thought this is amazing. It allowed me to join the union. I thought I had made it.

Liz Tinkham (10:27):
Yeah. Yeah.

Donna Peters (10:28):
And I did not work again for a year.

Liz Tinkham (10:31):
Oh my gosh.

Donna Peters (10:35):
It’s just the industry, right? It’s just such an interesting industry that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I’m really happy that I did it.

Liz Tinkham (10:43):
Eventually you end up going from actor to restaurant owner, and then to Johnson and Johnson. I mean like, how does that happen?

Donna Peters (10:51):
Yeah. So at the same time, I had an agent and I was getting theater auditions, and sometimes theater jobs. My boyfriend, at the time, who later became my husband, was a chef and he owned a restaurant, and technically, we co-owned it, and I helped run it and did the front office operations part of the restaurant when I wasn’t on acting gigs. So those things that the restaurant and the theater work were happening concurrently. And then we decided for, I guess, a huge variety of reasons. We decided after much debate that he was going to sell the restaurant, I was going to step away from the theater, and we were both going to go to business school.

Donna Peters (11:37):
His parents had owned a business, my father had owned a business, we had both grown up in family businesses. That may have been part of what was fueling us thinking that we could be contributing differently in the business world. I don’t know, but I personally felt I had to have the stamp of approval of an MBA just because my background had been theater. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but it was my own justification. And then coming out of business school, my first job was as a strategy consultant, and I never looked back, and did that for 20 solid years.

Liz Tinkham (12:12):
Unbelievable. Yeah. So I was just thinking that, so you found Accenture through business school?

Donna Peters (12:17):

Liz Tinkham (12:18):
Okay. And you had a fantastic career working with top clients in the pharmaceutical space and achieving all kinds of greatness, but I have to tell you, the only other person I knew who came from sort of a non-traditional background was a guy, was a race car driver. And we hired him and he did really well. I mean, what was it like to be a career actress? I mean, I know you went to business school and come to work for such a… What’s the right phrase? I mean, wonderful place to work, but talk about like a cultural institution of Accenture. Like what did you think?

Donna Peters (12:51):
Well, I did truly have to work on storytelling even just to get the job and try to convince people that it was relevant, that I could be relevant in a role like that. And I learned through practicing the storytelling that I really did have something to offer with a whole lot to learn, but I had a lot to offer. And let me try it on you, Liz, and see if you would’ve bought it in the day.

Liz Tinkham (13:16):

Donna Peters (13:16):
The story that I told was as a professional actor, I have been putting myself in the shoes of other people for a living.

Liz Tinkham (13:24):
Yeah, that is true. Yeah.

Donna Peters (13:26):
Seeing a situation from their point of view, why do they think the way they do? Why do they need the information that they need? Why are they responding in the way they are responding? What words do they use to communicate? How do they process information? All of those things happen when you are trying to portray a character. It’s the reason that Anthony Hopkins could be considered charming and wonderful when he was in Silence of the Lambs, playing Hannibal Lecter, because if he had just gone and been a disgusting character, he would never have won an Oscar. He did something to get into the head of that character that made it actually charming.

Donna Peters (14:06):
Now, I never had to do that, but it’s an example of the work that you do to get inside the head of another person. Well, the translation that I did was, when you’re consulting, you’re advising, and you don’t make a difference if you don’t influence someone and encourage them to see situations in a different way and maybe sometimes even change their mind on a situation. So I told the story that I can do that, that I’ve been doing that for a living, and if that would have an enormous relevance to this client service part of consulting. And then of course, I added the sweetener, which was as an actor, I’ve been living on the road, going theater to theater. And in acting, you don’t have any money to go home every Thursday night. You just live in a hotel for four, or five, six months and never get to see your family. So I thought I could handle the consulting travel thing.

Liz Tinkham (15:00):
Oh yeah. That was probably like, she’s in, no attachments. We’ll take her.

Donna Peters (15:05):

Liz Tinkham (15:06):
Yeah. So you’re there, you have a great career, you do super well and but you retire early, like I do. Why and what did you think you were going to do?

Donna Peters (15:16):
I’m very fortunate in that. My husband and I, his name is Jonathan, he and I are like, we call ourselves the corporation. When we got out of business school, because remember we went together.

Liz Tinkham (15:27):
Yeah. By the way, what did he go do?

Donna Peters (15:29):
Yeah. Well, don’t laugh too loud, Liz.

Liz Tinkham (15:34):

Donna Peters (15:34):
He went into strategy consulting.

Liz Tinkham (15:35):
Oh, there you go. Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that beautiful? Okay.

Donna Peters (15:39):
Yeah. So we basically had the same job, but we decided that we both had early retirement aspirations. Not really knowing what that meant, but we thought, well, what does that mean? Let’s just make it up. Okay, the number 48. We’re going to try to retire at 48, and let’s build a spreadsheet. And if we’re getting out of business school at 30 and 32, so he was 30, I was 32. If we get out of business school and we are thinking deliberately about investments and savings and what we do and don’t want to spend money on, the money we project to make, et cetera, plop it into the spreadsheet and see what would be required to try to retire at 48. What if? Got nothing to lose, it’s a game. Let’s see what happens. Well, anyway, fast forward, I didn’t make it at 48. I made it at 52. It didn’t go quite as planned, but not too bad.

Liz Tinkham (16:30):
No, you’re pretty close. And the fact that you did it when you were in your 30s is really a good practice.

Donna Peters (16:35):
Well, and again, I think I might have learned that and my husband as well from growing up in family businesses, because money was talked about in front of the children all the time. And sometimes they weren’t always pleasant conversations. I don’t know, I have to make that up a little bit, but I’m assuming that that had a lot to do with my comfort in talking about money in a relationship because it’s all I ever saw when I was a child. And my husband was the same way growing up in a family business. So we always called it the spreadsheet, that’s the name of the little game we played. And we would use it to decide on big decisions, like houses, vacations, cars, and any type of continuing education or whatever that we wanted to do, taking a leave of absence, stepping away for a sabbatical, stepping into a lower paying job, which he did in that path.

Donna Peters (17:32):
So we used it to make those big decisions, and then we would determine based on that decision, would it make the timeline go farther out or not? Yeah. So that’s what it was. And it’s called the spreadsheet.

Liz Tinkham (17:44):
Why did you guys want to retire early? Did you have some plan in mind?

Donna Peters (17:48):
Well, it wasn’t that what we wanted to do on the other side was so clear, but what was clear was we wanted to have the options to do what we wanted to do while we were still young enough and healthy enough to do them.

Liz Tinkham (18:03):
Yeah. That’s a great point.

Donna Peters (18:04):
And the magic word here is options. It wasn’t that we had to quit work at 48 or that we knew we would quit work at 48. We wanted to build the option to change our minds.

Liz Tinkham (18:17):
Yeah. So there’s a woman that I had on my show, Manisha Thakor, who I talked about on your show, and she uses this phrase, vocational freedom, meaning that you get to a point where you have enough money to live at a particular lifestyle, and then you can do whatever you want, which I think is sort of yeah. And you have to figure that all out mathematically, and get the options. Yeah. And what I love about your story is that you and your husband did it together, which a lot of couples don’t do, right? Like one’s going one way and the other’s going another and you just don’t have the time or the energy, or you just don’t sit down to think about it. So that’s great.

Donna Peters (18:52):
Yeah. And they can be stressful conversations. I know one time my husband wanted to make a career change and it meant that he was walking away from $300,000 worth of unvested stock, but it wasn’t vesting near term. It was going to be in, I think at that time, it was about four years out, but that’s an enormous amount of money, but we decided together that it wasn’t worth it because a lot could have happened in four years. And the stress of the current job that he had had at that time and just where he was, we decided it wasn’t worth it. But those are tough conversations to have, but you don’t really know to have them unless you’ve laid it all out in front of you.

Liz Tinkham (19:38):
So you go from Accenture into career coaching, launching The Me-Suite. When I first was talking to you, what I could think about is, oh my gosh, I’m so fried from coaching a bazillion people and telling them the same thing, and then they never take my advice, and then they come back to me and it’s like, “I told you what to do. Don’t do it.” So was that what you were thinking about when you retired? How’d you get into it? And how’d you come up with The Me-Suite?

Donna Peters (20:03):
I had known for several years that I was ready to think about what was next. I had known that I was ready for that, and I’d been very transparent with my employer, Accenture, that I was doing it. I had about a two-year run up to retirement, very transparent, open conversations about it, even explored internal opportunities to maybe even stay. And one of the roles that I thought, well, if I did stay or go, I wanted it to be around this career development space because I found that’s the reason my phone rang. And this might have been different for other people like you and I didn’t achieve the most senior levels of partnership like you did at Accenture.

Liz Tinkham (20:48):
Oh, stop. Stop, stop, stop. It’s all the same.

Donna Peters (20:51):
I imagine that other people’s phones were ringing for other reasons, from the CFO calling, the chief marketing officer calling, the CEO calling. My phone rang more for people that were asking, “What should be my next step?” Or, “I feel stuck.” Or, “Is this for me?” Or, “I have this offer. Should I take it?” And that call happened from clients and from employees, people who reported to me. It happened internally and externally, but they weren’t calling to ask me what I thought the future of the next artificial intelligence technology was and how to improve their supply chain, right? They were calling me to listen. And I thought, okay, something is here, and I maybe have this skill that I have, that I was nurturing back in my acting days of, put yourself in the shoes of the other person, see the situation from their point of view.

Donna Peters (21:51):
So I started to formulate this next step, which was live at the intersection of your MFA, my master’s in fine arts, and my MBA. Find a job that allows you to live at the intersection of those two things.

Liz Tinkham (22:07):
And clearly, the fact that your phone was ringing to that was sending you a message, right? I’m good at this.

Donna Peters (22:11):
Yes. Yes. I’m good at it, and most importantly and most humblingly, if that’s a word, is that people trusted me.

Liz Tinkham (22:20):
Yeah. That’s a good point. They’re not going to call you unless they do. Yeah.

Donna Peters (22:24):
Trusted me with some of their most vulnerable stories. Some people would call me that they needed to think differently about their jobs because they were about to go through a divorce, and nobody else knew about that situation. Right? Yeah. Other people would call because they were interested in taking a different type of a career, but weren’t sure if an investment in a graduate degree was worth it. Some people would call and reveal to me all of their imposter syndrome insecurities that they didn’t want anybody else to know about. And I don’t know. I just started to think that if I know I want to keep doing something in third act, where can I do something that I believe is more and in my uniqueness?

Liz Tinkham (23:08):
So you leave Accenture couple years ago, right?

Donna Peters (23:10):

Liz Tinkham (23:11):
And so how did you get started and how did you come up with the name, The Me-Suite?

Donna Peters (23:14):
Yeah. So again, back to, I mentioned before I went to business school because I felt I needed the credential, because I had been in acting. I, again, felt that I needed the credential to rebrand from being a consultant to being officially a coach. I went back to school. So I’m certified with the International Coaching Federation. I went back to school to do a residency in the neuroscience of leadership. It was cool. It was a trifecta degree partially with the Emory University Medical School and their Psychology Department, partially with the Leadership Development Program of the Business School, and partially with the Debe and Buddhism Center for Mindfulness.

Liz Tinkham (23:53):
Oh my goodness.

Donna Peters (23:54):

Liz Tinkham (23:55):
That sounds fascinating.

Donna Peters (23:57):
Pretty cool?

Liz Tinkham (23:58):

Donna Peters (23:58):
So I had an opportunity to do that and then that led to my certification.

Liz Tinkham (24:01):
And did you reflect on your… I just have to ask, because I’ve not done this, the career advice you gave at Accenture, and did you feel like you were doing it the right way or were you like, “Oh my gosh, did I blow it?”

Donna Peters (24:12):
What I learned, and it’s still a muscle that I am trying to break every day, to be honest. I learned there is a difference between being a mentor and a coach. The two things are not the same. I realized at Accenture, I was being a mentor, which means when somebody comes to you for advice, you tell them what you think they should do were you in their shoes. So I recommend you do X, Y, Z. If I were you, I would do A, B, C. That’s being a mentor. A coach and the neuroscience part of coaching is if you ask open-ended questions and allow the individual to reflect on their own, why am I thinking this way? What is driving myself limiting belief? What evidence do I have that this thing is true? If you allow the individual to reflect on that moment, by giving them an open-ended question, they will start to identify their own solution and then own it, and then therefore, the change will stick, rather than Donna telling them what to do.

Donna Peters (25:23):
I am a mentor and a coach, depending on the situation. I’m a mentor when the situation is something where I truly have been there before, and I always ask permission first, “May I give you my advice?” Because that is different from coaching, but I do do both. I just have to let the coachee know what hat I’m wearing.

Liz Tinkham (25:42):
So if I am listening to this and I choose to do something similar, right? Or even to sort of start my own business where I’m the sole sort of lead and proprietor, I mean, in addition to taking the courses, I mean, how do you even get started? Do you just hang your own shingle out? Do you launch on LinkedIn? How did you get your first set of clients?

Donna Peters (26:04):
The biggest thing I would recommend to a listener if they are either wanting to be a coach or get a coach, is to get certified or check certifications, because you have to do practice with certified coaches in order to have a certification. And it’s a certain number of hours, right? It’s hundreds of hours, and courses that you have to take, you get observed, you get evaluated. So there really is a thing that is called certification, and it takes a lot of time and intensity in learning to achieve. Now, clearly I believe that you should seek a certified executive coach because of that. Is it necessary? Do you have to have that to call yourself a coach? Absolutely not, not at all, but the reason that I believe it is so important is because of what I learned about the difference between mentoring and coaching.

Donna Peters (27:05):
And depending on what you need at that moment in your life, if you do really need a coach and not just a mentor, who is someone who’s been in that role before you, I just really highly recommend that you get somebody that’s certified because it is different. It is different.

Liz Tinkham (27:20):
And then how’d you get your first set of clients?

Donna Peters (27:22):
I mainly got my first set of clients through… When I put my shingle out, as you say, I thought I was going to get my first set of clients from people that I knew, by telling people. And that looked wonderful in my business plan, because you can imagine I had a very specific business plan, right? And that’s actually not how it happened. how it happened was somebody that I knew would tell someone that they knew needed help.

Liz Tinkham (27:49):
Oh. “You should go see Donna.”

Donna Peters (27:51):
Exactly. So mainly, it wasn’t the direct person who would come to me and say, “I want coaching.” It was that they knew someone.

Liz Tinkham (27:58):
That’s actually really a helpful thing to do too. If you’re a good enough friend to say, “You’re stuck, you could probably use a good career coach. I know somebody.” And is that how your business has continued to grow?

Donna Peters (28:10):
Yes. I have two types of clients. I have these one-on-one clients who are an individual that just calls me and says, “I want to work on something.” And they pay me out of pocket. And it’s like you going to a personal trainer and you decide how many sessions you want to have, how intense you want to get, and we work together on a goal. Without goals, there is no coaching. The other set of clients I have are corporate clients where they call and it’s usually their coaching center of excellence or somebody in the talent space, and they call and they’ll say something like, “I have a program for our high potential talent, and I would like to send 8 or 10 of them through executive coaching.” And then they’ll buy a package and I work through them.

Liz Tinkham (28:54):
Yeah. Yeah. We did that at Accenture, too.

Donna Peters (28:57):
Exactly. It is both. And the common denominator in any of this is that there needs to be a goal. The coaching needs to have a goal of something that they really want to work on. And the second principle is that they are always fully confidential conversations. I personally have chosen not to get into the game where I sit in between the company and the person.

Liz Tinkham (29:21):
Yeah. That would be really difficult.

Donna Peters (29:24):
I only serve the person.

Liz Tinkham (29:32):
So how did you launch The Me-Suite Podcast, and why?

Donna Peters (29:35):
This is interesting too. In a way, you kind of inspired me and I didn’t even know it yet. I was thinking about a way of getting content into the universe, because otherwise, when you have a business, you’re just marketing and advertising. And in my mind, that doesn’t really add value to anyone. And again, remember, one of my goals was live at the intersection of my MFA and MBA and my third act. So the writing, producing the strategy around the storytelling, the prepping of the guests, the thinking about the arcs and the themes, all of that is the creative side of the MFA. And then obviously the NBA is interviewing people who are trying to cultivate the role they want work to play in their lives, which is the orientation around my guests. I had a mentor, Bob Easton, from Accenture.

Liz Tinkham (30:25):
Oh, I know Bob. Of course, he’s a great guy, such a fun guy.

Donna Peters (30:29):
So many lessons that I learned from him. He would always say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Okay.

Liz Tinkham (30:36):
Not the truth.

Donna Peters (30:38):
And I felt that way a little bit with podcasting because podcasting was starting to take off right when I was starting my business. I had a girlfriend who’s a real estate agent who was using podcasting to help support her business.

Liz Tinkham (30:53):
Oh, she was talking about real estate?

Donna Peters (30:56):
Yes. Yeah.

Liz Tinkham (30:56):
Which everybody loves to talk about. It’s like pornography, right? It’s like you save pornography, right?

Donna Peters (31:01):
She introduced me to her sound engineer, and fast forward, I thought, well, what the heck, I’ve got nothing to lose, and let’s go give it a shot. Well, give it a shot from like 10 planned episodes became now about 200, and I’m in season four. So yeah.

Liz Tinkham (31:18):
Yeah. And so you have a huge variety of guests, because I’ve been obviously a guest and I’ve listened to some and looked at a lot of the other ones. So many interesting stories. I mean, what are sort of your audience goals with those guests? I mean, what do you want your audience to take away?

Donna Peters (31:32):
So the number one thing I want people to recognize, all the people I interview are career-oriented people. Work plays a very significant role in their lives. Number one, that’s what we all have in common. At the same time, I’m using this forum to interview people who are also life-minded. They are thinking very strategically about the role that they want work to play and the decisions that they’re making about work. And this forum is allowing me to demonstrate that every high performer professional is amazing if you give them a chance to tell their unique story.

Donna Peters (32:17):
So usually, I find we think of high performers as all about work, just about work, I’m only about work. And at least in my experience, and this is more a reflection on me being a bad manager than anything, I would never really ask people much about their personal lives at work. Maybe my podcast is a really big apology to all those times I should have been asking about someone’s personal life, but what it’s really allowing me to do is illuminate that you can be career-oriented and life-minded at the same time. And this forum is allowing these very high-performing, very career-aggressive, at times, and I mean that in a positive way, very career-aggressive individuals show more about how they get it done.

Liz Tinkham (33:07):
Yeah. Well, that’s a great thing. Yeah. And so one of the things you asked me was sort of what do you learn from your guests? And you probably feel the same way, which is, interviewing every guest is like a gift, right? It’s so much fun. You learn so much about new things. People that I’ve known for years, I’ve learned so many new things about them. I’ve done 50 episodes, you’ve done 200. Particularly since we both are sort of in a theme, right? Similar themes, not quite the same, there are some story arcs that you start to sort of hear as you keep kind of talking to people. So what are you learning from your listeners who are life-minded? I mean, takeaways that are like ahas for you. And maybe there’s too many to talk about, so maybe pull out a couple three. What are you hearing?

Donna Peters (33:55):
My biggest aha is every episode that I do starts with, what are your core values and how have they driven you?

Liz Tinkham (34:02):
Yeah, I love that part of it, and then you publish that in your show notes at the beginning, which is terrific. Yeah.

Donna Peters (34:07):
Oh yeah, you’ve noticed. Yeah. I asked that of everyone, and what I have loved about it, again, maybe better to be lucky than good, what I’ve loved about it is the seriousness with which every guest takes that simple question. And some people will say, “I’ve actually known what mine are for the last 20 years, and I revisit them every new year’s eve.” And they’re very, very deliberate and planful. And other people will say, “I hadn’t really thought about it until you asked me. But now that I think about it, there are some things that have been core to who I am all along the way.” So what I’ve learned from all of the interviews is that no matter what has been happening in these people’s career lives, everything that they have done, the big decisions that they have made about their job have all been driven by who they are as individuals.

Donna Peters (35:03):
And maybe that sounds painfully obvious, but it wasn’t to me until I got people thinking and talking out loud about their thought process. And it just helped me realize that we have an awful lot to learn about being more deliberate, about the role that work plays in serving the life that we want to live.

Liz Tinkham (35:24):
That’s interesting because they’re all very authentic to who they are.

Donna Peters (35:27):
Yes. And maybe they slipped off, and we all do, and some will be very transparent and vulnerable about times they might have stepped out of that authenticity. But I started to realize just how much I hate the concept of work-life balance from all these interviewees, because you have a life and every decision that you make about that life, work is one of them. It isn’t a 50/50 in balance with it. And that’s really what’s been illuminated through all these core values conversations and all the authenticity is that be planful and be very aware of your core values so that work is in service of the life you want to live, not in balance with it.

Liz Tinkham (36:17):
It is really true that when you’re in your big second act, you’re working all the time. There’s no way to unwind one from the other, because your personal decisions influence both, it’s both ways. I know the generation that I grew up in was much more apologetic about the personal life getting in the way. I’ve seen a big change. Fortunately, I think the pandemic has accelerated that as well. And then sort of what are your goals? I mean, do you have an idea of how long you’re going to do it? Are you going to write a book? What are you going to do with all of it?

Donna Peters (36:48):
Yeah. So right now, I really want to continue to shine a mic, as I like to call it.

Liz Tinkham (36:55):
Oh, that’s right. I love that, shine a mic, right?

Donna Peters (36:57):
Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to continue to shine a mic on these amazing high-performing human beings, as long as they will join me in The Me-Suite. So that’s an open invitation to anybody who feels that they have a story to share. I really do want to continue that. And the goal isn’t one peak on a mountain. The goal is for me to continue to enhance the diversity of the stories, because I think that that’s where the magic comes from, is for listeners to find themselves in this mirror. And so the more I can have your diversity of experiences in my guest profile, the better, because we all have a unique story.

Liz Tinkham (37:41):
Yeah. I mean, I’m doing something similar kind of in the Third Act, right? It’s not so much the intersection of work anymore, it’s like, when you’re done, then what do you do? And of course, as my husband calls this, this is my own vanity project to try and figure out what I’m supposed to be doing instead of interviewing people for a podcast. But I mean, there have been so many interesting pivots that people take, and you just wonder like, “How did you figure that out?” And then they tell me about it on the podcast, and I think it’s really informative, because there’s just not a lot written, especially for women who are high performers and had big jobs. So Donna, what’s next? What’s the fourth act?

Donna Peters (38:18):
So my fourth act is my mother is almost 80 and her mantra for me my entire life has been “Donna, you need to be writing. You’re a writer. You need to be writing. I wish you’d be writing. I wished you’d find some time to be writing.” She was still saying that to me that, “Now that you’ve left Accenture, you’ll have time to be writing.”

Liz Tinkham (38:45):
Yeah, there you go.

Donna Peters (38:46):
And along the way, along the way a couple of times, instead of buying her Christmas present, I would write her a short story, for example.

Liz Tinkham (38:53):
Oh my gosh, that’s so lovely.

Donna Peters (38:55):
But I didn’t do that very much. 2021, Liz, I started competing in a creative writing competition in January of 2021. And fast forward, there were 4,000 people in this competition and I just found out last week, I’m in the final 75-

Liz Tinkham (39:16):
Wow. Congratulations.

Donna Peters (39:18):
… which is crazy. And I don’t know where it’s going to go and I don’t care. I’ve been having so much fun. And so I want 2022, which maybe is a next step, I want 2022 to be more of building that fiction creative writing muscle and see what the heck happens.

Liz Tinkham (39:40):
Oh, that is so cool. And that really exercises your creative side, right?

Donna Peters (39:44):
Yeah. I don’t know. And now, had I not been getting filtered through, I don’t know if I would’ve quit earlier. So maybe that’s the competitor in me. I’m not sure. I don’t know. It’s just been such a release and something wonderful to do during lockdown, to be honest.

Liz Tinkham (40:00):
That is a muscle I definitely don’t have. I almost named my podcast, I’m not done yet. What aren’t you done with yet, other than writing?

Donna Peters (40:08):
I am not done yet finding the amazing in everyone.

Liz Tinkham (40:15):
Good for you. Good for you. All right. So, so much fun to talk to another Accenture managing director and podcaster. In addition to listening to The Me-Suite Podcast, and we’ll put all of your information on our show notes, where else can people find you online?

Donna Peters (40:28):
Yeah. Wonderful. So my website is

Liz Tinkham (40:31):
They will put that in the show notes. All right.

Donna Peters (40:33):
Please do, because the spelling’s a little strange. It’s, and suite is spelled like executive suite, not like sugar. Yeah. And that would be wonderful. And then I’m all over LinkedIn, and I would love to hear from anyone. So just find me, Donna Peters.

Liz Tinkham (40:51):
Great. All right, Donna. Thanks so much. Take care.

Donna Peters (40:54):
Thank you, Liz.

Liz Tinkham (40:58):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act Podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.

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