Tracy Lynelle Jackson
Tracy Lynelle Jackson was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and calls Houston, Texas home.
She says that, “I’ve recently retired from a long career in oil and gas services, having worked for a Nigeria-based organization (with offices in Houston). Now I’m following my calling to provide Humanitarian Commercial Solutions for the global problem of drinking water scarcity using atmospheric water generators.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I was the oldest of five children (3 girls and 2 boys), and I had a lot of responsibility for my siblings. Our mother worked outside the home. For a time we lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and after my step-father found a better job in Pennsylvania, we moved back there. Unfortunately, he and my mother divorced, and most of my teenage years were in a single-parent home. Mom made the best of it, encouraging us to attend after-school activities. I was active in marching band, concert band, and stage band as a saxophonist. My sister and I were members of an organization called the Campfire Girls. We learned about camping outdoors (some survival skills), and our leader Mrs. Boyer took me on my first international trip to Quebec, Canada, as well as to my first view of the ocean. I really admired her joy of travel and those experiences made me comfortable traveling abroad. I also enjoyed sports and excelled at track and field.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
When I was in 7th grade, I had an English teacher named Raymond Swisher. He was teaching us creative writing and gave us a unique assignment. He had a stack of photos and he held up a different photo for each of the children in the classroom. Whatever photo we were shown, we had to write a story about it. Mine was a black-and-white image of a brick wall with a black circle painted on it and the words “Enter Here” above it. Well, that image engaged my 12-year-old imagination. I wrote a story about a little girl who was walking to school taking the same path she always took, yet never having noticed that brick wall before. She went over to the wall and touched the black circle, then fell into another world. As I read the story, everyone listened with rapt attention. Afterward, they all applauded. Mr. Swisher told me that I had real writing talent, and that put me on the course to become a published author shortly before I became 15 years old. I wrote a science-fiction novel called, “Too Late to See the Light”, which made me sort of a local celebrity for a time!
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”*
In my role as a general manager for an international oil and gas services company, I traveled to many countries. The trip that stuck out most in my mind was visiting a village in Agbor, Nigeria, where a young man was drawing drinking water from a well for the villagers, and they were paying for the water. Since then I’ve seen documentaries and read articles about women and girls who had to forgo their education because it was their job to fetch water for their communities. Early on in my career, one of my uncles told me about a technology that could make dirty water drinkable. I never forgot about it and when I learned about atmospheric water generators, I immediately grasped the value they could bring to places in the world where the scarcity of drinkable water is an issue. That knowledge kept haunting me until I decided to retire and start my own business creating solutions around generating water from the humidity in the air.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of individuals. (said with a smile) Among the many with whom I engage daily, there seems to be a determination that makes them keep trying. I view the challenges as chances for a do-over. Sometimes when something goes wrong or in a different direction than I anticipated, I reflect on the steps I took to get there. Oftentimes, I can see that I had a hunch or an intuition that the decision could be wrong, yet I didn’t heed the feeling. I’m pretty resilient, and I believe the quality that serves me best is not thinking I know it all. When I am certain of my abilities and, more importantly, my limitations, I can seek counsel from mentors or friends. That is how I cope.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
On a personal level, the time working from home during the pandemic cemented my desire to utilize my talents and hopefully make a difference in the world. Although I had worked in a company long enough to achieve retirement, I’m still young and vital! I believe, for like many others, the pandemic offered ample opportunity to rediscover myself. It underscored that while it felt good to have a decent paycheck and benefits, I felt a deficit in serving others. I have a lot of time to make up for!
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I’m proud of being a published author at a young age. While still in high school I received third place in a college-level poetry contest. Writing is the passion to which I will devote more time after we get the matter of water scarcity in check!
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
As a former athlete, I’m enjoying what I am seeing in women’s sports. They are finally achieving large audiences in the professional arena and are being seen as an incredible entertainment value. From what I am witnessing in the climate-tech space, young women entrepreneurs are showing up with fierce determination, intelligence, and the same kind of aggressiveness toward achieving their dreams as their male counterparts. I still witness that women in a room full of men have to persist to be heard. It’s improving, but there is still a way to go.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
It’s most important to be authentic to others and true to oneself. As another of my favorite English teachers told us to affirm: IALAC – I am loving and capable.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
WIP International Services LLC is a member of a climate-tech incubator called Greentown Labs in Houston, Texas. This incubator consists of startup companies, many of which are helmed by women. Moreover, the majority of the management team of the incubator are women. It’s refreshing to witness the same kind of cooperation, mutual respect, and teamwork in a work environment as one might see in a women’s sports team. As women, when we lead by example the results – our successes – become irrefutable.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Remove the words “can’t” and “try” from your vocabulary! You “can” and “you will do”! Keep studying and emulating successful women, and you will find success yourselves. I’m rooting for you.