Theresa H. Peterson
Manager, External Affairs & Technology Programs; Director of Governement Relations
GE Global Research
General Electric Co
My mom always said to me, ‘always be on your best behavior because you never know who is watching.’ ” For Theresa H. Peterson, they have been words to live by and career advice that brought her to the top of her profession as a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Today, Peterson is charged with lobbying on Capitol Hill for funding for General Electric Co.’s technology and research and development efforts in the areas of defense, energy and health.
Her life on the Hill lobbying for one of the world’s largest companies is a far cry from her childhood in Brunswick, Ga. After graduating from Simmons College in Boston with a Bachelor of Arts in finance and marketing, Peterson worked in banking for two years before pursuing a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Her career took a fortuitous path following an internship as an urban designer back home in Brunswick. In 1992, she became the senior legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler Jr. (D-Ga.), a role that taught her the intricacies of the federal appropriations process.
The following year, she became the legislative director for Congressman Don Johnson of Georgia’s 10th District. She left that position to join the 3M Corporation, where she stayed for nine years before joining GE in 2004. “Each opportunity in my career has been the result of someone watching me and I didn’t know it,” Peterson says. She offsets the demands of her career and raising two children with early morning workouts with her husband.
As a lobbyist, Peterson often is the only woman and only African-American in a room. She hopes to change that by mentoring up-and-coming Black technology specialists within GE. “When you bring your very best work and your very best person to work every day that creates the opportunity,” she tells them.