Job title: Office Manager, Terracon

How did you choose your career path?: My career path pretty much chose me. I started working at Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric Company (now MidAmerican Energy) back in 1978 as a junior stenographer right out of high school. I earned my business degree from St. Ambrose College at night as I progressed through jobs at the utility company. In 1998, I was offered a job in Denver for what is now called Kinder Morgan Energy. I started out in customer service, then became transportation manager of a couple of intrastate natural gas pipelines in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. From there, I became director of procurement on a corporate level with responsibilities and employees across North America. After 17 years, I decided to take a year-long sabbatical and then went to work as senior director of strategic relationships for Mile High United Way. I wanted to spend some time in the nonprofit arena giving back to my Denver community which had been so good to me.

When I decided to return to the Quad-Cities for family reasons in 2015, I was hopeful that once here, I would be able to find a job. As it turned out, I was offered a job at Terracon, an engineering consultant firm specializing in geotechnical, environmental, testing and facilities services. I now head up the office with a wonderful, hard-working staff of approximately 30 and absolutely love it — and love being back home in the QCA!

How do you maintain a work/life balance? Regardless of how busy things are at work, I really try to attend yoga classes (both hot and flow) at least three times per week. It keeps me grounded and sane. Giving back to our Quad-Cities community also helps me maintain balance. For example, I volunteer for Lead(h)er, a great mentoring program for women started by Melissa Pepper. This program allows me to mentor and spend time with a couple of smart, wonderful young women which is a ton of fun. Teaching second graders through Junior Achievement is a joy beyond words. These type of volunteer activities and others I participate in help me maintain perspective and get out of myself. I also make sure I spend time with my family and friends (especially my grandson) whenever possible — nothing better! Traveling for pleasure is another favorite way for me to maintain balance, even if it is just for a long weekend in Chicago or Denver.

What do you look for in a new hire; what questions do you ask in the interview to find the right fit? I look for a positive attitude. The saying, “Hire for attitude, train for aptitude” works well. Asking candidates how they handled an adverse situation can be very helpful in the process. If a candidate learned from the experience and came away with some positive ways to move forward, that is a very good sign.

Was there ever a time in your life when you hit an obstacle and had to re-evaluate or rebuild? Everyone encounters obstacles, and I am no exception.

I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at the age of 40 which was pretty brutal. However, going through the surgery, chemo, and radiation made me stronger — and made me realize I can do whatever I put my mind to. When I am feeling stressed about a tough situation, I go inside myself for that inner strength.

In 2015, I also had to make a tough decision about whether or not to stay in Denver or return to the Quad-Cities because of some personal family crises which occurred that year. I spent quite a bit of time re-evaluating my life and what was important. In the end, I made the decision to quit my job, sell my house, pack up my dog and car, and come back to the Quad-Cities with the faith that I would find a job. It has worked out very well!

What’s the best thing about doing business in the Quad-Cities? The people — having been away for so long, I recognized very clearly upon my return how fortunate we are to have each other in this community. People are helpful, hard-working, kind and encouraging. When I first starting working at Terracon, I did not have a business network in the Quad-Cities. I had been gone from the area way too long. As I began reaching out to people in the industry and on a civic level, I was received with open arms. Now, within two short years, I have a strong network of business and community-minded associates. Pretty cool!

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in their career? Stay true to yourself; find a mentor (invaluable); don’t compromise on your values; ask questions; listen fully; always continue to learn; get involved in your community — giving back is the best gift you can give yourself; maintain a work/life balance — it will make you a better employee and believe me, you will not regret it later in life.

The goal of “Each One Teach One” is for established community leaders to offer advice to those building careers. To suggest someone to be profiled, contact Business Editor Liz Boardman at 563-383-2396 or lboardman@qctimes.com.

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