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.