I was born in a small town called Terrell, which is about 20 miles east of Dallas. I have lived in the state of Texas my entire life. Both of my parents were born and raised in Terrell. They were childhood sweethearts who met in the fourth grade.
I am the youngest of four children born within five years of one another. I have one older brother and two younger sisters. We were all very close growing up and are still close today. When I was three years old, my parents moved our family from Terrell to Dallas for my father's job.
My father worked in the banking business, and eventually in the discount brokerage business. He had a long career in the trust area of banking. We moved to Dallas so he could pursue his career. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who worked as an office assistant and a substitute teacher to buy the extra little things that she wanted and to get us through college.
Both of my parents earned college degrees and graduated from college in 1954. My mom earned her Bachelor's degree from a women's Baptist University in Belton, Texas. My dad earned his degree from Texas A&M University. While their universities were close together in terms of distance, my parents didn't get married until they had both graduated.
My parents were very independent people. My mom had a hard life. Her mother died from tuberculosis when my mom was six-years-old. Her father made a living as a traveling band leader. She was raised by her aunt and lived across the street from both grandmothers. She missed having parents, and didn't have one who was very involved in her life. She was motivated to have a good life and wanted to be able to support herself because she had a difficult childhood.
Education always had huge value in our home. My mom earned almost all of her college tuition through a singing scholarship and worked in the dining room at her college. She saw education as a very important way of advancing and supporting herself.
I grew up during the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the time when the television show "Dallas" was very popular. I was able to achieve a small bit of fame for a while because my maiden name is Ewing and my father's initials are J.R. My dad even worked in the same building that J.R. Ewing did on the show! I remember getting a lot of prank phone calls from all over the nation from people asking to speak to J.R. Ewing.
My father was most influential to me. He would bring us to his office and talk about the work he was doing. This was during a time when computers were being introduced into the business world. My father's work involved mainframe computers. He worked on converting the bank's data into new computer systems. This was exciting because he was involved in automating the bank's processes for the very first time. This influenced me by making me think of career possibilities. When I was very young, I loved animals and horses and talked about being a vet, but never acted on that in a real way.
I have always enjoyed leadership roles. When I was in junior high and high school, my girlfriends and I created a community service club and I was the leader. We did projects through my church, like visiting orphans at the local orphanage. We taught Bible school to people who lived in apartments in the neighborhoods that surrounded the church and worked on other community service projects. Through this experience, I learned that I enjoyed bringing groups of people together for important projects that would make a difference in the community.
When it was time to go to college, I decided to go to Texas A&M in my father's footsteps. With a student ratio of four males for every female student, the college had a reputation for not being very friendly to women. I had a fantastic experience at A&M. My father graduated in the Class of 1954, and I entered A&M exactly 25 years after he did. Having graduated from A&M formed a special bond between us.
At the time, the school had not built enough dorm rooms for the female students, so I lived in an apartment that was about five miles from campus. I didn't have a car, so I had a bike and used the shuttle bus to get to school. My major was in business management. This decision was based on summer internships and guidance from my father.
During my undergraduate years, I stayed at the school full-time and earned my Bachelor's degree in three years. I took on part-time internships during the summer to earn money and to get practical business experience. By the time I was in my third year, I knew I wanted a graduate degree but had to pay for it. So I decided to earn that degree while working full time. I also set a goal for myself to finish my graduate degree AND earn my Certified Public Accounting (CPA) certification in three years. With much hard work, help, and support, I achieved that goal.
After graduating, my dad helped me get a job in banking working for Republic Bank in their information technology department. I helped support the bank's information system needs for their commercial customers. This was back in the day when there were no online systems, personal computers or Internet. At the same time, I started working on my graduate degree at night. I majored in accounting because I wanted to better understand the financial aspects of business.
I changed jobs a while later and worked at Arco Oil and Gas as a Natural Gas Revenue Accountant. I immediately found that banking was much friendlier to women than the oil and gas industry. But I chose that area because I was brought in as part of a finance and accounting development program for new college graduates. I decided to stay because it was hard and no one liked it. I figured if I could do well the position would open other opportunities. At Arco I supervised union employees at a very young age. I was about 24 at the time and managed several male employees. This experience forced me to improve my communication and interpersonal skills, and made me learn how to gain their respect and build a team.
One big takeaway from my experience at Arco was understanding the big picture and doing a job in that context. Instead of living by job descriptions, I learned to look at the bigger picture and see what else I could do. I worked at Arco for five years. The company had a voluntary retirement program and I retired at the age of 26. I had just earned my Master's degree in Accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas and went into consulting with Coopers and Lybrand.
Consulting is an interesting field because you are asked to solve problems that clients can't solve themselves. In this role, my work ran the gamut from human resources, mergers and acquisitions and financial systems to major enterprise resource planning systems implementations. I also had the opportunity to work in manufacturing and distribution, communications, defense, retail and a variety of other industries. In the eight years that I worked in consulting, I never did the same kind of consulting engagement twice.
The most important learning from my consulting experience was the idea that I needed to earn my paycheck every day. I could do my own personal profit and loss statement because I could see client billings and knew what the firm was paying me. This put me into the mindset of being in a position of consistently and continually earning my pay every day. This concept has stuck with me through the years.
Another interesting aspect about consulting work is there is no such thing as a defined organization structure. Every project is structured differently. I could be a leader on one project, and a contributor on another. Since the person who brought the contract into the consulting firm made the decision about who would lead the project, the rotation helped me to be a good leader and contributor. This system of checks and balances also helped me learn to influence without authority. I was 26 when I first started working in consulting and 34 when I left the firm. I went out on my own as an independent consultant for about a year and then had the opportunity to join Texas Instruments (TI).
At TI, I was brought into a group that was leading the enterprise systems business and worked as Deputy Program Manager for the Motorola program. In this role, I helped get the program back to its target margin. After two years, with the project successfully on track, I moved into the human resources arena. By this time, I had close to 15 years of business experience. This was a great opportunity for me to apply my influence without authority skills because I didn't have authority over all of the project efforts, but needed to influence them.
By this time in my life, I had a daughter who was five years old. In the human resources position, I was responsible for a PeopleSoft project that was already underway, but behind on schedule and over budget. They wanted someone to implement the software application in 26 countries in 20 months. I didn't have much global experience at this point, so I really wanted to gain that experience. I was gone on business travel for longer periods of time than I was in the consulting business, but had a support system at home to help care for my daughter. The project lasted almost two years.
I was then offered a full-time position in Human Resources to head up the systems and administration part of the organization. I spent nearly three years in that role, and was given the opportunity to lead efforts in my current area along with the full compensation and benefits strategies and programs.
Early in my work in the human resources organization, I had the opportunity to take part in a personal development assessment exercise. That opportunity was extremely valuable to me because from that experience I was more clearly able to articulate my professional goals and ambitions.
Up until that point, I was questioning the idea of a person having both professional success and success as a parent. By then, my daughter was in the first grade and work/life balance was very challenging. I didn't get much sleep and relied on my support network that included my wonderful husband and mom who lived locally. If I had not had their help, I would not have been able to do the things I did professionally. This exercise helped me clarify my goals and be confident about my ambitions. I was then able to see that it was possible for me to do both well.
My mom has supported me throughout my career, especially in the early years of my daughter's life. My mom is affectionately known as "Dado" to her grandchildren, and Dado stood in for me on many kid sick days and many business travel days and nights. The only way I could do the travel and work the long hours was knowing my daughter was with her Dado. My mom has also played an important cheerleader role for me, always focusing on the positive and giving me wise advice. One of my mom's favorite sayings is, "Don't borrow tomorrow's troubles" or "Don't cross a bridge you don't have to cross." This advice calmed my anxieties during challenging times and helped me focus on solving the problem at hand.
I was promoted to vice president and worked in human resources for a total of eight years. One of the things I wanted to do was have my brand to be as a high contributing business person, instead of being branded as an information technology or human resources contributor. I wanted to be branded more as a solid contributor from a business point of view.
In my role as vice president, I had the outstanding opportunity to be the primary liaison with the Compensation Committee of TI's Board of Directors. This was an extremely valuable developmental experience for me because it broadened my business perspective by allowing me to get to know and work with the board members. They are all highly accomplished people and working with them helped me to see their perspective on the world.
In 2003, I became the first woman to hold the position of a business president at TI. In my current position as president of TI's Education Technology business, I have the opportunity to directly impact science and technology by bringing innovative products and programs to market that make a significant difference in the education experience of today's school children and young adults. More than just bringing innovative TI calculators to market, I focus my organization on using research to continue driving products and programs that truly help students perform better in the important subjects of math and science.
I have great appreciation for those people who have sponsored and mentored me, and helped me develop throughout my careers. These people gave me a chance, helped me see my potential and gave me true feedback on how I can improve. My parents had the greatest influence on me from a values perspective.
My husband is an accomplished business man who has more business experience than I do. As a result, I have been able to learn a lot from him as well. He has been very willing to share the responsibilities of a family and marriage. When we were first married, I was working at my job at TI in human resources and was traveling some. He was an executive with Halliburton and traveled almost 100 percent of the time, mostly out of the country. In the early part of our marriage, his career was primary and I was in charge of my daughter, the home and working.
As my husband has gotten to be more advanced in his career, his opportunities are more entrepreneurial and flexible. In recent years, he has agreed that my career is primary. Each time I have had an opportunity to take on a new role, it has been a joint, family decision. This has made for a very rich relationship because we relate to each other so well. Sometimes I play certain roles and he plays certain roles, and stereotypes don't follow those roles.
While my daughter is now off at college, I feel like I never really found the answer to the work/life challenge. I just kept adjusting and making things work for me. During some of the most difficult days when I was feeling stressed at work or feeling pulled from family, I would remind myself that I am fortunate to have professional opportunities and a family. Instead of focusing on overwhelming demands, I looked at the choices and the best way to arrange my life so I have been able to be successful at both.
Serving the community is also very important to me. I am currently a member of the AVID Center Board of Directors (Audit Committee Chairman) and Rose-Hulman Technology Institute Board of Trustees. I am a Founder of the Women of TI Fund and continue to play an active role in supporting the Fund. The Women of TI Fund is a donor-advised fund, in partnership with the Dallas Women's Foundation, focused on closing the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions.
I have served in a board position for the University of Texas Pan American Board of Trustees, as an Executive Committee member of the Employment Policy Foundation Board, Personnel Chair for Dallas Women's Foundation Board and a member of Hewitt Health Care Delivery Task Force.
I also enjoy mentoring women and speaking to groups about careers and aspirations. In a presentation I call "Career Reflections," I talk about using self-analysis to know your strengths and weaknesses and self-competition to compete against your own best efforts instead of comparing your efforts to the efforts of other people. I explain the important roles focus, confidence and toughness play in a person's life and how women should accept risk and try to win rather than accepting risk and trying not to lose.
I firmly believe a successful person accepts responsibility for his/her own destiny and establishes a personal game plan to win in life. I continually review and rework my game plan as my life changes, and advise others to do the same. I feel fortunate for the many opportunities and the wonderful support I have had that has helped me achieve my goals and dreams so far. Now, I enjoy spending much of my time helping others, early in their careers, achieve theirs.
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