I was born in Bismarck, North Dakota to parents who were first generation Americans. My grandparents were Irish immigrants, who moved to America in their teens. I am the oldest of five children born within a span of seven years. Both of my parents are college educated and were the first generation in their families to be so. My parents valued education and what education can do for a person in terms of opportunity. Both of them saw education as a differentiator. The expectation was that all of their children would be college educated.
My father was a geophysicist and my mother was a nurse. My father received his college education by participating in World War II. He served in China during the war and went to the Colorado School of Mines on the GI Bill. Though my parents met in high school, they didn't start dating until after my father finished his college degree. After graduation and marriage, my father began working for an oil company and my family began the traveling life of an oil family. By the time I was 17-years old, I had lived in 20 different places, some of which were overseas.
My mother grew up in Chicago and had a broad support system of family there. After marrying my father, she spent most of her adult life moving a family of seven around the United States and the world without the family support system she was accustomed to. Early on, I became her support system as her oldest daughter. I learned leadership at a very young age. It was expected that I be responsible and help take care of my brothers and sisters, help my mother around the house and even help break the ice with the neighbors when our family moved to a new location.
Frequently, because of our age differences, my brothers and sisters went to different schools, so I was expected to handle new schools by myself. Through this, I learned to be independent, self assured and confident as a very young girl. I also learned to take risks and try new things because when you move as frequently as we did, I was continually in a position where I had to form relationships, say goodbye and start new relationships. I have found these skills to be very useful in all aspects of my life. I learned to work with people who have cultures, lifestyles and perceptions that are different from my own. I also learned to respect and appreciate diversity.
One of the biggest impacts on who I was growing up was being the daughter of college educated parents, who valued education. In addition to being in technical fields, both of my parents were extensive readers. One of earliest memories I have is being in a library in the summertime and coming home with seven books to read in seven days. Reading was something we did in our house along with sports and outdoor activities.
I have always loved literature and history, and grew up in a household that developed both sides of the brain. My parents did not think it was odd that I was good at math and science, but they also wanted me to focus on reading. I grew up thinking I had a lot of choices and did not think you had to choose between one discipline and another. Reading today is still a precious leisure activity for me and one of the primary ways that I learn. I am an eclectic reader and read about business, psychology and a host of other subjects.
When I was young, I remember my love of science. My family and I moved to Sydney, Australia when I was in the seventh grade and, since Australia operates under the British education system, I went to an all girls' school. In this environment all activities and subjects were open to girls. .
One memory I have from this experience was being really intrigued by science. I had a young female science teacher who taught biology and chemistry. She was young and attractive, and really, really smart. I admired that combination. She taught science with such assurance and confidence and I remember thinking "this is really cool."
Along with science, I was taking math and calculus classes and loved the ability to solve the problem. I loved the cleanness of this because you were either right and knew it, or wrong and fixed it. This area of learning was much different from literature because in literature there are gray areas. There was something so clean about math and science and its objectivity that really appealed to me. And I really liked the balance it brought to my love of the arts and history.
During my senior year in high school, my family and I moved from Australia to Texas. I graduated high school as a student of St. Agnes Academy in Houston, Texas. When I was 18, I began my freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin. At this point in my life, I was not clear about what I wanted to be. It was 1972 and I decided to try mechanical engineering. Since I had spent most of my life thinking if you are a female you can do anything, I did not think about engineering as a male-dominated field. I was raised thinking every person had a lot of choices.
When I walked into the engineering building in 1972, I felt like I was the only girl in college. The male students would stop talking when I walked by and the teachers would either tell me I should not be there or would be over solicitous, which was actually much worse. This was the first time in my life that I ran into the reality that not everyone agreed that I could do what I wanted to do.
I stayed in the engineering program for about a semester-and-a-half and then dropped out. It was too difficult for me at the age of 18 to be so different. I transferred to education because it was an easier path for me to follow. I earned my education degree with a certificate in special education and a concentration in English. After that I taught English literature and math in a special school for high school kids who had flunked out of mainstream high school. This was their last chance before they left the system.
I loved teaching, but the idea of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life kept coming to the forefront. I didn't see myself in the classroom for the next 25 years. That is when the idea of engineering came back. So I began teaching the high school students during the day and went back to college and started working on math prerequisites for my engineering degree at night.
In 1981, I went back to learn mechanical engineering full time as a married woman and saw that the field had not changed. At the time, my husband had graduated from dental school and was enrolled in an Army program at a hospital at Ft. Riley in Kansas. I enrolled in engineering school at Kansas State University at the age of 28 and got pregnant with my first child. In 1981, it was still tolerated for professors to say women didn't belong in engineering, but it no longer mattered to me.
I finished my first year in May and had my first baby in June. Then we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and I transferred to New Mexico State University. In 1984, I graduated at the age of 30 with a degree in mechanical engineering and a second baby. At this point in my life, I believed I didn't need other people's approval. I had gotten that sense of inner certainty from my parents, who believed each person was given gifts and talents and needed to make a positive difference in the world using those gifts, which were not gender dependent. At the age of 18, being the "only" at a big school caused me to lose connection to that fundamental belief. When I went back to school, I didn't feel the need to please someone who had the wrong opinion.
After graduation my husband and I decided to leave the army life. After moving around a great deal throughout my life, I now wanted to put down roots. By this time, my parents had settled in Houston and my husband's parents were living in Austin. Since we wanted our kids to live near their grandparents, Dallas made sense and I only interviewed for jobs in the Dallas area.
During that interview process, I was offered six jobs. I accepted the job at TI because the company was growing and expanding, and I knew I would get a lot of responsibility quickly. I also decided to work at TI because, in my work group, 25% of the technologists were women, which was very unusual. If I had accepted one of the other positions, I would have been the only woman on the team. In 1985, I saw more people that looked like me at TI early in my career. I wanted to be part of a more diverse team, and didn't want to be the only woman.
In February 1985, we moved to Dallas, Texas so I could take a job with Texas Instruments (TI). By this time, my husband had gotten out of the Army and started his dental practice in Dallas. When I started working at TI, my daughter was two-and-a-half years old and my son was six months old. My first job at TI was as a project engineer. I worked in the facilities organization supporting the construction and expansion of a manufacturing site in North Texas.
Two years after I started working at TI, I had a third child. After working two years in the project engineering role, I became a Program Manager working on TI construction projects. In 1990, I became the first woman at TI to be a Facilities Operations Manager supporting a wafer fabrication facility. I worked in that role for two years and was then asked to be the manager of TI's Environmental, Safety and Health organization. I worked in that role for two years and in 1995 was elected Vice President of TI's Worldwide Environmental, Safety and Health organization.
In 2000, I was asked to take over TI's Dallas fabrication facility as manager and spent five years in that role. In 2005, I was asked to return to the Worldwide Facilities organization in my current position as Vice President. Today, our organization is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and operations of facilities worldwide, global real estate, Environmental, Safety and Health and Worldwide Security. I love the fact that the organization is global. It also spans a lot of different specialties and supports the company's growth strategically. There is much to do under that umbrella and many ways to serve employees, customers and shareholders. I also get to be in service to the communities in which we operate.
I have had two different careers in two different cultures. It's ironic that I left the female-dominated culture of education to go to the male-dominated culture of engineering, but I don't think it is an accident that I have spent time at TI building a sisterhood. Balance is important to me and I believe women bring different perspectives, communication styles and approaches to creating solutions. While I made a conscious choice to work in a male system, I have spent a large part of my life helping other women become successful. Our sisterhood is important to me.
I am willing to take a risk when people ask me to do jobs that don't fit in a career path. A lot of the jobs I had didn't fit into a traditional path, but I had bosses who saw the talent in me and opened doors for me in unexpected roles that I would not have anticipated. Part of taking risk is going for it when opportunities present themselves, even when you don't feel confident or doubt you have all of the needed competencies. Growing your career often means you need to take chances, and do it even if you may fail.
I had a high degree of confidence that I could learn and was comfortable with the people who reported to me knowing that I did not have all of the answers. They knew I was willing to learn from them what I needed to know to do the job. At the same time, I had the ability to be clear about what I brought to the new role, what I was not bringing and was comfortable knowing that it was alright. I learned I didn't have to be an expert about everything and felt comfortable saying "I don't know." When opportunities present themselves, we need to ask if we can come up the learning curve quickly enough and feel confident that we can acquire the necessary skills. My bosses and mentors encouraged me to take those types of risks and reinforced that they believed I could learn the job quickly.
Outside of work, fitness and wellness are very much a part of my life. I work out regularly doing free weights, and am a runner and a walker. I did my first half marathon two years ago. I am also a snow skier and a scuba diver, and love to travel. I used to travel a lot with my family and believe it is an important life experience to travel overseas and see life from a different perspective.
I am also a gardener and love to cook. While I'm not a gourmet, cooking and gardening are a central part of my home life. I am also very involved in the community and church. My two oldest children have both graduated from college and are working in professional jobs. My youngest son is a junior at university.
It's important to me to continue learning and to make life the best that it can be. I encourage everyone to do the same.