From chemist to real estate agent to mother to volunteer to fundraiser and founder and CEO of I Live Here, I Give Here, Texas Conference for Women advisory council member Patsy Martin shared her advice on balance, reinvention and staying true to your passion. Scroll down to listen to the full interview.
Q: How did your professional career begin, and how did you end up where you are today?
A: “My professional career had a fairly circuitous path. I worked in the petrochemical industry in Houston right out of college as a chemist. When I got married after a few years, I moved to Austin, and there wasn’t a lot for a chemist to do in Austin in the early to mid 70’s, so I did a variety of things. I worked for a state representative. I worked at the Austin Women’s Center and sold real estate for a while. After I had my second child, I took some time off. I went back to graduate school to get my master’s in biochemical nutrition. Then got pregnant with my third kid and had to quit doing the research there while I was pregnant. And during that time, I started doing a lot of volunteer work for some health and human service agencies in Austin.
When I was able to go back to the work force, I landed a job at my local United Way doing development. I grew through the ranks of the development department at United Way into vice president of resource development. While I was there, we started looking at launching a campaign to elevate the level of philanthropy across central Texas. I was doing that work sort of on the side from my main job at United Way until 2006, when I made a decision to leave United Way in order to focus on the work of I Live Here, I Give Here.”
Q: Can you share with us a little bit about I Live Here, I Give Here?
A: “I Live Here, I Give Here is a movement to elevate the level of personal philanthropy across Central Texas. As Texans, we are proud, and a national survey was reported by The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranking Austin 44th out of the largest SMSAs around the country when it came to disposable income dedicated to all charitable giving. I Live Here, I Give Here has got a number of programs in order to increase charitable giving primarily around, from young professionals in our community.”
Q: Is there a leader that you’ve worked with or somebody who is in your sphere of influence that you have great respect for?
A: “The woman who headed up the human resources work at United Way is a woman named Susan Berliner…she was an incredible mentor for me and really helped me understand how to ensure employee satisfaction, and thereby ensure great productivity, among people that you are responsible for managing.”
Q: You mentioned earlier that you’re a mother. Is there a piece of advice that you would share with other women who are looking to be really present as mothers but also embrace their careers?
A: “I think the piece of advice I would give is give yourself a break. Give yourself some slack to be a little bit less than perfect in all arenas. I think you can have it all, but you just can’t have it all at the same time.”
Q: Chemist, mother, researcher, volunteer, development leader; you have focused on many different paths in your life. Are there tips you would offer to a woman looking to reinvent herself?
A: “The first would be to step back and identify what you’re really passionate about. We can get the most satisfaction when we’re working in an area that we are passionate about, when we feel like we are either making a difference or doing something that is very meaningful.
The second thing is to persevere. Things don’t happen nearly as quickly as we expect they will, especially in my experience. When we launched I Live Here, I Give Here, I thought ‘this is a great idea, we’re doing incredible work!’ It takes time to establish credibility and to see the return on investment in the work you are doing or the career change you might be making.”
Q: Of all the transitions you’ve been through, was there one that stands out as perhaps the most difficult or one that really provided you with an opportunity to grow?
A: “Yes, both. When I was working on my master’s degree in biochemical nutrition, I was doing it because that’s where I started. As far as being a chemist, I thought I was interested in it. And then because of the work in the lab I was doing, I had to stop when I was pregnant. It was hard to accept that, but what it did was project me in a different direction that honestly has been much more satisfying than my work as a chemist.”
Q: What’s one thing you make time for in your daily life that really keeps you focused and positive and refreshed?
A: “Exercise. I start my day, almost every morning, exercising. I do it with friends who have nothing to do with my work, so it gives me an opportunity to get an outside perspective on some of the things that I do and also, to feel like I’m taking care of myself in a meaningful way.”
Interview by Whitney Wilkerson