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Inspired By: Colleen Brewer

“Courage, confidence, and compassion have served me best at work and at home.”

Brewer, ColleensmWife, mother (of two daughters), boss, sister, daughter, friend, nurse, teacher, volunteer, cook, negotiator and shrink, are just a few of the roles Colleen Brewer, vice president of sales and marketing for the Austin American-Statesman, fills. Here, she shares how her definition of success is shaped by her many roles. Interview by Rachel Allen, Statesman Solutions staff.


Q: What advice do you have for other working mothers, both established in their careers and still climbing?

I don’t believe there’s any hard and fast advice for this because everybody’s life is different. You have to figure it out for yourself and prioritize based on your values and support system, but first of all, don’t let bad habits take root. Establish rules and boundaries and stick to them. Also, don’t put it in your head that you’re doing a bad job and don’t compare yourself to other women who seem to have it figured out. They don’t.

Q: Who in your past or present pushes you to try harder? Who or what inspires, motivates and drives you?

Many people inspire me in different ways and for different things, but primarily my kids and husband, and a former boss. My customers also inspire me. And, when things get tough, I inspire myself because I believe that there’s a way to accomplish everything.

Q: What character trait has served you best in business? And in your family life?

Courage, confidence and compassion have served me well in both areas. The first two seem similar, and they’re certainly related. I believe it takes confidence to get somewhere or come up with an idea, but it takes courage to maximize circumstances and make the impossible happen.

Q: What situation or challenge in your life helped you to grow the most?

I never thought I would have children, and then at 37, closing sales and making budgets just wasn’t enough, and we made the decision to adopt from Russia. The process alone was life-changing – I tell people I was in labor for 12 months. But it’s the best thing that ever happened to me because we saved her life and she’s changed mine. I know she was meant to be my daughter.

Q: What’s the last book you read?

“Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s smart and practical and teaches women how to own it, whatever “it” might be.

Q: What music did you listen to on your way to work today?

Zac Brown Band. They have a sincerity and genuineness that soothes me, as well as great sound overall.

Q: Did you choose to have a signature look or did you just notice it had become a signature look at some point?

I’ve had a signature look for decades now. I’ve always believed that one doesn’t leave the house without eyes and lips and I guess that, along with colorful and bold, became my “thing” at some point. In all seriousness, I was first in management in the late 80’s when there still weren’t many women in management. It wasn’t enough to stand out with my brain, I had to stand out – period. Since then, I haven’t just been “that manager” I’m “that tall red head in the leopard, zebra or polka-dot print.”

Q: When hiring what are three words that would describe what you’re looking for in a candidate?

Hardworking, confident and courageous. It takes all three to get there and then not only get it done, but get it done in an amazing way.