"On the Job with ..." is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today's conversation is with Mary Ligon, a business consultant and director of Leadership Albany. She shared her answers with Herald staff writer Jim West.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I was gift wrapper during the holidays at Turner Furniture in Pelham. I was about 14, I think.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. I don't remember, really. Probably it was clothes or something like that.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. I don't have employees, but from what I know about people it's important to recognize them for their efforts in contributing to the solutions to issues — to the results or success of an event. I'm not always good at following through on this.
Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?
A. I was a systems engineer and then a marketing rep for IBM. When my husband and I decided to have a family, I knew the most important job I had was to raise my children to be contributing members of society. That's why I left the corporate world. Since then I've been fortunate in being able to combine parenting with a work-from-home consulting career. Serving part-time as the director of Leadership Albany has allowed me to continually meet new people and work with others who want to effect positive change in our community.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. There's no single person. I have learned from many friends and business associates in different areas. If I had to name one I'd say my mother. She was a working mom, but still able get back from work and give (her kids) the time they needed. She was active in her church and in volunteering as well. In those regards, I see a lot of similarity between my mom and myself.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Flexibility is important in being able to respond to new or different opportunities while knowing what you do well as a business and what may be more of a learning opportunity.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?
A. Automated phone systems without the ability to speak with a real person. Automation is fine, as long I have that option.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. Hardly met one I didn't like. Laptops, phones, e-reader/tablet. They all have their benefits, depending on task and location. It's really the software or the applications that are important for productivity. I'm a data gatherer.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. I'm fond of reunions of my extended family and I guess you could call it a tradition when I get together with my two brothers at the farm in Pelham and ride four-wheelers and just walk. Mostly it's the kids who ride the four-wheelers.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. The last one was "The Angel Experiment" by James Patterson, but I'm pretty varied in my reading. I love my Nook Color (e-reader) and the digital download library.
Q. I’m up and going by and what is your morning routine?
A. I have breakfast at 6:30 and read The Albany Herald, check my email and then I'm off to YMCA. Usually I'm doing something business-like by 9.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. I read a lot of different books — not just fiction, but business too, and inspirational. I have to be careful starting a book because I can get so involved I want to throw everything else to the side and finish it. I enjoy volunteering with Strive 2 Thrive and other organizations.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. Nothing at all. I always learn something from any decision and without all of them my learning is diminished.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. The variety of people I meet and the projects I'm involved with. It's the constant newness of it I enjoy.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Nothing. Well, the worst part may be that I tend to get myself a little over-committed, then my plate's too full and I can't do as good a job. That probably has more to do with me than the job, though.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was ...?
A. Strategic Management. We did business computer simulations and made decisions about the virtual business to see how its stock was affected.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. This is my dream job because I 'm able to work on a variety of projects and always have something new to learn or discover.
Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself ..."
A. Reading a book or beginning one of the many undone projects at home.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Integrity. You have to say what you'll do and do what you say.
Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. I have no clue and I'm not waiting on it. We all have to work with the situation as it is.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. I don't have an iPod, but when I'm driving I listen to a pretty wide variety — from Christian praise to jazz and pop from the '60s and '70s.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. I would like to see us build a more trusting community so that we can more efficiently address community issues. Many of the issues that are attributed to racial differences are rooted in socio-economic disparity and break down mostly along racial lines. Many of us work through our cultural differences but have more difficulty understanding differences due to socio-economic status.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?
A. Places aren't particularly important to me. I do enjoy going out with friends and family. A trip to Europe when I was in high school certainly exposed me to things I hadn't experienced up to that point.