Rebecca Leipert

Rebecca Leipert

Broad Ambition

So, some background. Broadambition.com. It’s a web portal for adventure-minded women and one sections of the site is called The Broad Next Door. You’re the first interview for that. What do you think about being the guinea pig?

Rebecca
I love it. Start the expectations low.

BA
What? You mean you don’t consider yourself a pioneer?

RL
I do not. I consider myself Rebecca.

BA
Boring. You’ll be famous if this thing gets more than four views. Anyway, to give those four people an idea of who you are, your course of life; you have lived in some pretty happening towns: Portland, OR; Boston, MA…BIG towns. Why Stowe, VT? Population 4,314, which is down by the way from 4,339 in 2000. I checked.

RL
You have too much time on your hands. To your question though…I love the lifestyle. I love the year-round activities and fun it affords: being on a snowboard in the winter and my mountain bike in the summer. And I’m also able to make a living in a job I enjoy while not having to commute too far. Seeking the ever-elusive work/life balance is really what drew me here.

BA
Wow. That sounds too simple. You’re undermining the burgeoning Life Coach profession and all of the celebs who write tomes on “balance.” For you it was just a zip code?

RL
Well, I am somewhat simple in that I am the same person whether I’m at home or at work. I really like to have fun at work in addition to being serious and getting shit done. At home, I’m the same way. I want to have fun at home, but I want to get shit done. I want to pack as much fun into a weekend or a day as possible. It’s not that I exhibit one personality at work and one when I’m at home. It just happened that I never perceived I had to act in two different ways, have two personas. And the more I realized that and experienced in positive ways in the workplace that simply being myself and bringing aspects of my personality to the work place that were unique to me, the more success I experienced. And I believe that’s all been possible because of where we chose to live. It provides a great balance.

BA
Well, given that you work for a multi-billion dollar, multinational company, that’s no small accomplishment.

RL
(Tentatively) Sure, but I’ve been that way from the time I worked for a small husband-and-wife advertising shop, to when I went out to Oregon to work for Nike, to now in my current position.

BA
Do you think being a multisport athlete helps achieve that kind of balance?

RL
(Grins) Whoa there. I’m uncomfortable with using the ‘A word’ to describe myself, let alone putting ‘multisport’ in front of it.

BA
Well, you do do a lot of things that are prone to raising your heart rate. But calling yourself an ‘athlete’ is too strong?

RL
I don’t know. It’s just when I hear the word, I think of Olympians and people who can dunk basketballs. I’m not the fastest runner. I’m not the gnarliest shedder on a snowboard. It’s just that I love what I do and do what I love and it just happens to be a lot of different things.

BA
You snowboard and ski. You run. You mountain bike. Every few months or so you pay some masochist at the gym to abuse you. What’s your favorite of these sort-of-kind-of athletic pursuits?

RL
Right now I got to go with mountain biking because it balances that element of feeling good enough at it that I can get out there with lots of different people and lots of different terrain and environments, and still have fun. But I’m still humbled on a regular basis. I have a moment during every single ride where I feel like, ‘Man, how did I miss that?’ or ‘Why the hell did I just slam on my brakes and take that crash?’ ….how can I learn from all of that. So for me that balance is what I love about mountain biking; that feeling like I get a ‘win’ on every ride, but that I still have more to go.

BA
So does mountain biking seem to be a good metaphor for life?

RL
Yeah, absolutely. I moved (back) to Vermont for love after I had met my husband, and frankly, I was ready to compartmentalize my life and take that work thing and put it on the back burner, and really put my personal life first. And I thought I could actually organize my life that way. I was willing to make less money, and take a lower level job…something that would be less challenging. But I ended up in the role I’m in now, and with all of the change at my current company, I’m now in a position that’s morphed into something far more challenging, far more demanding than I ever thought that I wanted. And as I look back on it, look at where I am today versus even six months ago, there have been intersections along the way where I could have said ‘No’…where I could have said ‘No thank you. I’m going to take a bye on this promotion, this project’….but I naturally don’t do that, and it’s not because I want to be the hero, it’s that I simply want to keep doing.

BA
You work for a company that has thousands of employees spread across the globe that you essentially cold called looking for a job, and in just two years have come to run the digital media for one of their premiere brands. Even at a company that considers itself progressive, is there still a glass ceiling? Do you perceive that there is true equal opportunity, or do you think the Old Boys’ Club is alive and well at your place of work?

RL
I really don’t. It’s funny, because they just sent me to a women’s leadership conference a couple of weeks ago. Plus, in general…outside of this company, I haven’t ever felt that I have been discriminated against or limited in my potential based on my gender and I feel really lucky for that. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness on my part, but I really don’t feel my gender will limit me from doing anything that I want to do. I feel like I will limit me from doing anything that I want to do.

BA
Like eventually say ‘No’ to that promotion?

RL
Yeah, yeah. You know there’s lots of articles out there now concerning women limiting their potential based on our natural inclination to say ‘I want to have a family,’ ‘I want to live up to these set of perceived ideals and in doing so I will need to compartmentalize,’ or ‘I don’t want to over promise and under deliver.’ And that’s something I constantly struggle with because I absolutely never want to over promise and under deliver. But in the end, I think you should deal with your evolving life changes as they evolve, not necessarily in advance of them ever arriving.

BA
So is the motto Don’t over promise and under deliver or is it Evolve?

RL
(Laughs) Just keep rolling with it. We all have to have goals, but things, life, changes very quickly. The job I have now has changed tremendously without me ever officially changing jobs. The way I do my work, the people I work with, the level in which it’s done is completely different from how it was described to me 24 months ago. When you’re in that kind of environment, you encounter people who hate change because they can’t get their heads around all of the unanswered questions that always arise in that type of environment and they become paralyzed. And I’ve been in that position before when I was at Nike. But there’s a difference between feeling paralyzed and actually letting that feeling paralyze you. What I know now is that you have to just show up and do your absolute best with the information you have, whether you’re a middle manager, or the leader of the organization and the one expected to have all of the answers.

BA
Is there such a person anywhere?

RL
Well that’s the thing; there isn’t. And that’s the point. Life…jobs….companies…No one person has all of the answers. I think what helps me professionally and personally is to always ask questions and get to an understanding of what is the need. What is the need for your friend who seems really upset. What’s up with your partner if things aren’t going great at home.

BA
Screw mottos. We’re talking essence of life shit here. Is knowing “the Need” the essence of life?

RL
Big question, but I think so. You always have to dig.

BA
Earlier when you described feeling paralyzed in your job for a time at Nike, is that how you got through it, by finding and focusing on the need at hand?

RL
I got through it by having those little wins. Like we talked about earlier, whether you experience them out on the trail or at work, you need them to keep moving.

BA
Just get the ‘W’?

RL
Yeah. You need them to keep going and to see the potential of bigger wins. I don’t know if I have any real clear plan of like if I want to be a CEO. I just want to be the fullest of me both at home and at work.

BA
Enough of the personal and professional. It’s time for the Lightening Round of Perfunctory Interview Questions. We’ll start by going back to athletics. When you’re getting ready to go out for a big mountain bike ride; what do you eat?

RL
I would likely have oatmeal with fruit and nuts.

BA
Share a failure.

RL
Sheeeesh. Just one? I’ve had plenty. How about I just share what I know to be the reason behind all of them, athletically, personally and professionally?

BA
You’re really not grasping the whole ‘lightening’ concept, are you?

RL
Fear; fear of just not showing up. I’ve decided at times that I want to run half marathons, do

Rebecca Leipert busts out 93, well three of the day's 93 burpees, just outside the Pine Marten Lodge at Mt. Bachelor, Bend, OR.

Rebecca Leipert busts out 93, well three of the day’s 93 burpees, just outside the Pine Marten Lodge at Mt. Bachelor, Bend, OR.

triathlons and I’ve quit before I ever even started because I was scared I would fail. At work, I’ve made the wrong call. My approach to decision making is not so much a laborious process. I’m thoughtful; I evaluate. But I pretty swiftly make a decision and move on, and that has led to me falling on my face…athletically, personally and professionally.

BA
Pick a famous woman from history and why?

RL
Lucille Ball

BA
Really?

RL
Yeah, she’s ballsy. I don’t think she’s necessarily ‘Top of Mind’ when people think of famous strong women from the past, but she was a ballsy pioneer. She seemed to bring all of herself to work and the characters she played. She didn’t fit the mold. She didn’t look like anyone else. She didn’t talk or act like anyone else, and she owned it. And I just think that’s cool.

BA
One of the great things of working at a start-up is we have a ton of money, so we went out and bought a time machine.

RL
No foosball?

BA
Foos is so last decade. Anyway, if I brought you to our time machine, would you go into the past or the future?

RL
Always go future.

BA
Really? You want to know the future?

RL
No, but if I had to pick, I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to ruin the mystery or control the mysteries of what lies ahead. But I just like to move forward. All of the things that I have done in the past have made me who I am so I wouldn’t want to undo any of those things even if they’ve been messy or imperfect or led to heartache. It’s just all of the stuff in my suitcase.

BA
If you could only vacation in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be?

RL
(Long pause.) I’ve got to go beach. Some place that has surf that’s not too gnarly. Great food. Hot, but not stiflingly hot cause I do burn. I’d have to go Sayulita down in Mexico.

BA
One food you’d never eat.

RL
Probably no testicles.

BA
So no Rocky Mountain Oysters? What if they looked like mozzarella balls?

RL
Well, if there was cheese involved….but other than that, I draw the line at testicles.

BA
Bill Gates, the richest man in the U.S. walks through that door, and offers you a million dollars to invest in your best idea. What is it?

RL
I would go back to school, become a Wellness practitioner and bring wellness and holistic living practices to people who can’t necessarily afford it.

BA
Wellness clinics in impoverished neighborhoods?

RL
Yeah. Right now it seems those types of options are only available to the wealthier among us and it would be great to offer people a different way to look at their health past just taking pills. We need better options for health and we need to create better access to those options for all. When you don’t feel well, you can’t do well.

BA
OK. Last question. We talked about failure, but what’s your greatest success? What’s the biggest ‘W’ in your life?

Rebecca Leipert

Rebecca Leipert

RL
My marriage to my husband. And I don’t take credit for that (laughs), but it is my biggest ‘W’. I kissed a lot of frogs, learned a lot of lessons along the way about myself, about dating, about what I need and want, and what the difference is between the two. And it showed me what relationships are supposed to be all about. It took all of those experiences, and then some, to actually look at Mark (husband) and say ‘Holy Shit,’ that’s what everyone’s been talking about. The guy that feels as much as your best friend as he does your lover. I mean, I’ve only known him five years, but I feel I’ve known him my entire life. He’s shown me how to recontextualize different aspects of my life and that’s helped me to find that ever-elusive work-life balance and it led to me completing my first half marathon and first triathlon as opposed to just talking about it.

BA
So getting those little ‘w’s came with a boost from the big ‘W’?

RL
Yeah, he’s my big ‘W’.