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Alumna Betsy Peck Talks Retirement

Alumna Betsy Peck Talks Retirement
Betsy Peck '82

Betsy Peck '82 delves into how to stay true to yourself in retirement, and the freedom that comes along with these years.

What were your expectations when you retired from your COO role? Were you feeling excited, energized?

Yes, to both, and if I’m honest, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive. I developed a plan and it included a schedule for my next chapter. That preparation provided me comfort in an uncomfortable time, it didn’t eliminate it altogether.  My plan included an outline of how I wanted my days, months and even years to look, obviously at a high level. I can’t say that I got it 100 percent correct, but I do know one criterion I was mindful of was staying authentic to who I am. I’m the definition of an outgoing introvert. I like to be social and actively engaged with people; I also like my alone time; the time I use to reflect and re-charge my batteries. I couldn’t include a plan that had 90 percent of my time spent networking, I would burn out in less than a week! 

How has your new consulting venture been going? Has it met your expectations for retirement/second career?

It has been a great experience and I’m enjoying it immensely. I have the freedom to choose the projects I want to work on and those where I believe I have the strongest value add opportunity.  In using that as a filter for what engagements to accept I’ve found it results in mutually beneficial assignments. My clients get my strategic expertise and obtain their desired results and I gain insight into their business and industry, broadening my expertise. 

How has shifting to consulting work opened new doors for you? 

My operating experience is applicable not only in the real estate industry where I spent 20+ years but also transfers to broader industries like; technology, communications and education and my consulting and advisory firm allows me to take advantage of those more diverse opportunities.

On a personal level, it gives me the flexibility to maintain a balance in my life that I didn’t have when I was working full-time. My goal is to ensure I get a good ROI on my time because not even the biggest salary can buy you your health or give you more time with loved ones. This chapter of my life lets me choose what’s important and where I spend my time.

Do you think that people have misconceptions about what retirement means? If so, what are they or what have you experienced?

Yes, I think there are misconceptions for sure. If you look at the definition of the word it’s the action or fact of leaving one's job and ceasing to workan outdated definition in my opinion. People have different ideas of what retirement is and reality is, it means something unique for everyone. The old days of a party, a gold watch and then rocking on the front porch are not even close to reality in today’s environment. People are remaining healthier and relevant with interests in areas that are important to them; business, family, volunteering are just a few that come to mind.  Like all of life, retirement is not a one size fits all scenario.

Tell me about your work increasing gender diversity on boards. Why is this cause so important to you?

Increasing the number of women in board rooms and in leadership positions across corporate America isn’t about parity; it’s a business imperative. It provides for diversity of thought and higher quality discussions that deliver better results.  Research has proven that companies, where women hold 25 percent of decision-making roles, generate 4 percent higher cash flow returns on investment than companies with less representation and when that representation moves to 50 percent of the cash flow returns improve by 10 percent.  Data like this is why shareholders are demanding companies they invest in have a broader, more diverse and inclusive leadership team, including in their board room.  

Although boardroom diversity is increasing, women remain underrepresented and the progress is slow. It is going to take years before we see an appropriate gender balance. 

Providing executive coaching and advocating for the best-qualified candidate is one of the more rewarding aspects of my advisory practice.  It isn’t about finding a diverse candidate, it’s about finding the best candidate who happens to be diverse. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a career change like this?

Prepare not only financially but also emotionally and spiritually for this major change and have patience.

Don’t try to do it alone; have a network of friends and family to support you.  My husband has been supportive of my plans and given he made a similar transition 10 years ago; he’s provided me with valuable advice and helped me be patient through it all. I’ve also developed a strong network of colleagues and friends who are advocates for me and I continuously engage with them regarding networking, business opportunities and socializing. 

Have a plan and let that plan include some time after your official retirement date to enjoy yourself.  A friend told me to take six months and just do what I wanted when I wanted with no deadlines to meet.  Being true to my personality, I can’t say I was exactly that carefree but I did give myself a break when my plan took longer to execute than I expected. 

I would remind people at this transition point, you worked hard for many years to get to this opportunity of freedom and flexibility we call “retirement," enjoy it, you’ve earned it.   

How does your Scranton education continue to influence your day to day life? 

The University of Scranton was instrumental in encouraging and instilling in me the foundation of giving back as well as the importance of education and being a life-long learner.  My passion and focus for my volunteer efforts is a combination of these.  Working to ensure quality education is available for every child in our community -- no matter their socioeconomic position -- has influenced where I volunteer my time and commit my resources.

I’ve volunteered for more than 10 years with a literacy program that focuses on developing the reading skills of children faced with homelessness and most recently I’ve been fortunate to have the time and resources to take on the role of Chairperson of an educational foundation in our community. 

A favorite quote of mine is by Condoleezza Rice “Deal with the world as it IS but never stop working towards the world as it SHOULD be.”  

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