This week’s profile features an interview with Pattie Hofland Mackenzie. I met Pattie almost 4 years ago through 20-30 Something Raleigh Chicks, a meetup group I’ve been organizing for over 6 years now. We met at one of my frequent Wine Wednesday Meet’n Greets where I invite women around Raleigh to join me for a wine tasting and get to know each other. Somehow we connected later in the summer of 2013 as I was headed into my second full year of grad school and beginning a study of feminism. At the same time, I was leaving my work in a law firm to focus on stories, marketing and user experience.
She told me about her journey from studying fashion to hunger relief. The industries don’t exactly fall into the same box, but we were both excited by them. She also heard me talk about my passion for culture, equality, policies, and poverty. Pattie told me about RESULTS…and I kept saying I couldn’t attend a meeting because I was busy, but sooner or later, I said “yes” and Pattie introduced me to an organization that would change my life as I found a vehicle for my desire to change the world for the better. She is closer to my younger brother’s age, but inspires me and I look up to her in the sisterhood we’ve shared. Now I’m honored to call her a close friend and celebrate each other’s milestones together since we’ve met from her wedding and move across the state to my graduate degree and securing meetings with Congressman we had never met before.
Because of a similar drive to be connected to our communities, break norms, explore creative opportunities, push boundaries, talk about tough stuff, and save lives, we found ourselves as advocates for similar causes from education to women’s rights, even marching right alongside each other on January 21st. As such, when I first decided to make this interview series a weekly project just 3 months ago, Pattie was one of the first I thought of so I’m thrilled to celebrate three months with this woman who is leaning in and not only setting goals, but meeting them!
- Pattie, you’ve always fascinated me. What did you want to be when you “grew up” and how has that evolved?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be lots of different things — a veterinarian, a photographer, an astronaut, a fashion designer… It kind of went all across the spectrum. It wasn’t until college that I realized what I really wanted to do. I discovered this while traveling internationally to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Poverty was such an abstract idea to me – so huge – I couldn’t grasp it. After seeing it first-hand, things changed. It was one moment in particular that shifted everything inside me and changed my path from a fashionista to a fighter of injustice.Instead of taking “spring break,” I went on a “service break” with my NC State University to teach English at a remote school in the Dominican Republic. We walked 2.5 miles that morning in the 100+ degree weather to get to the school. My arms were so sunburnt they were purple.As we reached the top of the hill, all the kids lining the fence, so excited to see us, just made all the pain of that journey wash away. During recess that day, a woman was selling candy. In my head, I thought, “How are these poor little kids affording candy?” Very elitist of me. Then one little girl came over to me, and shared her candy. I almost cried. This little girl, that I perceived as poor and starving, was sharing what little she had with me. What a humbling experience. I still have that piece of candy to this day. It helped me realize that all of us – every single one of us – are the same. We’re all human. Some of us were just born into different circumstances that make it harder to succeed. I realized then and there that it was my job, to help even the playing field in any way that I could.
- Wow! What do you do now for work now though?
After my humbling experience in the Dominican Republic, I went back to school with a desire to find my place. During the fall of my Senior year, I volunteered with a hunger relief organization. I packaged meals with people from my university and had such a wonderful experience. It was a hands-on way to get involved with international hunger, which made me feel like I was actually doing something beneficial. After the event, I emailed to see if they had internships available. I got one, and then stayed with them ever since. My degree in fashion marketing did help me in terms of the business aspect, but I think this path has been much more me. My role has evolved over the last 6 years and currently I’m serving as the International Development Officer – fundraising for the cause all over the world.
- That’s incredible. How happy have you been with your choices?
I think everything happens for a reason. You learn something from everything you do. Early in my career, my boss told me to figure out what my end game was, and go for it. Not necessarily what job I wanted – but what did I want to get out of that job. I decided I wanted to travel internationally, have the opportunity to see our work firsthand, and I wanted to work from home. In 4 years and with zero experience starting out – I accomplished all three. So I guess I made good choices 🙂 Now to figure out the next big goal…
- You mentioned learning. From knowing you, I’ve observed that you’re like a sponge! What are your best sources for learning?
I learn by doing. I’ve always preferred the crash-course. Throw me in there and see if I sink or swim. Learning from my mistakes has been my greatest source of learning. I really enjoy books on my field, as well as on leadership and self-improvement. I also watch webinars that I find from either freelance professionals in the field or professional associations. In particular, I follow the AFP, EFA, Network for Good, For Impact, as well as some fundraising consultants.
- One thing I like to explore in this series is the experiences women, specifically have had. What advantages, barriers, and motivators for women have you observed?
Apparently in my work as a fundraiser, it’s an advantage to be a woman. Or so my old boss (a man) said. Maybe it’s our ability to empathize that gives us this advantage? I’m not sure – I haven’t really done this work long enough yet. In the rest of my career I’ve definitely faced barriers. I know a lot of well-intentioned men and women that don’t realize they’re doing very sexist things. When I first asked for a job in my organization I was told, by a woman, that only men could do the warehouse jobs so there wasn’t anything available. Luckily that has changed since then. I’ve also been consistently attacked by other women who felt I was getting special treatment from my boss. If being stuck in an assistant role for 3+ years while doing the job that now 3 people are doing is “special treatment,” I don’t want it. However, I was told something very valuable by one of my mentors. The gist of it was – “You can either spend all your time trying to get them to like you and probably fail or you can focus on your job, get promoted and leave them in the dust.” I chose the latter. However, I do feel like it is really important to always treat everyone with kindness and put yourself in their shoes. People are going to dislike you regardless of what you do, but I always feel good knowing I’m trying my best and I genuinely care about the people I work with.
- Aside from being a sponge, I also know that you’re very passionate about many things. What’s your passion and why is it important to you?
My passion is helping others. Particularly, I like helping others help themselves. I love human interaction and I love getting to know different perspectives. I always try to help people think positively, find solutions, and, above all, know they can do it. I’m not quite sure why this is so important to me. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of my life looking for approval and had a hard time getting it. I feel like I was always miss goody two-shoes, trying to impress, yet always falling short or just being unrecognized. I want to hear others, I want to help them feel like they’re being heard, and I want them to know that they can do what they set their heart and mind to regardless of what others think.
- I know you’re very driven, hard-working, and busy! What do you devote your time to “outside of work?”
I love working in the community so I have been involved in a few organizations that help me do that. One is Rotaract, which is a branch of Rotary. It’s basically a young professionals service club. I am also a member of RESULTS which is a political advocacy organization working on poverty issues. I also spend lots of my time planning and going on trips – I love to travel. When I have me time at home I usually just watch Netflix, read, go play outside, or dream up my next adventure.
- Out of everything you’re involved in, how do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I’m traveling or in nature – particularly when I’m doing those things alone. I love being outside and feeling the sun in my face. I adore the mountains with the long views and fresh air. When I’m traveling alone or outside alone, I feel strong. I feel like I can do anything. I also get inspired when I’m driving long distances – I guess it’s all that free time that gets my wheels turning (pun intended…haha).
- Who do you look up to?
Recently my inspiration has been a past boss. He left our organization this past year and when he left, he left a great big hole. His leadership style was something that I had never experienced before. He called it “service leadership.” He shared a TED Talk with us about it by Simon Sinek – Why Leaders Eat Last. I feel like it is the perfect leadership style not only for me, but for the world we live in today. Since then, I’ve decided that I want to be a service leader, so I’m dedicating 2017 to learn all I can about it.
- I know how driven and talented you are. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?
I think one of the biggest challenges I ever faced was watching a close family member suffer as an alcoholic and make it out to the other side. It made me realize that even people that love you and are so close to you will lie straight to your face if the wrong circumstances are present. I think it gave me a thicker skin. She made it through and now we’re closer than ever, so it also gave me hope and the desire to see the best in people.I feel like life is such an odd balance of keeping things at arm’s length away yet embracing them and diving in 110%. Within this balance, I’ve decided to come into situations hoping for the best and believing people are well-intentioned. However, I will also be straight-forward and come with the truth. I give 110% to people until I am burned. Sometimes it’s good to know when to walk away, and to know that it’s ok to walk away.
Good call. Honest. Powerful. Inspiring. As usual.
Thanks for reading Pattie’s story. Share in the comments how it impacted you or share it on social media. Check out next week’s weekly post on Women & the Ways We Work. Missed the others? Take a look at my blog to read the others. Know someone you think should be featured? Can I help you or your organization with a storytelling project? Contact me and let’s chat.