LightFull LadyMary Falvey

Mary Falvey photo

LightFull is happy to introduce Mary Falvey, an investor in LightFull Foods and our February LightFull Lady. A successful career woman, community leader (Mary currently serves on the board of Basic American, Inc., the San Francisco Symphony, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, San Francisco Classical Voice, and Cornell University) mother, grandmother and world traveler; we wonder what she DOESN’T do, but more importantly…how she balances it all.


Q. Tell me about your career, and how you got to where you are.

A.  My career has had several facets. Immediately after college, I worked as a systems engineer with IBM in New York. After getting my MBA, I joined McKinsey & Company as a management consultant in the New York office, where I worked for seven years on a wide range of client engagements involving IT, strategy, and organization – including spending over a year in the Amsterdam and Zurich offices. I then joined Citibank as the senior financial and administrative officer in the Investment Management Group and, after four years, moved to the investment banking and brokerage firm, Blyth Eastman Dillon as Senior Vice President Administration. In 1981, I moved to San Francisco to be Vice President Finance of Shaklee Corporation. About two years later, when my father became terminally ill and his business faced bankruptcy, I took over his imported automobile dealerships in the Detroit area, turned around the business, and was able to keep my dad at his home until he passed away. At the same time, I started an independent management consulting practice focusing on financial services companies. In 1993, I sold the companies and, since then, have focused my energies on investing in early stage technology companies, consulting, and corporate boards.

Q. How many children/grandchildren do you have? What are their activities? Which activities do you make a priority and why?

A.  I have two children and five grandchildren. I love taking my grandchildren to the symphony – one at a time, and three of them are now old enough. We combine it with a sleep-over, which is not only wonderful one-on-one time but also a chance to talk about the music and make it something we share year after year. I also like participating in the important occasions in their lives, such as birthdays, athletic and musical events, and just hanging out with them. I bring them interesting things from my trips which we use as a focus for them to learn about the world.

Q. What are your secrets for keeping your energy up and staying positive, focused and balanced in all of the activities that you juggle?

A.  I’ve always been a high-energy person and have been fortunate to have good health. I need 7-8 hours sleep every night - and “down time” to decompress. I find it both relaxing and energizing to go to symphony, opera, and chamber music performances, and I like the break of spending every other weekend at my home in the Napa Valley, where I love to entertain. I also find that international travel gives me new perspective and fresh energy. On a day-to-day basis, if I feel myself start to bog down in some intractable challenge, I try to take distance – do something else, change scene.

Q. Do you have any tips or tricks that you can share to help fellow busy women stay in balance?

A.  If you can, let go of situations that aren’t working, where you don’t feel you’re making a difference. I had to learn the hard way that, even if I can fix just about any problem, they are not all worth the energy and commitment required. When faced with a challenge, it’s tempting to stay the course and to feel guilty if you walk away from a problem needing attention. However, the situation may make it disproportionately difficult to make a difference; and, in that case, it’s better to focus on coming up with a different approach – one that allows you to deploy your energies where you can do the most good, even if it means transferring leadership to others

Q. How did you get back on track when you feel out of balance?

A.  When I feel out of balance, even after a good night sleep or two and a weekend in the country, I realize that I need to take the time to look at the situation strategically. I look inside, at what my instincts tell me is the root of the problem. Writing in a journal each day for a while can help me see a situation more clearly, distinguish the things I can change from those I can’t, and clarify the most important outcomes to aim for – not only for now but also looking back after, say, five years. The independent perspective of a close friend is also hugely valuable.

Q. What do you do when you want to reward yourself?

A.  When I want to reward myself, I’ll sometimes take a day off and just putter around - listening to music, reading a good book, relaxing at my home in the country, or going to a movie. A larger reward is a trip to an interesting place, mostly international, which I do at least once each year. I love going to exotic places, like Antarctica and Laos, as well as to familiar ones, like London and Paris and also trips with a focus, like traveling with the San Francisco Symphony, Cornell’s Adult University, or the World Affairs Council. It’s especially fun to travel with or visit friends.

Q. If you could leave the world/your children with one gift, what would it be?

A.  I would leave my children and grandchildren faith that by doing their best and doing the right thing, life will be happy and fulfilling; I would also leave them the perspective of “citizens of the world” and an attitude of curiosity and love of life. Finally, I would leave them a love of music – as food for the soul, a universal language, and a source of joy.

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Organization is my best friend when I want to stay balanced, focused, and productive. Making a list the night before I hit the sack for that 8 hours of rest and recovery saves me time the next morning and allows me to rest peacefully.

-LightFull Lady Judy Slack

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