Q&A with Mary Eisele Slack

Micaela Cashman

Mary Eisele Slack graduated with a degree in elementary education, but she quickly found that her passion was in something else. Now she is president of her own company, Eisele and Associates, Inc.

What year did you graduate? What did you get your degree in?

1984, elementary education

What did you do after you got your undergrad?

I taught elementary for one year in Waterloo, at my old elementary school.

Did you originally start in that program when you came to Iowa State or did you have other career aspirations?

I started as an elementary education student, and I switched for a week into computer science somewhere in my junior year. I quickly decided I wanted a degree with more interpersonal interaction.

What activities or organizations were you involved in?

I was active in our dorm house — Barton, Tappan House. I was also a little sister at a couple of fraternities, and I held an officer role in Kappa Lambda, an El Ed club.

What are your favorite things about Iowa State?

It was a big campus, but I didn’t feel like I was a “number.” [There were] lots of things to do, lots of people to meet. I came from a small private school, and Iowa State was quite the experience. I met some really nice people — my husband, my dorm-mates/roommates, classmates, faculty.

The campus is gorgeous — even in the winter. Sometimes I would just stop on Central Campus and enjoy the view. I came back a few years ago to take a certification exam on campus; I so enjoyed just walking on campus and looking at the cool buildings.

Describe your career path.

After teaching elementary school for a year, I moved to Minneapolis, and I worked in the preschool/early childhood field.

A friend notified me about an opening at Honeywell, and I got my first job in the adult education world. I was in charge of the high-talent database, satellite education classes and special projects.

My husband accepted a job transfer to Honeywell in Phoenix, Arizona. I became a trainer and facilitator at the Commercial Aviation group and then at the Satellite Systems Group. This was a tremendous opportunity for me. I learned a lot those years. I also got my masters while we were in Phoenix. My masters is in human resource and organization development.

When we moved back to Minnesota, I worked for Cummins Power Generation and then Allina Health Systems. I continued getting positions with increasing responsibility and autonomy.

I started consulting on the side about 15 years ago, and 13 years ago, I made the jump to create my own company, Eisele and Associates, Inc. This has been a wonderful fit for me. I have a lot of variety in my work — teaching classes on many subjects like project management, process improvement, supervising and management courses and team building; interventions (projects or teams that are struggling); planning sessions (strategic planning, implementation planning); and I teach graduate classes in leadership, management, project management and human resources. In this last 15 years, I have been in over 100 different organizations.

I completed my coursework for a doctorate in organization development. I just have that “paper thing” left to write.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career?

I have continued to stay quite busy all these years … through the downturn after 9/11 and the recent depressed economy. I have lots of returning clients with different situations that need addressing. I juggle an amazing amount of work and I can switch gears — topics, industries, applications, client situations — quickly.

What is your best memory of college?

A gorgeous fall day, walking down the hill past the Union headed toward old RCA, kicking the leaves out of the way, greeting people going the other way, past the president’s house, through the arches and through the courtyard.

Parties — meeting lots of new people at dorm and fraternity parties. Dressing up for dorm parties.

What advice do you have for college students, particularly those in the major you earned your degree in?

I didn’t know jobs like my current role existed; I didn’t even know the field of organization development existed. I wish I would have felt less pressure to stay in a track and not explore classes in other disciplines. I may have found that my niche was more the adult education world a lot earlier. My advice would be to take some classes outside your degree program. Explore more.

What regrets do you have about college?

I wish I’d made more of an effort to keep track of people I met in college. I don’t even remember names of some of the people so I can’t search for them. I dearly treasure the friends I made at Iowa State. I am envious of my husband’s link to a fraternity for the ongoing linking of those friends. We’ve vacationed and continue to connect with them, but the dorms didn’t have that ongoing linking.