Getting to Know Darden Alumni Career Services Coach Marty Speight
Marty Speight (MBA ’96) joined the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services (ACS) in 2007, and she has served the Darden community by supporting hundreds of alumni through transitions at every stage of career and touching wide-ranging roles and industries.
Prior to Darden, she worked for a number of software ventures, including a supply-chain/logistics firm. After earning her MBA at Darden, she joined Coca-Cola in an operations role. She quickly transitioned back to high-tech, joining the startup iXL, an internet services firm, where she ran the Atlanta division and went on to a global operations role. She also served as a consultant to Darden’s Career Development Center (CDC) before joining ACS, counseling students, teaching and managing projects.
How did you become a career coach?
Planned happenstance. That’s a phrase I like a lot. In managing one’s career, it means you sometimes are meeting people and making unwitting plans for a future or outcome that you didn’t exactly intend. It started for me in 2002 when I made a conscious, but difficult, decision to leave full-time management work and focus on raising my kids. My husband and I adopted a son in 2000, and I gave birth to a son in 2002. By 2004, we had moved to Charlottesville, my kids were in preschool, and I was ready to take on something new. Over the years, I had maintained connections to the School, taking opportunities to sit on career panels, etc. So I turned to Darden, networked my way to the then-CDC director and pitched myself as a general manager willing to do anything. I took on a variety of projects for the CDC, but also started coaching some students, particularly those with difficult or “off-Grounds” searches. By 2006, my family moved again (this time to Texas) and that was a great opportunity to shift my focus to alumni. I found I had a natural affinity for career coaching. I had hired, managed, trained and mentored lots of people in my prior jobs. Coaching allows me to focus on the personal, not organizational.
What is your favorite aspect of coaching Darden alumni?
I love working out puzzles, and I find that every person presents a new puzzle. While there are many aspects of career management and transition that are similar, each alum has his or her own unique history, challenges, questions, frustrations, values and desires. The puzzle for me is to figure out a line of questioning that reveals exactly what is needed. The client does the hard work; I just guide them to see what has to be done and give guidance on how to do it. Ultimately, my goal is to support each person to find his or her own answer, his or her own timing, his or her own pathway.
What is your favorite Darden memory?
Two things stand out. Winning the Frank E. Genovese Second Year Fellowship was the most rewarding. Something about the zillions of cases, the intensity of the Darden workload, the connections with my learning team, the grueling recruiting schedule — it all seemed to click and help me see my pre-Darden jobs and relationships in a new light, and that gave me the spark to write a heartfelt essay that put me in the running. I still vividly remember the panel-style finalist interview with Frank and a number of faculty. It was a bit scary, but also really fun!
My other favorite memory comes later, not as a student, rather when I was consulting for the CDC in 2006. I was asked to take a program idea and get it off the ground — what became the Second Year Coaches Program. I researched, wrote and delivered the entire inaugural program. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I loved being the person who brought the program to life and set it up for operational success. And more importantly, seeing the impact to Second Years who become seasoned coaches, knowing they would be better managers for that experience, was also very gratifying.
What are you doing when you aren’t coaching?
These days, you’ll find me more often in my studio, making mosaics in tile and glass, or mixed media collage, or sewing modern quilts. My personal passion is for art and hand-made, high-end craft. In the early 1990s, I had a small hobby business making and teaching stained glass. After a long hiatus, I realized that working with my hands is essential to my happiness. I’m fortunate to now live in Atlanta, where there is a rich arts community, and I’m studying various media with two artists whom I really admire. I also love how social media connects the worlds of far-flung artists and makers. I share my creative pursuits on Instagram @mesp8.
I suppose variety is the biggest theme of my life, and coaching part-time lets me pursue many different interests. I volunteer where I can. Currently, I’m treasurer of two different school’s PTOs and do occasional work with Junior Achievement, Second Helpings (food rescue) and New American Pathways (refugee resettlement). I’m also still raising my boys, both now in high school, and I’ve become a bit of an “expert” at moving, as our family has made three cross-country moves in the last 10 years. I love yoga (I got my 200-hour certification in 2015), biking (I’m a beginner mountain biker), hiking, travel and anything outdoors with my two beloved mutts, Zoe and Luna.