I’d love to say that I had always planned to be where I’ve found myself. But the truth is, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had business partners that often provided the trailblazing notions. Then I used my skills and knowhow to turn prototypes into working realities.

Having breast cancer made me take a hard look at the sheer volume of time I had spent working—on planes and at my computer, instead of with my children, husband, or even taking care of myself. It was a profound wakeup call and perhaps the cruelest blessing of my life. Clearly, it was the most impactful, life-changing event I had ever experienced, and changed how much I allow business to intrude into my personal time.

Since my diagnosis in 2000, I’ve become more focused, yet free spirited; more driven, yet relaxed; more confident, yet introspective. I never knew how much I loved my life until it was threatened.

On Getting People to Know Who You Are and What You Can Do
Men and women are very different, and we should celebrate that. I enjoy my femininity and attack the toughest of business problems in concert with it. It assists me in being tough on issues and easy on people. Further, it is the complement of male and female strengths that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. A woman can enjoy having the door opened for her by a gentleman without it diminishing her capability and power as an executive.

As far as standing out, I’ve never really given it much thought, preferring instead to focus 100 percent on who I am and what I want to be.

Perhaps it’s this commitment to my direction, intentions, and values that has attracted attention. Perhaps it’s my attitude as a breast cancer survivor. Perhaps it’s just my shoes, which have their own closet, and are one of my guilty pleasures.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have several mentors in my life. My father, Edward Lauble, showed me what a work ethic looked like and my mom, Marilyn Lauble, showed me that raising a family is just as challenging and rewarding. During my first career as a schoolteacher, my principal, Edward Litke, showed me that work without laughter, fun, and kindness was a failure. Lastly, I’ve been heavily influenced by women executives who thought the way to success was to be more like men—to surrender their femininity, or become hard and callous. We can be exceptional, loving, and kind women—and executives. The two are not mutually exclusive.

On Facing Challenges
Back in the early 2000s, I balanced running a business from 3,000 miles away and dealing with two unique partners—my ex-husband and my new husband—while battling breast cancer and raising three young children. That was my biggest challenge.

Mary’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Being able to dance with life and business challenges is more important than rote knowledge. For example, it’s more important to know what you want to say than it is to spell it all correctly. There are apps for that. But thinking, analyzing, and acting are all you.