Pam Hall, 2012 Outstanding Woman in Business
President, Normandeau Associates
Pam Hall's personal interests align so perfectly with her professional pursuits that she has a difficult time deciding whether the numerous environmental boards she sits on qualify as work or play.
The president and CEO of Bedford-based Normandeau Associates began her career in 1971 as a marine scientist at the natural resources management firm. Armed with advanced degrees in the sciences and business, she quickly moved up the company ranks, becoming its president in 1987 when it was a division of a large publicly held company.
And when that company decided to divest Normandeau, Hall led the charge in buying it and turning it into an employee-owned company in 2000. Since then, annual sales have nearly tripled from $10 million to $29 million, it's established a dozen and a half offices nationwide and has grown to employ about 250 people.
And when the recession hit, Hall made the decision to cut where she could -- including her own salary -- to retain Normandeau's entire staff, even making key hires to help the company emerge from the recession in a strong position.
Hall was one of the few women at the firm when she started in the '70s, and the only woman in senior management in the '80s. Today, women make up half of Normandeau's management team and 45 percent of its professional staff.
Q. How did you end up where you are today in your career?
A. I started off my career as a zoologist, then got a master's degree in zoology and was in the Ph.D. marine program at UNH. I took a leave of absence from there to actually work at Normandeau Associates in 1971.
During the '60s, there was a lot of change in this country and in the world, and the environmental field was really just starting. I thought with my science background and my interest in the field, this would be a great natural fit for my career and my personal interests and passion. I could really improve the environmental quality with my scientific training.
I was very much of an idealist, thinking all these problems could be solved in 10 years. It was just becoming apparent to people that we needed to do something about all these environmental issues.
Q. What have been some of the biggest challenges to getting where you are today?
A. One of the challenges for me has always been that my interests just merge so much with what some people would regard as my work. Most of it really isn't work for me. It's what I love to do, and the challenge comes in trying to fit in even more, trying to do even more stuff. How many boards can I be on? Because it does take up a lot of time.
The only other major challenge certainly has been being in a profession where there are very few women, in science and later on in top leadership positions. You're always sort of under a magnifying glass if you try to blaze the trail.
Q. Did you have a professional mentor, formal or informal?
I really haven't. Even when I was a kid, I wasn't afraid to try things that other girls wouldn't do. In the company, these challenges would come up, or some tough project, and I would just always take the stuff on. I didn't start off with my sights on being president, but through a lot of hard work and really volunteering for the tough tasks and sticking with it, I ended up with the job.
Q. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
A. There's a significant amount of overlap because I don't consider a lot of the things I do as work, because I love what I do. I think I have a pretty good balance and actually consider myself really one of the lucky people to be able to do the things I've been doing.
Q. What advice would you give to young women just starting their careers?
A. Once you land a job, even if it's not quite what you want, work hard and take on those responsibilities that nobody else wants. If you show that you are willing to put in the extra time, you become an asset to the firm, and the additional responsibilities and promotions will come with that.