We had the good fortune of connecting with Irene Weygandt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Irene, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
This question always gets me because I don’t actually believe in work-life balance. It’s the word balance that bothers me. It implies things are equal. The proportions are “correct” and evenly distributed. I don’t know how that can ever be true! I also reject the idea of work being separate from life. I strive to bring my whole, authentic self to work each day. Sometimes that means I’m still thinking about a conversation I had with my tween as I’m walking into a meeting. Likewise, sometimes at home, I’m still thinking through a project plan or something happening at work. I’m in communications, and when emergencies often happen outside of business hours and my role at work requires I be available for that. But I’m also a mom, and kids get sick in the middle of day and need to be picked up from school. I really don’t think it’s possible to fully separate work from life. To try and do so — especially in this strange time as we struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic — is a recipe for failure and unhappiness. Instead, I think of this question as striving for harmony in my life, and that is inclusive of my career, my family, and the activities I enjoy (and don’t enjoy) doing.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I work in the marketing and communications space for a university. I took a very untraditional route to my current position. As a college student myself, I studied theatre and music, and my early career was rooted in the arts and culture sector where I held various roles both as a creative and an administrator. I was an actor. I was a singer. I was a teaching artist. I was a theatre and concert producer. I even spent time moonlighting as a telemarketer to supplement my income as a creative. Eventually I found my way into arts administration, and ultimately fell in love with the communications field. What I love about work in communications is the compliment between a strategic mindset and a creative mindset. I’ve found that both my creative skills and administrative ingenuity have been completely transferable to my current role. A brand study isn’t all that different from an actor’s character study. If you can produce a live concert, project management is definitely in your wheelhouse. Understanding the importance of voice and tone in a message comes naturally when you’ve performed in choirs and bands for a good portion of your life. Whether you’re marketing a master’s degree or selling a play, the storytelling is the thing that audiences gravitate toward. But seven years ago, after my father passed away, I wanted to make a change and apply my skills in a field where I felt I could make a bigger impact. As I was attempting to shift into higher education, these transferable skills that were so obvious to me, were not always apparent to the hiring managers I met with. I really had to put myself out there and network. Ultimately, leveraging those connections put me in front of someone who really saw me and got it. They took a risk and created a position for me. I excelled in the role and at the organization and became an integral part of one of the highest functioning teams I’ve even been a part of. Because of that experience, I always keep an eye out for the “outsider” or the underdog when hiring or building my teams. The person who is hungry to make a change and confident about their capabilities can also bring to the table much needed perspective and inject energy and creativity where it might have been lacking before.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There’s so much to love about Denver and Colorado, even with a week-long trip you’d be challenged to fit it all in! I’m so very proud of our thriving arts and culture community in Denver. I’d start with a tour of the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum and Kirkland Museum. Perhaps we could catch one of the Broadway attractions or Denver Theatre Company productions at the DCPA. I love exploring the different food halls around the city, and especially love to bookend that with a bike or walking tour of the wall murals around RiNo. For those (like me) who also love the outdoors, a trip to the mountains is a must, and Rocky Mountain National Park is such a treasure. A trip over Trail Ridge Road with an overnight in Grand Lake would be a lovely introduction to the beauty of our State. And a visit for me wouldn’t be complete without a hike. One of my favorite hikes is Diamond Lake Trail outside of Nederland — if you’re feeling extra ambitious get a camping permit to camp next to the lake, but be ready to hike with all your gear!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I hope I can have more than one shout out. There are three major influencers in my life, and the most impactful change I’ve experienced was becoming a parent. I have two girls – a 10 year old and a 5 year old. And these two girls keep my hustle strong. And they keep me accountable – to them and myself. We’re definitely a family rooted in some core values and these girls will not hesitate to call me out if I’m not following our values or our rules. The second influencer in my life is more recent. In early 2020 I completed the Denver Community Leadership Forum (DCLF) at CU Denver. DCLF is a 10-month, collaborative leadership program for professionals in the government, non-profit and business sectors that offers an opportunity for cross-sector leadership skill-building, relationship building, personal development and transformative experiences with a focus on leadership that can have broad community impact. The program endeavors to support individuals who are called to work on our communities’ most complex issues — those issues that can’t be solved by one individual, one organization or one sector. This type of leadership requires values, skills, relationships, perspectives and actions beyond a traditional leadership approach. For me, the program was a true awakening and allowed me to examine what was working in my life and career and what was no longer serving me or others well. A highlight of the program was a week-long Outward Bound course. I can’t give too much away, but I can say that it’s impossible to experience the backcountry of Colorado with a dozen strangers and not come back changed and a better version of yourself. This was certainly my experience, but to my surprise it provided new perspectives on not only my professional life and career, but also my personal life. And finally the third shoutout goes to my husband. This past October we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. In a pandemic. It gives new meaning to those “in sickness and health” vows. And co-working with your spouse while also trying to help your kids with remote schooling is a whole new experience and challenge! In our 15 years together, we’ve been through a lot. We welcomed two children into the world, and I also lost both of my parents during this time. My husband saw me through all of these life changes with unfaltering support.