Lise Pace is the Interim Vice President of Marketing and Advocacy at Bosma Enterprises, a non-profit organization and the largest employer and sole provider of comprehensive services for people who are blind or visually impaired. Lise said that seventy percent of working adults who are blind want to work but are unemployed because there is not available community-based employment. In the state of Indiana alone, one hundred and sixty thousand people are impacted by significant vision loss, and Bosma served nearly eight hundred of them last year.
Lise’s career with Bosma started when she volunteered for the organization over ten years ago. Since then, she has ascended from serving as a volunteer to an executive level position. Bosma’s mission is close to Lise’s heart, because she herself is legally blind.
Lise oversees marketing and advocacy which includes the marketing department, customer service, and public policy efforts. All external communications fall under her purview; more specifically, she holds responsibility for communication with the public, stakeholders, and policy-makers.
Lise drives the organization’s marketing strategy and leads a 10-person team to implement the strategic vision. She oversees the marketing team to develop tactics that will facilitate organizational goals; for example, determining what to do in order to increase website traffic by fifteen percent. Lise also works with state and federal-level legislators on policy initiatives that impact people with disabilities, specifically people who are blind. For example, in the last general assembly, her team partnered with other advocacy groups on autonomous car legislation that would not require a driver’s license for certain vehicle classes. Lise also relays Bosma’s value proposition to legislators, helping them understand the importance of the organization’s work.
Lise spends a lot of time solving problems and coaching, and in meetings facilitating new product and service launches. You may wonder how Lise performs her job–a role in marketing that entails a variety of visual components. She stated, “We all have something to overcome–blindness is my deal. But, I also understand that I need to be effective in my job. Even though I have some vision, I have found workarounds. For example, I use magnifiers, expand my computer screen, and leverage my team. My team does an excellent job articulating how things look.”
It is evident that Lise has excelled in this organization, but her passion for the work is indescribable.
What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up?
Lise doesn’t have a strong recollection of wanting to go into a certain career as a child. Near the end of high school, she was interested in pursuing a degree in interior design because she loved being creative. Lise’s parents strongly believed that children should pay for their own education. So, she secured a job with a bank and started in the data processing center. Lise worked full-time and attended college part-time.
Her role at the bank involved processing hundreds of checks each day; something Lise quickly decided she didn’t want to do for the rest of her life. Soon, a position as a bank teller opened, and she moved into that role while continuing her education. After a while Lise moved to another bank, but eventually it was acquired by a larger bank. She remembered the bank flying her and several others to training in the corporate jet!
Lise’s career and education were progressing, and then she fell in love. At that point, she decided to stop pursuing her education. She was married at twenty-one and went to work for a credit union while her husband finished college. She was promoted very quickly, even without a college degree.
Looking back, Lise deeply regrets not continuing to pursue her education. She said if you don’t finish college early when you can, life just happens and it can take a really long time to go back. Lise said, “There truly is plenty of time for everything else, so make sure you are secure. When you are young, take time to know who you are and pursue your dreams.” She said if she had a do-over, she would have done things differently.
At twenty-four, Lise had her son. She absolutely lit up when she began talking about him and said, “He is the greatest joy of my life.” Even after having her son, Lise continued working up the corporate ladder. Eventually, she began to notice having trouble as she drove to work. After going in for what she believed to be a routine eye appointment, she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa– meaning she would go blind over time. The good news was the disease was in the beginning stages, and she didn’t have a lot of symptoms yet, She was able to continue her career for nearly thirteen more years; however, her vision eventually became too poor for her to work in the banking industry.
At that time, Lise had a well-intentioned manager who starting speaking to her about transitioning out of the workforce. She wasn’t aware of any resources available to help her with employment, so she stayed at home to raise her son. Initially, being a stay-at-home mom was very rewarding to her, but as time went on, she knew she was intrinsically wired to work. Lise always got a great deal of satisfaction from working; therefore, not working caused her to lose confidence and her self-esteem took a tumble. This time in her life was challenging–she spent a lot of time figuring out what she wanted to do.
The good news was Lise had computer skills. She recalled her parents always encouraging volunteerism, so she did a Google search to see where she might be able to volunteer. As it turned out, Bosma was the third result in her Google search. She discovered that it was an organization for people who are blind, and it was also only three miles from her house. She timidly called and asked if blind people were allowed to volunteer. Lise said the lady on the phone chuckled and said, “Yes. We are an organization that serves blind people.” Lise went in for a tour and then started volunteering a few times a week.
Bosma continued to give Lise opportunities as a volunteer. She consistently did her best work, not only to prove herself to them, but to prove to herself she could do this. Each time she accomplished something, she wanted to do something even more challenging. After a year, Lise was volunteering five days a week and was offered a paid position to supervise the volunteering program. Lise excelled in that role, increasing volunteer hours by nearly one thousand hours per month.
Lise continued to put one foot in front of the other, and when she knew the next step was safe, she would take it. Her experience with Bosma has been transformative; in fact, it has been truly life-changing. Her parents always said, “If you can help someone else, it takes the focus off of you.” And, working with Bosma has done that for Lise–it started with volunteering, but over the course of ten years has led her to an executive-level position.
(And, by the way, Lise did finish her degree and even has an M.B.A.!)
Lise said she grew up in an upper-middle-class family and attended private school, until talking her parents into letting her attend public school for the last three years of high school. Even though she wasn’t a stellar high school student, she figured everything would go according to plan. Except it didn’t. In fact, there was a different plan. Lise transparently said, “All of this wasn’t easy. The progression of where I was to where I am was not at all easy. But, I made a decision ten years ago that I could not continue to live the way I was living. I needed to work.” Lise went on to say, “Since the eye condition I have can be hereditary, I needed to be an example to my son and other family members who could be impacted. I didn’t want to be the person who let the world pass them by. I wanted to make the most of my life.” And, wouldn’t you agree that she has?!
Lise offered this advice: “You have to be ready for opportunities and leverage the opportunity. In my own story, when an opportunity presented itself, I was ready to make it happen. Take control of your own destiny.”