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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s hard to believe that Albuquerque native Leslie Hoffman once used firecrackers to blow up her Barbie dolls.
After all, she’s a former Peace Corps worker whose business strategy and management consulting firm – LEH Consulting Group – is “dedicated to supporting people, teams, and organizations working to make people’s lives better,” according to the company website.
Also, Hoffman is about to become a single mother at the age of 42, a role she sought with no partner but with the help of her family and a close network of friends.
“I had for a long time known I wanted to be a mom,” Hoffman said. “I think the benefit of being older and starting the motherhood journey is I’m under no illusions about how hard this is going to be. Regardless, I think parenting, as I’ve been able to observe in others, is just this wonderful combination of joy and love and challenge and struggle.”
Her parents, deeply rooted in New Mexico, were both raised by single mothers as well, although it was because their spouses left them and “not by intention,” Hoffman says.
One of her grandmothers was a 1924 graduate of the old Albuquerque High School near Broadway and Central, the site of FatPipe ABQ, a co-working space where Hoffman’s company has its offices.
“I feel such a sense of connectedness and rootedness to place here,” Hoffman says. “To know that I work in a space that my grandmother, who I didn’t get the pleasure of meeting in person but whose spirit I feel like I know, was probably in this space. … And that my son will be the fourth generation born at Presbyterian (Hospital) Downtown. And that I went to the same university (the University of New Mexico) that my great-great-grandma did. I’m so lucky to have that kind of connection.”
Hoffman started her career as a journalist covering courts for The Albuquerque Tribune before it was shut down and, later, for The Associated Press.
In between, she spent time in rural El Salvador for her stint with the Peace Corps and decided she wanted to work in the community development sector rather than writing for newspapers, from the sidelines.
“I had enjoyed thoroughly my journalism career, and … I saw how important the work was,” Hoffman says. “But I couldn’t help but feel that as a journalist, particularly a journalist working in my hometown, that I was in the stands writing about the work of community change, but not putting any skin in the game, so to speak.”
Hoffman went on to learn all about lending, microfinance and software management at the nonprofit Accion, a microlending organization, and got a master’s degree in business at UNM before starting her company in 2013. Among her clients have been the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the United Way of Central New Mexico, Mission: Graduate and clients in Pennsylvania, California and elsewhere.
What are your hobbies?
“I really enjoy being outside. Especially right now, I’m doing a lot of walking. I enjoy reading. I’m a big documentary fan. This goes back to my days at the Trib – I love true crime stuff … my first gig was to cover courts. So I covered murder trials, and it just planted some seeds.”
Were any of them particularly memorable?
“The one that always stays with me the most was Carly Martinez, a New Mexico university student from El Paso who was (raped and murdered) in 1998. It was my first murder trial. They (both suspects, Jesse Avalos Jr. and Jason Desnoyers) were tried here in Albuquerque because of a change of venue. Mr. and Mrs. Martinez – and she (Carly) had a brother and a sister – they all attended various parts of both trials. Being 22 years old and watching that kind of raw, painful complex human drama had an enormous impact on me, both as a person and, I think, also as a reporter. People who will stay with me the most were her parents. I will never forget how resilient and tender and courageous they were in the way they walked through that tortuous experience. It was absolutely, for me, a profile of courage.”
Was it a difficult decision for you to become a mother?
“No. And I’m really grateful to live in a time when this pathway is available to me. I recognize profoundly the kind of privilege that I carry in being able to do this, and I feel very responsible and accountable to that. I recognize other women in other parts of the world may not have this opportunity or may find themselves, frankly, in places where choices are being made for them and their bodies are not their own … and we are returning to that time. So that, candidly, is not lost on me right now in this experience of feeling deeply grateful to be able to do this.”
How has the experience been for you?
“I would say the most surprising piece of this whole experience that I didn’t anticipate is how connected it actually made me feel to my sense of my feminine power … and to how extraordinarily powerful each of us can be when we realize … whatever dreams and hopes and aspirations we have for our lives. I wouldn’t normally talk about this – I’m a pretty private person – (but) I don’t want to miss this opportunity to the extent this could be helpful to hear for other women who want to write their own story.”
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
“It was during one of my Lebanon trips. One of the things I try to do when I travel is pick up a little bit of the language where I am. So I picked up just a very little wee bit of Arabic and was really proud of this. One of the younger loan officers, his name sounds remarkably like a word in Arabic that means ‘dumb,’ basically. And so I am in a training with this group of loan officers, and I’m leading the training and I’m really thinking, ‘Ah, this is really going well; I’m in my flow.’ I ask a question and then I turn to this young man, who’s very polite and soft-spoken. I turn to call on him, using what I thought was his name and instead, no, I used the word that essentially means ‘dumb’ in Arabic. You just see his face go blank, and everybody else stops for a moment. To his credit, he sort of smiled and then he said his name and then he answered the question. You would think that I would have retained that, (but) two hours later, we’re in another part of the training. What comes out of my mouth? The same – the second time at this point! God love him, he just laughed. And so then I told him he was welcome to call me whatever name he wanted. I’m sure he will never forget that. I certainly won’t.”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
“I will never forget, my sister and I did a backpacking trip in China in 2000, back before there had been a huge amount of Western influence. We were in Chunking, at a hot pot restaurant. Hot pots are essentially a pot of oil that they have on a burner right in the middle of your table, and you cook your own food. And I will never forget, we walked up to the buffet of raw ingredients, and it was the most extraordinary choices of raw ingredients you’ve ever seen. Every type of vegetable you could imagine and many that we’d never seen before, and every part of every animal you have ever thought of. Even some of the fish were moving.”
Do you have a favorite book?
“‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” (by Harper Lee). A beautiful, beautiful piece of literature.
POSITIONS: Founding principal of LEH Consulting Group, LLC., since 2013; Previously member of UNM Anderson School of Management faculty, 2012-2017; director/vice-president, Accion, 2005-2013; journalist at The Albuquerque Tribune, 1999-2000 and The Associated Press, 2002-2005; Peace Corps volunteer, 2001-2002; current member of Presbyterian Healthcare Services board and UNM Alumni Association board; past member of UNM Anderson School of Management Alumni Council and APS Education Foundation board.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Chaplain for Unity Spiritual Center of Albuquerque.