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One-on-One with Lisa Adkins

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lisa Adkins is always running – literally and figuratively.

The Albuquerque native and self-described workaholic plays multiple roles on the local business scene, including chief operating officer of two privately funded Duke City incubators – FatPipe ABQ and The BioScience Center – and chairwoman of the New Mexico Technology Council.

And, like the people she works with in those capacities, she’s also an entrepreneur. Adkins ran a local software company for nine years before selling it in 2010. These days, she has her own one-woman consulting firm, and serves as vice president of finance and human resources for a food safety information startup she helped found.

When she’s not racing to fulfill her professional responsibilities, she’s probably logging miles around Albuquerque Academy or in the foothills.

“Running for me is like Prozac,” Adkins says from the cozy East Downtown environs of FatPipe ABQ. “I actually get that euphoric high. I actually have a knee injury right now and I haven’t been able to run for about a month, and, seriously, it feels like I’m off my meds. It’s just so good for my psyche and, to me, it’s my religion; that’s what I love to do.”

Q: Describe yourself as a teenager.

A: (Laughs) Oh, my goodness. I was naughty. But the thing is, I never got caught. My parents didn’t know I was naughty until I grew up and admitted (it) to them. I wasn’t a known troublemaker; I never got busted or sent to jail or got caught driving drunk. … If my 17-year-old son did the things today that I was doing back then, I would lock that kid in his room. But, you know, I was a fair student and hung out with the popular crowd, and I liked to work more than I liked to go to school, so I always had jobs so I could buy myself clothes.

Q: What was your family like?

A: My family rocks. My dad retired as CIO (chief information officer) at University of New Mexico. My mom was a teacher at APS, but she created the nursing program at the Career Enrichment Center. The program is still alive today.

Q: What was your first job?

A: My very first job was Wendy’s, the one on Montgomery and Eubank. My first substantial job was when I was 19. I went to work in the file room of a law firm for a friend who went away for the summer. She kept telling me she wanted (the) job back when she came back to town but, during the summer, they found out I could type really fast and I was also pretty good at computers, so I actually worked at that law firm for 15 years on and off. I put myself through school. I made amazing money for a young, 20-year-old (and) ended up starting an IT consulting practice at the recommendation of the senior partner, and then they ended up being my customer.

Q: What were your career plans when you headed off to UNM?

A: I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the longest time. Honestly, I went into IT because that’s what my dad did. I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse or in the medical field because blood makes me throw up. I thought perhaps maybe my dad’s line of work was going to be more interesting, but I was never one of those kids who was thinking when they were a little girl that they wanted to grow up and be something. I just felt like I had to go to school, so I chose something that was familiar to me.

Q: What does it take to successfully launch a company?

A: It takes a lot of energy and passion. And, if it looks like it’s going to fail, you need to fail quickly and move on. But if it’s promising, you just need to keep working at it. That’s what I help people do here at FatPipe and The BioScience Center is find those recourses, because you can’t do it by yourself necessarily. You don’t have all of the skills, so you have to learn how to network and find those people – those cool co-founders and resources that are going to help you grow and succeed.

Q: How would you describe Albuquerque’s startup culture at this moment?

A: It’s exciting. It’s actually thriving. I think because of the endeavors of our center, and places like ABQid and the CNM STEMulus Center, we’re creating resources for people to want to go out and take the risk of starting a new business, and even (for) people who had already started a business, we’re providing more resources for them to grow. Mine and (founder Stuart Rose’s) basic desire for being Downtown is not to make money from renting people seats at FatPipe; we want to create companies, we want those companies to create jobs and we want those people who own those companies to be wealthy. Because, if we can create some wealth here in Albuquerque, they’re going to reinvest in their peers and it will be a cycle we can keep going.

Q: What it’s like being a woman in tech?

A: To this day, it’s still hard. … I’ve had jobs in the last five years where I was discriminated against because I’m a woman and it’s really hard to believe that it still happens, but I see it happen. I can be pretty tough if I need to be, but I also want to have the freedom to act like a woman.

Q: Who are your professional mentors? A: Certainly, Stuart Rose, my boss (at FatPipe and The BioScience Center), is definitely a mentor. I like working with him because he has two daughters in tech and so he gets it. He’s always treated me with a great amount of respect. I’ve had a number of mentors, but my biggest life mentor is actually my mom. She has an amazing story, and to meet her and see how a room lights up when she walks in, I wish I was more like her. She is the happiest person, and knows how to live life happily and fulfilled, no matter what is thrown at her. I’m a little bit more melancholy like my daddy. She’s the lively one, the lively Italian.

Q: You’ve lived in Albuquerque your whole life. What has kept you here?

A: I’ve worked in enough places on a job that I traveled with that I really appreciate the culture and the business world here. Of course, I love the weather. I’m a runner, (and) you can’t live in a more beautiful place to be a runner and to be active outside. I love our mountains, I love our sunsets.

Q: If you weren’t doing this – or these – jobs what else could you see yourself doing?

A: If I had the money, I would be an aerobics instructor. … I just love to exercise. I actually tried to get certified in “body combat,” which is a martial arts program through Les Mills, but I have a really hard time memorizing words, and steps and routines. I’ll go to the classes, I’m just not very good at teaching. But, yeah, I’d be full-time in the gym. That would be awesome. Maybe a trainer, nutritionist – something related to health and fitness.

Q: What are your pet peeves?

A: People who say they’re going to do something and don’t do it.

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

A: I get told I have pretty legs. One time, I got told I look like Sally Field, which I thought was kind of nice, because she’s cute and funny.

Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures?

A: I love to eat, but that’s why I run (laughs). I probably get a pedicure once every two weeks, sometimes more often, because I like people to rub on my feet. Oh – and the “Housewives” shows on Bravo.

Q: How would you describe yourself in three words?

A: Passionate, loyal and loving.

One on One

with Lisa Adkins

One on One

with Lisa Adkins

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