The Colgate Scene
November 2005

In the spotlight
From artist to executive, Patricia Hayling Price '76 defies typecasting

[Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Shortly after graduating from Colgate, Patricia Hayling Price '76 flew off to London on a Watson Fellowship, where she worked with the Martha Graham Company. A year later, she was featured as a principal actress on the NBC soap The Doctors while she simultaneously launched a modeling career, performed off-Broadway, and was an academic artist in residence for the Montclair, N.J., School System. In 1979, she opened her own design firm working primarily with international clients through the United Nations.

Now, more than 20 years later, she's a corporate top performer as a director in operations on the worldwide marketing team at IBM.

"That is the beauty of a liberal arts background," she said. "You have the flexibility to move in all different arenas. It allows you to explore new possibilities and you might stumble on something you love — something your liberal arts experience planted the seeds for."

Following an unconventional course of study at Colgate for someone planning to go into medicine, Price studied Indian culture and dance in India in 1973 and was a pre-med religion major. But after graduating, she decided not to pursue medicine.

"It was my father's dream, not mine," she said. "My father and grandfather were physicians. It was just expected. But being at Colgate, away from material world moments, gave me a moment to collect my thoughts on the world that I wanted to create for myself, on who I wanted to be irrespective of my specific career ideas."

So instead, Price completed her Watson Fellowship, which led to a part in an off-Broadway show, which led to The Doctors role, which led to modeling, singing, and more. Despite her success, though, Price felt that different work was on her professional horizon.

"I knew that I wanted to leave the performing arts because, with the precariousness of everything, it's like you're a leaf in the wind," Price said. "My nature couldn't take that for a lifetime."

Price decided to enroll at Pratt School of Design, and she opened her own interior design company after completing her first year there. She traveled extensively, serving United Nations clients, and had a few close calls due to political unrest in certain countries.

"Then I started doing more work domestically and decided after a year or two that deliberating over which color pink was going to go on the walls was just not how I wanted to spend my life," she said. "Selecting environments is important. It just wasn't for me."

"That's the beauty of a liberal arts education..."

Act II
In 1986, Price decided to explore her interest in sales and marketing.

"While I was thinking about all these things, I stumbled on IBM and thought, why don't I get some internship exposure to see what corporate life is like, and if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it for the best company in the world," she said.

She immediately landed a job as a sales associate after getting a perfect score on the corporation's pre-hire logic test.

"IBM had a freeze on hiring at the time, but I asked if I could take the test anyway," she said. "The following week I got a call. They said, you have to come in right away, you have a perfect score — that's unheard of if you haven't had a particular major or attended XYZ college, and we'd like to offer you a job."

Over the next 20 years, Price worked her way up through strategic planning, customer relationship management, market intelligence, market research, and marketing operations to achieve her current position. The diversity of opportunity at IBM appealed to Price, and is part of what has kept her there for two decades.

"I like the ability [IBM gives you] to reinvent yourself professionally within a business context over and over again without having to learn a new culture or move your family around excessively," she said. "And although there is process and structure at IBM in pretty much every job you have, there's also this element of innovation and creativity that's demanded of you. I love that combination. It is disciplined creativity."

A successful performance
At IBM's global headquarters in Armonk, N.Y., Price is part of a team of marketing executives that have impressed and inspired her.

"When I joined IBM, what I found was the opportunity to work with probably the smartest people I've ever seen amassed in one place at one time," she said.

Together, her team works on combining creativity and innovation in IBM information technology products and services to help solve problems and improve the quality of life for businesses, their employees, and customers around the globe.

"To be able to say, as big as this company is, that I made a positive impact and a difference . . . to our customers is important," she said.

Price is also working to make a positive impact within the culture of IBM.

"I run the Marketing Leadership Development Program, one of our leadership pipelines," she said. "I now have about 180 MBA students who I have, in some cases, recruited and, in most cases, hired. I groom them further for leadership over a five-year period. It's one of the most rewarding things I do in my current role."

No stranger to playing more than one role at a time, Price is also a wife, mother of three, and a grandmother. These are, perhaps, her roles of a lifetime.

"Because success, I would say, is the achievement of physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual balance — while at the same time being able to nurture relationships and continually contribute to the life and well-being of as many other individuals on this planet as you can," she said. "It's our connection with others that is the most profound part of living. Without others, what is the point?"

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