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I Am Austin Woman: Figure Out Your Gifts

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Karen Quintos welcomes the New Year with gratitude, hope and optimism.

Photo by Carmella Quintos.

March 9, 2020 was the last time I was in a “real” (meaning physical) office environment. I was in New York City, ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Honoring and recognizing International Women’s Day. There on the podium with me was my 16-year-old daughter, Elle, her friend Abi. And 10 other Dell executives who were passionate and determined to advance female development and equality. That day seems like a decade ago.

As the rest of March and April unfolded around COVID-19, I became so aware of the subtle (and not so subtle) messages, signs and visible manifestations around social good that were accelerating around the world. It also gave me pause to ask myself what God’s plan is for me. My life’s purpose and priorities, and how I should now use my time and talents to support these. So I picked up the phone in early May and called my boss, Michael Dell, to let him know that I wanted to accelerate my retirement. After a few minutes of discussing my rationale, he said, “I get it and you have my full support.”

On July 1, I started my next chapter.

Let me be the first to acknowledge the challenges and “weirdness” of 2020.

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Like you, I’ve experienced all the feelings in the human emotion bank. Fear, frustration, sadness, guilt, but also extreme gratitude, hope and optimism. There really is an abundance of good in the world, and the human spirit is strong and very much alive. I see it each and every day in the stories of the front-line health care workers, first responders, teachers, entrepreneurs, neighbors and friends who are using this time to “be the light” instead of dwelling in the darkness. To every one of them, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!

I have been blessed with a strong spiritual foundation, an amazing family and wonderful friends. I have also been fortunate to hold roles at fantastic companies like Dell. That have allowed me to personally grow. To give back and help drive the change needed in today’s complex, unbalanced and diverse world. I also see how much more work there is to do. I remain steadfast in my purpose to help women and other diverse groups reach their full potential by recognizing and eliminating the real barriers that stand in their way.

As a mother of three, wife of 34 years, proud Penn State alum and passionate Austinite, where am I spending my time? I am doing things that I never really had the mental and physical time to do. Mentoring young girls. Working with The Refuge to help victims of sex trafficking. Leading holiday volunteer drives. And developing curriculum for higher education around inclusion and equality. I also go on impromptu drives with my husband, Tony. Host a “girls” weekend with my mom and sister. Holding macaroon-baking sessions with my daughters. And go on long hikes with new (and old) friends and family.

“Figure out your spiritual gifts.”

I’m not sure what is next. But I am constantly reminded of the words of my minister, Will Davis. “Figure out your spiritual gifts, and whatever you do, do not return to the old normal.”

As you enter 2021, I wish you all the hope, optimism, good health and positivity that this world has to offer you. Go figure out your “gifts” and how to use them. Surround yourself with people who bring you positive energy. And immerse yourself in gratitude, hope and optimism.


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