Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Marian Garrard reflects on her 36-year career with We Are Blood.

Photo courtesy of Marian Garrard.

I remember the first day I walked into We Are Blood like it was yesterday. On that unusually warm winter morning, the small blood-donation center at 4300 N. Lamar Blvd. instantly felt like home. You could tell the phlebotomists and donors knew each other like family.

But it wasn’t yesterday. It was 1982, and the organization was called the Central Texas Regional Blood Center (later, The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas and now, We Are Blood). I was only 22 years old and coming in to interview for a phlebotomist position. I had just finished training to become a certified medical assistant and the plan was to take time to improve my phlebotomy skills before continuing my education and becoming a nurse.

But here’s the thing: That small donor center soon became my home. I quickly realized I loved everything about working for a community blood center. Here I stand in 2018, the executive vice president and chief operations officer of We Are Blood. Had you told me that morning in 1982 that in 36 years, I would be working at this organization and in this role, I would have called you crazy. But then, aren’t the unexpected paths in life often the most rewarding?

I’ve had the absolute privilege of watching our small local blood center grow into the standout organization it is today. This organization, its mission, the work I’ve done here, the leaders who helped me grow and the leaders I have helped mentor all have shaped my professional life.

Working somewhere for 36 years will make a mark on your personal life as well. When I started as a phlebotomist, we were responsible for drawing two donors at a time, so we talked to a lot of people. Therefore, I got to know some of the most amazing, altruistic members of our community and created lifelong friendships.

In 1987, I became a mom to my wonderful daughter, Lyndsey. As my daughter grew, so did my role at We Are Blood. I spent time in almost every department: the lab, donor recruitment, the purchasing department, as a phlebotomy supervisor and eventually, as director of donor services.

By the time Lyndsey was 8, I’d also become a single mom. Lyndsey grew up seeing the passion I had for my work and this organization’s mission to save lives. I’m proud I was able to give her an example of strong female leadership throughout her childhood. I couldn’t be prouder of the woman she’s become. She is an orthopedic-trauma surgical technician at a local hospital and has an awe-inspiring level of commitment, responsibility and work ethic. She is also a mother herself, and I can’t wait to see the legacy my granddaughter, Ellie, will leave in the community.

Lyndsey isn’t the only woman I’ve watched grow during my time at We Are Blood. I’m proud to have mentored many exceptional women throughout my career. Today, most of our directors and vice presidents are amazing Austin women.

I’ve learned so much during the past decades, but if I could offer any advice, it’s this: Be open to change. Be the driver of change when it benefits your organization or company. Change will happen with or without you, so don’t be the person who digs in your heels.

The last two years at We Are Blood have been some of the most rewarding in my career, filled with myriad changes, including the transformation of our brand into a modern blood bank for today’s modern Austin.

While I’m proud of how far our organization has come in the past 36 years, our work is far from done. I’m so excited to be a part of We Are Blood’s next chapter


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