A Business Woman for Our Time
Barbara Nolder Tremain '65 G
So how does a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts become a superstar at IBM? Hard work, determination, and patience. Despite entering a business environment that was biased toward women, Barbara Nolder Tremain ’65 followed her heart, persevered, and became an outstanding role model for businesswomen of our time.
Barbara entered Anna Maria College when women had few career options. While most chose to study education, nursing or social work, Barbara’s curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit led her to the study of math with the goal of working in business. As the only campus resident math major in her class, she needed to be resourceful in finding commonality with her peers and soon found her niche in the Student Government Association (SGA).
“When I look back on my college career, I believe it was my involvement in SGA that was the turning point in my life,” shares Barbara. “At the time, one of SGA's responsibilities was to judge student infractions, which forced me to learn how to listen, negotiate and find solutions that would benefit all involved. SGA was a great place to learn how to mediate issues, set goals, and communicate,” she adds.
In addition to her work with SGA, Barbara learned a great deal from the Sisters of Saint Anne, who, according to Barbara, were terrific role models for young women. “The Sisters on campus were smart, hard working and assertive,” comments Barbara. “From Sr. Irene to Sr. Bernadette to Sr. John, they were strong women who knew how to get things done, and they passed on these attributes to their students.”
After graduation, Barbara took a position in the actuarial department at Mass Mutual in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she quickly realized that she had a tough road in front of her. Since only the men in her department were on track to become actuaries, she left Mass Mutual after two years for greener pastures. “In the mid-sixties, women had many more closed doors in front of them than open ones,” explains Barbara. “Having studied at AMC when it was a women's college, women had many opportunities to be leaders. Entering the male-dominated business world at that time was a harsh reality. But I was determined to follow my instincts, and I wasn’t going to let anyone keep me down.”
With drive and perseverance, Barbara set out to accomplish her goals. Soon after moving to Seattle, Washington, in 1967, she landed a job with IBM. Her confidence and leadership skills were recognized; and in a short time, Barbara became Seattle's first female marketing representative. By 1970, she had taken over her own territory for the company. “I was still working mostly with men at this point in my career; but when I transitioned to a new product line, I met more women pursuing their dreams. The world of IBM suddenly opened up in front of me.”
The rights movement of the sixties was finally beginning to benefit Barbara and other women in the business community. The role of women in the workplace was definitely changing. In 1975, Barbara had her first female supervisor. “It took a very long time for women to be promoted to management positions,” says Barbara. “Young women of today often don’t understand that women of my generation were not raised to work in managerial positions. Team sports and other opportunities provided boys with the skills and experiences needed to be leaders in the future,” she adds. “My AMC experiences helped me gain leadership skills, and I was determined to use them to the fullest.” The administration at IBM must have agreed, because in 1986, Barbara was offered her first management position with the company in Salt Lake City.
Over the course of her career, Barbara held positions in marketing, sales, technology support, and customer service at IBM locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Palo Alto, and Salt Lake City, where she held several management positions. In 1993, a short time after relocating to San Diego, California, Barbara learned that her position with IBM San Diego was being phased out. She decided to take an early retirement in the beautiful San Diego area. Not ready to rest on her laurels, she became a consultant and, during one of her business trips, she met her husband-to-be on a flight to see one of her clients. Today, Barbara and her husband manage a successful Telemetry business in San Diego.
Although she lives a continent away, Barbara’s East-coast alma mater is still very close to her heart. “Anna Maria inspired and opened up doors for me,” claims Barbara. “The College’s close-knit community allowed me to enhance my abilities and to succeed.” When asked what advice she would give young women today, Barbara responds, “Understand what is in your heart and follow your dreams. Set goals, work hard, and celebrate your victories.”