Re-Imagineer – Pam Alabaster – Head of Sustainability, Mattel

You had a highly successful career as a senior executive in the beauty industry and in your fifties, you made some big decisions. As a single mother of three, you decided to go back to school for a second master’s degree to study sustainability. Why pivot out of the MBA/C-Suite track that you were on to take on a whole new career objective?

I saw that corporations were going to be judged not solely by their financial performance, but that stakeholders, not just stockholders, expected more and that business had an important role to play in helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental issues. I understood that brands had the opportunity to leverage their trusted relationships with consumers, and their platforms and assets to be a catalyst for change.

I believed that I was uniquely positioned to be part of an emerging movement where companies would do well by doing good, having a purpose beyond generating profit, and living that purpose. The second master’s program was truly a gift. The learning experience was totally different from my undergrad studies or even my MBA in many ways. As you might suspect, I was the oldest student in class, and the learning was hyper charged, as I had the benefit of making connections between theoretical concepts and real-world experiences. Importantly the program gave me the science grounding that I need to credibly manage the environmental impacts within my sustainability practice.

After your kids went off to college, you sold your suburban house and moved into New York City as an empty nester, single and making a career change.  That was a big ROAR! What can you share with regards to moving yourself forward during this time?

As much as I loved my Westchester County home, in which I raised my three children, it was quite liberating to move into a 1,200 square foot apartment with Central Park as your front yard. Household repairs were managed by the building maintenance team, there was no need for a gardener, arborist, or other caretakers, and no snow to shovel following a nor’easter. But there was 4,000 square feet of stuff that had been accumulated over 20 years that I had to sort, sell, or donate. The feelings of loss upon deciding to ditch the old sofa and antique chest, were temporary, and paled against the thrill of ordering new furnishings for a lighter, more modern future. 

While I didn’t need a three-bedroom apartment, I wanted my children to understand that there would always be a place for them, with me. I wanted them to be part of my exciting new life in Manhattan and made sure I had the space to accommodate. Although they preferred to congregate south of Union Square, they each made the ritual trip up north to Carnegie Hill for Sunday dinner at my apartment. And situated with proximity to Westchester, and $25 Uber ride away, the friends I had made in Westchester, joined me regularly on the upper east side for dinner.

As you approached 60, you were offered a job as the global sustainability officer at a major Los Angeles-based corporation. It meant leaving your kids and life in NYC, including a burgeoning romance. That was a major Reimagineer decision. What would you say to people when presented with a big opportunity that would require a big change?

Moving to Los Angeles required a fearless leap and I had to fully embrace the concept that if it didn’t work out, I could always move back.  And while it’s a bit more involved than a bad haircut, that will grow back, I tried not to overwhelm the significance of a move across the country and embrace the adventure and the opportunity.

Yes, it meant leaving my children, my friends, and the man I was seeing behind, but Southern California weather is particularly alluring when it turns cold in NYC. And they do come.

Change is hard, but it can also be incredibly fun and full of adventure and learning. As I have grown older, I have more confidence in my decision making, and have become more open to the possibilities and to new experiences. I fully embrace the notion of nothing ventured nothing gained, and believe that this chapter in life, is the best yet, when it all comes together.

ROAR into the second half of your life (before it's too late)

Meet the Author

Michael Clinton is a best-selling author, new longevity expert, thought leader, and keynote speaker on the changing face of what it means to live longer. He is also a writer-at-large for Esquire, and regular columnist for Men’s Health. A former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, he now serves as the special media advisor to the Hearst Corporation’s CEO.

He is also a photographer, has traveled through 124 countries, has run marathons on 7 continents, has started a nonprofit foundation, is a private pilot, is a part owner of a vineyard in Argentina, holds two master’s degrees, and still has a long list of life experiences that he plans to tackle.