I GREW up in Middletown in southwestern Ohio. My mother took care of my brother and me. My father had several businesses, including a trucking company. I had a paper delivery route and worked as a candy striper at the local hospital.
I also worked in the stables at River Downs Racetrack in Cincinnati, arriving early in the morning to exercise the horses. Three summers in a row, I worked at the Hamilton County jail, assisting the head jailer.
I attended Ohio State University, earning a degree in earth science education in 1975. I married in my senior year, and after graduation we moved to Midland, Tex. I was hired by Texas Instruments to work as a geophysicist. Typically, I was the only woman on a crew of geologists and drillers.
Not long after my son Jason was born, in 1979, I was transferred to Dallas, where I led a team of geophysicists. Three years later, I was transferred to Denver. The next year, in 1983, my husband took a job in San Francisco, and we moved with him.
I found a job with Bank of America, heading the business service product management team and later the payroll services system. I left in 1989 to go to PeopleSoft, a human resources and business management systems software provider. I was its ninth employee. As vice president for sales and marketing, I helped the company go public three years later.
But I was spending less time than I wanted with my husband, Richard, and son, so we decided to uproot again. My husband retired and we moved to Charlottesville, Va., where I could pursue my love of riding horses. But when a friend, who was recruiting me to lead a fund-raiser, mentioned that I was the "perfect socialite," I knew that it was time to get back into the job market.
In 1996 I joined the Oracle Corporation in its Reston, Va., offices, where I worked as senior vice president in charge of its customers in the public sector. Six years later, I left to become C.E.O. of the Evolve Corporation, a software provider in San Francisco. This time I commuted back and forth, which was easier because my son was then out of college. The company was sold a year later.
In 2005, I joined Microsoft, where I first headed its United States public sector division, then was promoted to direct its $8 billion worldwide public sector business. The job meant leading a team of 2,000 professionals in more than 100 countries, serving customers in the education, government and health care sectors.
I was thinking of retiring, but in September 2011 I joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a 180-year-old company that introduced the country to such literary figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Over the years, the company had gone through a series of acquisitions and mergers to bolster its position in the kindergarten-through-Grade 12 educational market. Recently it had undergone some financial strain.
I love reading, so I couldn't pass up the chance to work there. Last year, I helped steer the company through a voluntary bankruptcy, eliminating $3 billion in debt. I have been working to restore the company's place in Boston's business and civic community. Executives are now required to live in or around Boston, and we are supporting more local institutions and nonprofits involved in education.
I encourage our 3,500 employees around the world to volunteer and support their local organizations. And while I love the bustle of living in Boston, I also make sure to get back to the Maryland shore, where we now have a home, to relax and recharge.
Of course, I also like to pick up a good book.
As told to Elizabeth Olson.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.