I'M the oldest of six. My dad was an engineer at Xerox and started his own medical technology company on the side, which was ahead of its time and did well. When I was an adolescent, we moved from Rochester to Arizona, where he started a second company, which sold an oil-based product used in items like sinks and bathtubs. That company failed as a result of the 1970s oil embargo.
It was a difficult time for my family. I had to help with my siblings and eventually buy my own clothes and a car, but it gave me a sense of inner strength. I realized I'd always be able to take care of myself and that no job was beneath me. I also believed that no job was above me, so I didn't put any limits on myself.
In 1983 I graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in political science, then attended George Washington University Law School. While job-searching during my final year, I interviewed with five harried partners of a New York law firm over lunch; they peppered me with questions. When I scooped up some cantaloupe, it flew off my spoon and hit a nearby diner in the face. All five partners turned as one to look, then turned back in unison. No one said a word or even smiled. I wrote them off because they were working so hard that they'd forgotten how to laugh.
After graduating in 1986, I joined a different law firm, then called Brown & Bain, working in corporate law. In 1992, my friend Anthony Bonacci and I started our own law firm, Colombo & Bonacci. I focused on corporate investment opportunities in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. In 2000, we started another company, Axon Capital, to provide business advisory services in the United States and Latin America.
We dissolved Axon Capital in 2007, and we don't practice law anymore, either. But I've stayed involved in international economic development.
While at Brown & Bain, I led a trade mission to bring together several United States C.E.O.'s with Carlos Salinas de Gortari, then Mexico's president, to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the last 20 years, I've served in more than 10 organizations involving public policy and trade. Currently, I'm the Arizona representative to the Office of the United States Trade Representative and serve on its Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee.
I learned about Amber Alert GPS when a friend introduced me to Russ Thornton, who founded it after his young son became lost in an amusement park for the better part of an hour. Tony Bonacci and I invested in the company, and in 2011 I became chairwoman of the parent, Alert GPS Holdings. That year, Russ asked me to become C.E.O. of Alert GPS Holdings and Amber Alert GPS so he could focus efforts on mobile applications for the company.
Our global positioning device fits into a child's backpack or is attached to his or her clothing. Parents can either log into a portal on our Web site to monitor their child's whereabouts, or do so from a Web-enabled smartphone. Children can signal their parents by pressing an S.O.S. button on the device.
The year I joined, we bought most of the assets of Amberalert.com, which included a technology called LEAP, for Law Enforcement Alerting Portal. It enables law enforcement organizations to issue Amber Alerts when a child is missing. We provide the technology free to coordinators in participating states.
Our headquarters are in Utah, but I live in Arizona and often work at home when I'm not in our corporate office. I've had a huge learning curve in this job because it's in a new industry for me. It was a bit terrifying, but I realized that you can't allow technology to intimidate. You just have to jump in, which is actually part of the fun.
As told to Patricia R. Olsen.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.