Martinez shares journey of leadership

ALAMOSA — Emelin Martinez, Valley-Wide’s assistant chief medical officer, shared a personal story of perseverance and leadership at the SLV Health Education and Conference Center on Thursday as part of a Lean In Lunch. The presentation’s aim was to motivate women in the workplace.

SLV Health’s Behavioral Health Program Manager Audrey Reich started the program four years ago. An average of 40 people have attended each quarterly event. The Lean In movement was started by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s popular book of the same name.

Martinez grew up in San Luis. “It was somewhat isolated, but those who grew up in San Luis felt, and still feel a sense of belonging and identity,” Martinez said.

When she was 14 she left the town to attend the St. Scholastica Academy in Cañon City, which was run by the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. Martinez spent the next four years at the boarding school with girls from different backgrounds and countries.

“This was my first exposure to a very different world from San Luis. This was the first time I leaned in.”

Though it was a change, it helped her succeed. “I would say that we cannot lean in unless we have someone to lean on. Most of us grew up in a very different world than Sandberg. We must depend on others to help us follow our dreams.”

She told the room that it’s okay to be humble, but make sure that you’re not giving the credit to someone else.

“Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success,” said Martinez. “It’s important to not downplay what you do, but downplay what you accomplish. Remember to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s successes and compliments and don’t hesitate to ask for that raise.”

Her advice was not only for the workers, but for bosses as well. “Bring out the best in your employees. Offer opportunities to grow and assume they will succeed, not fail.”

When Martinez turned 57 she took a three-month sabbatical and enrolled in the Cook Street School of Culinary Arts in Denver. It was something she always wanted to do, but it didn’t make the experience any easier.

“I was terrified. I had no idea what the experience was going to bring me. I thought it couldn’t be farther from health care.”

As she worked with her fellow classmates of various ages and backgrounds, Martinez learned the culinary organizational philosophy of “mise en place.” French for “putting in place,” it taught her how to always be prepared for challenges.

Her love of cooking extends beyond the kitchen and each attendee was given copies of Martinez’s recipes.

Martinez ended her speech by sharing what she has learned throughout her life. “I learned to not let anyone define me, not by my gender, my age or my last name. I also learned to take my work seriously, but never take myself seriously.”

She said it was also important to have a close group of friends, to be curious and to be grateful.

“I’m grateful for my colleagues at Valley-Wide who work hard every day.”

The next Lean In Lunch event is on October 12th and will feature a presentation by Adams State University’s Associate Professor of Marketing Liz Thomas Hensley. Reich is stepping down as organizer and Hensley will also be taking over the program in the fall.