"Give it up and stop worrying about work-life balance because you are never going to find it. I really do believe you can have it all ... but I think it all comes at different times," Betty Arndt said confidently on her couch reflecting on her recent retirement.
"I still don't know how I did it all," she said with a laugh. "I have no idea."
Arndt, a Town of Ottawa resident, was named this year's honoree at TEMPO Waukesha's Women Leaders Luncheon. TEMPO, which provides women with professional and personal growth and empowerment opportunities in Waukesha County, chose Arndt largely because she really has balanced it all.
Arndt, a resident of Waukesha County for more than 30 years, has a long history of work both professionally and in the community.
The Marquette University alumna from Two Rivers graduated with a degree in history and political science. She took a marketing position with the Kohler Corp. out of college to try something different. She met her husband while working there, and with his job in East Troy, Arndt said it was natural to find an "in-between," which is what took them to Waukesha.
Arndt took a job in marketing at Waukesha Engine in 1982. She said it was the last job she applied for and relied only on networking and being recruited to lead her to jobs in Milwaukee. She eventually started with Johnson Controls as a director of marketing and communication where she would stay and grow with the company for 20 years until she retired as vice president of global communication.
"I was blessed to work for a company that gave me so much, and in turn you really want to give back," Arndt said. "One of the things I did at Johnson Controls that I am proud of was helping to start a Women's Resource Network to bring women together and given them an opportunity to talk about how they would navigate the organization and to network. What I found in my own life is that the network is an amazing and powerful way of securing input you need to succeed in a job or in your personal life."
Arndt said that she used networks like this to move ahead in her career and eventually, to help mentor people to pave their own path.
"In my own life I never had one single mentor, I had many mentors. I'd look at how some people managed their staffs and watch what they did and copy a little bit. That's OK. You take little pieces from all of the different people you admire and kind of put it all together so you build your own style and your own brand," Arndt said.
Arndt's brand also included extensive community service balancing her multiple involvements and leadership positions with the extensive travel required by her work and continuing her career in the changing landscape of communication as social media began to take center stage.
Arndt formerly served as chairwoman of the Waukesha County Community Foundation and Appletree Credit Union boards. She currently serves as president for Marquette University's Friends of the Haggerty Art Museum Board and also serves with groups including ProHealth Care, Sharon Lynne Wilson Arts Center, Skylight Theatre, Women's Council at Marquette University and the Women and Girls' Fund of Waukesha County.
"From a community standpoint, it's not about winning awards, it's about being asked to serve. That's a real compliment when you are asked to serve in a leadership role in a nonprofit agency and knowing people really have faith and trust in you," Arndt said. "Community service is one of the foundations of my life. It has offered me numerous experiences I would have received on a job and a network of lifelong friends. I have received more satisfaction from what I've done for 'no pay' than the money I made on my job."
With a passion for the arts and for professionally mentoring women and girls, Arndt has curbed her involvements as best she can to really focus on those interests. She's also enjoyed her retirement and is happy to have more time to concentrate on those causes.
"Being retired is the greatest joy in the world because you have the one thing that most people don't and that's time. Time is without a doubt the most precious commodity and it's something you can't buy," Arndt said.
More international travel with her husband and more time spent with her 90-year-old father, who she calls her "ultimate mentor" also top Arndt's list of priorities in life beyond her career. She plans to follow her motto of life-long learning by pursuing a deeper education in the arts.
Arndt scanned her notes for the speech she will give at the TEMPO luncheon on Oct. 25 in Pewaukee. She smiled reflecting on her work and on her future plans but showed no signs of nerves.
"I'm excited. I've done a lot of public speaking so I'm not nervous. I'm excited because I know a lot of women will be there who have touched my life in a lot of different ways and people who have worked for me, people I've served on committees with and people who have helped and mentored me and you put that all together and it's almost emotional," Arndt said. "When I think about it, to put all these people who have touched my life in one room, OK, maybe I am a little nervous."
Arndt said she is humbled to be honored at the event but the award is not only about her work.
"I think being recognized for what you've accomplished is a great thing but I think more than that too, it's recognition of all the women have been able to accomplish in our community. It's not about me but it's about all the great women that I know," Arndt said. "When you get an award you tend to reflect a lot on your past life and you always want to make a difference and I think I have."
Reflecting back, Arndt said she feels now that she really has had it all, thanks largely to a great career and enjoyable experiences within her community.
"Salary makes you comfortable," Arndt said. "Life experiences are what make you rich."
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