Women in Business: Judy Walker, Vice President of Marketing, Anago

05/16/2015 07:05 am ET | Updated May 16, 2016

Judy Walker was born and raised in New York, and later moved to New Jersey. She has been a Florida resident for 27 years. She attended Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, where she graduated with degrees in Elementary Education. While in college, she served as president of the local chapter of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

After a short teaching career, she worked for Windows on the World and the World Trade Center Restaurants in New York City, where she eventually was promoted to Assistant Director of Sales & Marketing. After 5 years, she left that company to be a stay-at-home mom.

In 1994, she started with Anago, and in 1998 became Director of Telemarketing for Anago's South Florida Master Franchise. When Anago began selling Master Franchises, she was also responsible for training all new Master Franchise offices. In 2001, she joined Anago's corporate office full time and was appointed Director of Franchise Marketing in 2002. In 2005, she was appointed Vice President - Marketing. She was awarded the designation of Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) in 2014 after having completed the program requirements set forth by the International Franchise Association. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Being a leader, any type of leader, requires drive, determination, and commitment. It's not for everyone. As I go through my life's journey, I have experienced many highs and lows, both personally and professionally. Those experiences taught me that I am much stronger and more driven than I ever thought I was. Those curveballs that life throws at you certainly help you find out what you're really made of.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as Vice President of Marketing for Anago Cleaning Systems?
I started out as an elementary school teacher, and at the time, I thought that was my calling. A college sorority sister told me about a job in sales and marketing and I took the leap of faith. I walked away from the "security" of my teaching job and ventured into a field that I knew nothing about. It was the best decision I ever made. I found my real passion. It was a very important lesson that applies to business as well: without risk, there is no reward.
How do you maintain a work/life balance? Honestly, I still struggle with this - even after 20 years at Anago! There are still some days when I just can't turn it off. Seriously though, having that balance is extremely important. When I get home and put the key in my door at night, I make a mental note that I am leaving work at the door. Does that always work? Definitely not! I have found it helps to have lots of interests and activities totally unrelated to work.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Anago Cleaning Systems?
In the early years, one of the biggest challenges was working for two companies at the same time. Before the two companies separated, I was working for Anago's corporate office and our South Florida Master Franchise at the same time. I spent a great deal of time away from my family while traveling to open and train new Master Franchises across the country. It was a juggling act, and part of the growing pains a start-up goes through. It was definitely worth it though. Because of the sacrifices made during that time, we were able to grow the brand to 37 Master Franchise territories. To be named the 5th Fastest Growing Franchise in the U.S. a few years ago was definitely a highlight of my career.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in your industry?
Learn as much as you can about the industry from every perspective. There's way more to it than meets the eye! I would also suggest finding a mentor who is currently in the industry. That person can give a unique perspective on whether it's the right fit or not. Having that guidance is essential to success.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Early in my career, I gave up a very prestigious position to be a stay-at-home mom to my two children. It is a decision I have never regretted. My children were, and are, much more important to me than my career. I was fortunate to be in a financial position where this was a choice I could make. Especially for working moms, juggling their time between work, their children, perhaps aging parents, is difficult. There has been great progress made recently in companies being more understanding of what women face. I do believe there is still some room for improvement.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I do agree with Sheryl that we have too few women leaders, and if we had more the world would be a better place! As a very successful woman executive, she is a great role model for women out there. Especially women who underestimate their abilities, like I did early in my career. Her advice is empowering to all women out there to be the best they can be.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
In my professional life, my mentor has been our Founder & Chairman, David Povlitz. When I came to work at Anago, I had been a stay-at-home mom for 11 years. I was really out of touch with the ever-changing business world. Dave took me under his wing and I owe my success at Anago to him. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. Anago's first Unifying Principle is "Believe in people". Dave believed in me and I am so grateful to him for all he has taught me. In my personal life, I am fortunate to have wonderful friends and family who have always had my best interests at heart and kept me on the right path - especially after some difficult personal losses.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have always admired Condoleeza Rice. She was a true ground-breaker as the first female National Security Advisor and the first African-American Secretary of State. I heard her speak several years ago and was very impressed. She certainly was not intimidated that these were previously male-dominated positions. She took that leap into previously uncharted waters for women, and came out a winner. My mother may not be a proverbial leader, but I certainly admire her. She came to this country as an immigrant and was not welcomed with open arms. She faced discrimination. Yet she persevered, learned the language, got a job, completed her college degree, and went on to a senior role at a local New York college. Her tenacity and spirit are what I admire most.

What are your hopes for the future of Anago Cleaning Systems?
Anago just celebrated its 25th Anniversary and I am not surprised at how far we've come. The hard work and dedication of a core group of men and women made Anago successful early on. We are a family run company and my hope is that this next generation will take the company to even more greatness, while being true to the core principles upon which the company was founded.