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Willamette alumna strikes a balance between work and motherhood



Vanessa Sturgeon gets most of her work done at night, after she puts her 5- and 3-year-old boys to bed.

That’s when she switches from being a mom to becoming president of TMT Development, a company she’s run for the past decade.

“I try to get things done between meetings and phone calls,” says Sturgeon, who embraces her a-typical work schedule. “I hang out with the kids and go back to work late at night. It works for me.”

A 2003 graduate of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Sturgeon thrives under pressure.

Besides being a wife, mother and president of a prominent real estate development company, she devotes much of her time to serving her community — embodying Willamette’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”

“Being a business leader means you take your community under your wing and doing the right thing,” Sturgeon says.

Taking the Reigns

Sturgeon had long aspired to lead TMT Development, which was founded by her grandfather, Thomas P. Moyer, in the late 1980s. To help achieve her goal, she began by earning her MBA at Willamette University.

“I wanted to learn how to manage people within the organization and how to empower them to make good business decisions,” she says, adding that she honed these skills while on the job. “Now I’m better able to reflect on what we’ve accomplished.”

Sturgeon began running TMT Development at age 25. Today, the company owns 9 million square feet of real estate from Salem, Ore. to Olympia, Wash. Its holdings include a vast array of retail centers, industrial facilities and office towers, including the 27-story Fox Tower and the soon to be constructed Park Avenue West Tower in Portland’s central business district.

“I felt overwhelmed and excited by the opportunity,” Sturgeon says. “I was ready to take on the challenges.”

Giving Back

With each passing year, Sturgeon has become increasingly devoted to volunteerism. For her efforts, she was awarded both the 40 Under 40 Award by the Portland Business Journal and the Volunteer Appreciation Award from the Portland Business Alliance in 2010.

In her community, Sturgeon serves as a board member for the Portland Business Alliance, the Portland Police Foundation and the Knight Cancer Council. She is also a board member for New Avenues for Youth, an organization that provides job placement and emergency, transitional housing for homeless youths.

“Youth homelessness is such a huge issue in Portland because of the way the foster care system works,” says Sturgeon, adding that youths are often ill equipped for life when they age out of the system at 18.

But through New Avenues for Youth, help is given to foster care graduates who want to better themselves, she says.  

“We’re giving kids a way to provide for themselves and to contribute to society. It’s so inspirational,” Sturgeon says. “When you help kids, you see outcomes.”

Achieving Balance

Sturgeon says there is no secret to her success. She works hard, she enjoys what she does and she views each challenge as an opportunity.  

For Atkinson students about to join the work force, Sturgeon says they should develop skills desired by employers.

“Focus on technology. No matter what field you are in, that is going to be important,” she says. “It’s a good, secondary focus to any specialty.”

Just as important, she says people shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. Instead, they should strive for balance.

“You never get everything completely right,” she says, adding that she’s learned to accept her limitations. “I really like coming to work every day. I really, really enjoy my job.”

Vanessa Sturgeon MBA '03Vanessa Sturgeon MBA '03