Title IX Anniversary Celebration: Lisa Zodtner

Four years studying business at CMU prepared Lisa Zodtner for her career-launching job as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

But basketball captured her heart, made her tough and gave her skills to be a risk-taking entrepreneur.

Zodtner, 52, played basketball at CMU from 1979 to 1983, and when she wasn't on the court, she was probably studying. She was soon skilled at managing her time.

After graduating with a degree in business administration, she landed a job as a broker at Merrill Lynch.

"I had to pass a huge exam," she says. "Right away, those studying and time management skills were useful."

But the job didn't feel right.

"It wasn't where my heart was," she says. "My heart was still with basketball."

So Zodtner veered away from the financial career she had trained for, and for nine years worked as a college women's basketball assistant coach at the University of Illinois, George Washington University, Drake University in Iowa and Duke University in North Carolina.

After that, she was ready for a change, and spent the next 18 years leading and launching businesses in marketing, information technology and financial consulting. Today she owns The Labyrinth Group, a marketing and financial consulting company in Durham, N.C., working with companies worth millions of dollars.

What did she learn from basketball that served her well as an entrepreneur?

"Rejection," Zodtner says with a laugh. "If your coach tells you you're not doing so well, you've got to listen, and do what she says and keep going. When you're calling customers and they reject you, you need to get back on the phone and make the next call. You can't get offended. You have to just keep going."

When Zodtner thinks about her time at CMU, basketball reigned.

"Basketball was huge for me," she says. "It was my whole life. It was how I met my friends. It was a big part of who I was."

It stuck. Zodtner coaches a winning basketball team of senior women, age 55 and older. The other night she was off to see a Duke women's basketball team with a friend who used to play basketball at Eastern Michigan University.

"It shaped my life," she says. "Basketball taught me you can do anything, if you work hard, if you're patient, if you take the good with the bad. You figure it out."

Today she's a risk-taking lover of learning.

"Every day is a learning experience," Zodtner says. "I don't like to be stuck in a rut, doing the same thing every day. I love learning new things. That goes back to basketball. You're always trying to make yourself better, to become the best at what you do.

"I never really lost that." 


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