This month the Spotlight falls on new INC member, Texan-born tennis star who gave her life a volte-face when she left her corporate career to practise Swedish and sports massage, Irlanda Gutiérrez.
You climbed up the corporate ladder of a male-dominated business. What was it like to be one of very few women in Senior Management of Enterprise Rental Cars?
In those days men made up 90% of the workforce in that sector so it was certainly a challenge for me as a woman. I felt I had to prove myself more than a man in the corporate world in terms of knowledge, efficiency, capacity and putting in the long hours. Having almost exclusively male colleagues was novel and on the whole pretty smooth. I´d say men are generally very rational and mathematical in the way they operate.
What tips would you give other women juggling careers and children?
Some days were 12-14 hours long so I´d have to race to day-care to breast feed during my lunch hour and run back to work in heels. Those days were truly insane. It’s tough to give advice because in hindsight I should have worked less to create a better balance. However, as women in the workplace we do have a tough time of it because if we request to work shorter hours it is seen as a sign of weakness. There is definitely no harder job than properly raising your children and upkeeping a home.
What was it in Guadalajara, México that prompted you to delve in massage therapy?
When I was forced to leave my corporate career because of my husband’s move to Mexico I had to re-evaluate my life and think.. Do I ever want to do that again? The answer was no… it was too high of a price not to be able to give my children and home some of me. Guadalajara was ahead of Texas in terms of yoga, organic food and meditation and I literally dove in. When I returned to the States 2 years later, I went back to school in Laredo and Austin to qualify as a Licensed Massage Therapist. After that I did several specialization courses over the world such as India and Switzerland and my particular area of expertise is working with Athletes. I was lucky as with all my sports contacts my practice in Texas was booked solid year-round. I am now practising here in Madrid.
How did you develop an interest in food and what does it mean to you today?
I’m not sure I´m a great cook but I do love to eat, especially the organic fruit and vegetables that I discovered in Mexico.
What was it like working as the official massage therapist for rockstars and celebrities at a concert arena?
I was fortunate to land a fascinating job as the Laredo Arena Therapist as ZZ Top came into town and took my predecessor on tour with them. So I would be in charge of the singers, dancers and VIP’s for event and concerts. My kids thought it was so cool that I would attend a rap star or any number of famous people. They would look larger than life on stage and yet off stage they are just as human, fragile with the same stress and laughter like the rest of us.
Tell us about the role competitive tennis has played in your life.
I was very happy being an amateur tennis player and played competitive tennis with my Texas team. We would travel all over the place in competitions and had just the best time. Team sports and competition give you life for sure, mentally and physically.
Why have you decided to specialise in sports massage therapy?
I love being an amateur tennis player and yogi. I understand athletes and their needs. It took me a while to get here but I am now doing what I love the most.
Has anything surprised you about Spain and its people?
The way they honor and respect meals and mealtimes is something I am not used to yet rather admire.
What dish would you dream about if you were cast away to a desert island?
Definitely Thai food and Tacos too!
If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in life?
I´d love to open my own health and wellness center.