8 Questions With Donna Carpenter, The #GirlBoss Behind Burton Snowboards
December 9, 2014
We’ve had the chance to chat with tons of amazing women here at SHEfinds and Donna Carpenter, the President of Burton Snowboards is no exception. Not only has she been with Burton since the 80s–she used to answer the phones!–but she also oversees The Chill Foundation, a non-profit that serves youth in 13 cities across North America. Oh yeah, and she’s a mom of three, too! Talk about a super woman, right?
We couldn’t pass up the opp to pick Donna’s brain about her remarkable career path and what it’s been like being a #girlboss–get to know her below.
SHEfinds: How did you find your way to Burton?
Donna Carpenter: I was 18 and at a bar celebrating New Year’s Eve in Southern Vermont. This guy named Jake hit on me while I was waiting in line for the bathroom. He had started Burton Snowboards about four years earlier out of a barn in Londonderry, Vermont. I was studying Political Science at Columbia University at the time, and just like most people back then, I had never heard of snowboarding–not many people had. Later that week, I agreed to go on a first date with Jake, and he showed me these wooden planks with a rope tied to them for steering and said they were called snowboards. It was the winter of 1982, and snowboarders weren’t allowed at resorts at this point. I took a leap of faith I guess, tried snowboarding and got hooked. Jake and I got married a year later. From that point on, I was super involved with the company. In the early days, I answered customer service calls in our bedroom and helped Jake laminate snowboards in our barn. Then I went on to open our business up in Europe in the mid 80s. After that, I served as the CFO from 1989-1992. Fast forward to today, and now I’m Burton’s President, overseeing the Women’s Business, our Sustainability efforts, global HR, our legal department and running Chill, the non-profit Jake and I founded over 15 years ago.
SF: What’s your favorite part of working at Burton?
DC: My favorite part is the people I work with. They’re so inspiring. I always say we’re like a tribe. Snowboarding before heading to the office is amazing, too.
SF: Tell us one shocking thing people don’t know about Burton?
DC: Here’s a shocker–not everyone who works at Burton is a snowboarder. But we do our best to convert them to snowboarders once they start. We offer free lessons, free season passes and discounted gear for everyone–so that’s a big plus. And I personally set out to teach women how to ride who haven’t gone before.
SF: Top three pieces of advice for women looking to be #GirlBosses like you?
DC: 1. Believe in yourself. I heard a stat once that in job interviews, women are far more likely to list out all the reasons why they might not be able to do the job, whereas men are way more likely to boast about all the reasons why they’re the best for the job (even if they aren’t). Confidence goes a long way.
2. Take risks. Everyone has fears about failing at something. But sometimes, you have to filter out that voice and just go for it.
3. Have fun. Having passion for what you do at work and making sure you’re setting aside time for fun things outside of work is so important to good leadership. Fun is contagious–and if your team knows you love what you do, it’s really inspiring.
SF: What’s the one thing in your closet you can’t live without?
DC: My Burton first layer leggings and shirts. It’s perfect for wearing to yoga. On cold winter nights, it doubles as PJs and of course, there’s nothing better to wear under outerwear on the hill.
SF: Heels or flats? Why?
DC: Flats–and usually boots. It’s cold in Vermont most of the year.
SF: If you weren’t running this company, what would you be doing?
DC: Traveling to the far reaches of the world, hanging out with my three sons and Jake and snowboarding as much as I can. But I’m lucky, because I can do all of these things while working at Burton–so I really have the best of both worlds.
SF: Most favorite vacation spot ever?
DC: South Island, New Zealand. It’s a snowboarding and surfing paradise. The people, the landscapes and the laid-back culture make it one of the best-kept secrets on the planet.
Click through the slideshow to shop some of our favorite Burton products, perfect for the winter season ahead.