Spotlight on Women
Martha Wyrsch, Executive V.P. and General Counsel, Sempra Energy
Photo by Jenny Siegwart
Where did you grow up?
Laramie, Wyoming. I came from a family of six children. I have an identical twin. My father was influential in our lives and he pushed us to be independent. My twin went to college in Colorado and I thought I could do better in my hometown, so I stayed in Laramie for college. Both my parents went to college in Wyoming. My father came from a family of 17 and he believed that we could do anything, so I developed a lot of confidence and I think it served me well.
What happened after college?
I went to Washington D.C. to work for Alan Simpson, a U.S. senator from Wyoming. He was very influential in my life.
What was the next step in your career path?
After working for the senator, I went to law school at George Washington University and that’s where I met my husband. He put me through school and I put him through. We moved from D.C. to Denver, where I joined a law firm, which was a terrific experience for me.
Do you have children?
Yes, I was older when I had my children. I was an associate at a law firm at the time my son was born. I had the opportunity to go inside, so I became general counsel for KN Energy. My daughter was born five years later. I have a very supportive husband and we made the choice to share the burden of parenting.
“We want to keep the industry fresh and focused on the future, and Sempra is on the leading edge of that here.”
How did you handle the challenges of managing your career and family?
I compartmentalize things. I don’t worry or fret about things. When I moved into executive companies, my husband scaled back his career and took on the lead. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have Gerry in my life. When my kids were growing up it was important for me to be available for spring break, so I worked that time into my schedule.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
Raising two healthy children. I’m proud of the people that I was able to influence and to see them move up. I help them see that taking a risk is very worthwhile. That is a lot of what I am doing here at Sempra—trying to build the next leadership team.
Did you ever want to quit?
Of course. There are times when you sit back and think, How did this happen? and How did we get to where we are?
What do you do for yourself?
I take care of myself, exercise every day, walk the hills or down to the beach, work with a trainer. I find reading fiction very relaxing. I always take at least a two-week vacation.
What do you do to mentor others?
I work with women in the energy industry. I find it very gratifying to spend time counseling these women. It’s difficult to attract young women to the industry. Sempra is good at that. We want to keep the industry fresh and focused on the future, and Sempra is on the leading edge of that here. We are looking at other sources of power, and that attracts young people to our company.
How did you get to San Diego?
I have known Debbie Reed my entire career. She approached me with this opportunity and I chose to take it rather than retiring.
What is in your future?
I will finish out my career working full time here and serving on public company boards. Then I will go wander in the woods of Wyoming and stay in a cabin.