Mara Abbott

In the basement of the Reid Campus Center, students sat around a large table snacking on pizza and eagerly waiting to hear from alumna Mara Abbott ’08 about how to market yourself professionally.

“Ultimately, the skill of self-promotion is rarely taught in the classroom, despite being so incredibly useful in life,” George Felton ’15 said. “So each event that touches on it is really valuable for students, whether it's through the Student Engagement Center or the Student Activities Office.”

Abbott is one of the most decorated women in professional bicycle racing. She is a two-time U.S. national road race champion, winning the Giro Rosa, the Tour of the Gila and San Dimas Stage Race in 2013. Her other notable wins include the Cascade Classic in 2010 and Tour of the Gila in both 2007 and 2010.

“The question isn’t ‘why am I so awesome?’ It is how you’ll make the company better,” Abbott said to the students and staff present for the workshop. “It is ‘what can I bring to this company that no one else can bring?’”

She spoke about building a persona—something that exemplifies your skills and allows you to market yourself effectively.

“It’s a much more sustainable way to make this work,” she said. “If you don’t write your own story, other people will write it for you.”

Abbott was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where she grew up on sports. She came to Whitman and swam competitively on the varsity swim team. She started to cycle as a form of cross training, and from there, she joined the Whitman cycling team and went on to become a three-time Collegiate National Road Champion (2005, 2006, 2007), a two-time Collegiate National Individual Omnium Champion (2006, 2007) and Collegiate National Criterium Champion (2006).

Since graduation, Abbott has only continued to amass podium placements. By 2007, Abbott was racing as an elite with the Webcor Builders team and won her first of two U.S. National Road Championships (2007, 2010).

“It is wonderful to see Whitman working to bring strong female leaders to campus,” Arthur Shemitz ’17 said. “I left the workshop confident and excited for the many options a liberal arts education can bring.”

Abbott also spoke about her career as a professional cyclist and her life story in the Maxey Auditorium on Nov. 4.

“I really appreciated Mara's perspective of selling yourself by how you'll help achieve the company or team's goals, rather than by explaining why you're the best applicant ever,” Felton said. “That mentality makes the whole process less stressful because you no longer have to worry about balancing arrogance versus confidence.”