2018’s Five Fierce Females of Lake Highlands

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Rachel Roberts-Pickett had just accepted a job in Dallas when she packed up and moved to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She spent seven years in Mississippi and Louisiana, where she worked for Hagerty Consulting to redevelop storm-stricken areas. She’s returned to her Texas roots now and is the vice president of strategic operations at Red Leaf Investments. Roberts-Pickett also volunteers with 100 Women of Lake Highlands, SISTAWorks, the African American museum and organized a Bring Back Our Girls rally, to name a few.

Her favorite neighborhood spots: 

We go to Shady’s all the time. My son is an athlete, so he’s always doing games. It’s the reliable family spot where we can chill after the game, and the food is really good. Bigger than Shady’s is the Audelia Library. My son and I probably go there twice a week. Our library at home is so massive that I just finally decided it didn’t make sense to buy books. They do the best events for kids and continuing education. I just think it’s a gem. 

What she’s most proud of professionally: 

During Katrina, I would say I’m most proud that 15 or 16 years after the hurricane, I see the fruits of my labor, the work that I did there. You see the revitalization. You see the beach has been basically reconstructed. You see all of these municipal buildings that are back online. Even the basic things like police officers in uniform. Those were part of the process for me when I was writing grants for municipalities and things of that nature. With Red Leaf, this is such a different animal. We had just bought a golf course that neither my boss nor I had any experience in. It was one of those things where it wasn’t as successful as it probably could be and needed to be. Within the first year of being here, we completed a $3-million renovation of the place. 

What it’s like switching from the public to the private sector:

I have this entrepreneurial spirit. I just needed the opportunity to go out and pursue it on some level, so definitely no regrets.  When you’re working in public sector or you’re working in nonprofit, you always get to see the fruits of your labor. This is more about making money, but you’re also helping build jobs, you’re helping to grow a company. So those are attributes I don’t dismiss at the end of the day. 

Scariest moment in her career:

I have gone into things where I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. Katrina is a perfect example. You’re given this authority. You walk onto a scene, and you’ve never been given this level of experience. You walk into a situation where it’s a disaster zone. When I show people the pictures I have from Katrina, they say to me, “This looks like when I was in Iraq and a bomb went off.” You are literally driving through that. You don’t have any experience, and you’re like, “I need to figure out a way to make these people whole.”

What leadership qualities she values:

I always want to be the type of leader that people feel comfortable coming to. I always want to be that person that someone doesn’t feel like, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, but I’m nervous to tell my boss that I don’t know.” They can learn from me. I’m holding them accountable, but they are not fearful. 

I always want to be the type of leader that people feel comfortable coming to.

How she handles gender discrimination:

This #MeToo movement has brought up so many moments in your career that you think about and just cringe. I would say I’ve been very fortunate but not unscathed. Probably the biggest place I experienced it would be during my time in New Orleans and Mississippi. You’re working in a male-dominated environment dominated by these hardnose construction types. As far as direct incidences, we had some crazy things. When we first started the project, we were in hotels that didn’t necessarily have security, and we’d get knocks on the door from these drunken construction guys. It was scary sometimes.