What It's Like To....Downshift Your Life

As CIO of the greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, Leslie Hunt was the Red Cross's Chief IT person in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I'm the poster child for reinvention. But if 9/11 hadn't happened, would I have changed? I don't know. I saw so much pain. That day still hurts, and I can still see it in people. For me, it made me stop and say, "Wait a minute. What am I doing for me, my family and my kids?" That's when I realized I needed to reevaluate my life.

My husband and I have a vacation house in Sea Bright, N.J., a town on the northern tip of the shore with a view of New York. After 9/11, I felt that I had to leave the city, so I moved there full time. I'd take the ferry to work, and every morning I'd wonder, Why can't I just stay here? Why do I have to go to Manhattan? So I let my contract at the Red Cross run out, and I left in June 2003.

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I spent that summer trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I'd been working in IT for years and wanted something slower paced, something that didn't have a lot of new learning every day. I knew I wanted to help people, and I realized I cared a lot about the future of the community, so I decided to try real estate. I've been working at an agency in Fair Haven, N.J., since July.

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Former New York Red Cross CIO Leslie Hunt shortly after 9/11.

A lot of the work I do is showing places, scheduling showings for clients and doing paperwork. It's really just basic project management stuff.

The pace is definitely different here. And even though that's what I wanted, at first it drove me crazy. There's no urgency. If you go to a restaurant, the waiter may or may not show up at the table to serve you. Same when you schedule appointments with contractors. If it's a nice day, they might just go fishing instead of showing up. But I'm getting used to it. If I want a shot of adrenaline, I can always go back to the city...for a visit.

—As told to Ben Worthen

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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