When they were young, Heather McCreery had a talk with her sister about their future.
"Our parents were older when they had us," McCreery said. "My father was principal of the middle school in Eldon, and parents of my friends were his students. I was really worried about my parents' age. So when I was young, I decided my sister and I needed to get the highest-paying jobs possible because Mom and Dad were going to need our help."
McCreery went on to become a lawyer at Turnbull & Stark P.C. in Jefferson City, and her sister became an optometrist in Rolla.
"I don't regret getting into the profession — not most days," she laughed.
Born and raised in Eldon, McCreery's parents still live there. She first got a teaching degree and taught Spanish for three years but felt she wanted to do something else, so she went on to get her law degree at MU in 2008.
McCreery does mostly elder law, working on estate planning and Medicaid planning. She said there's not a lot of courtroom work, which she likes.
She also serves as president of the Council for Drug Free Youth Coalition.
Married to husband Chris, who is also an attorney and serves in the Missouri National Guard, the couple is expecting their first child in early March.
Q. Who has invested in you and your career?
A. "I would definitely say Reg Turnbull. He picked me out. He didn't know me from anybody else and decided to give me a shot after I left the state, where I was practicing law for about six years. After I graduated law school, I had sent my resume here and didn't hear anything back. So when I left the state, I tried again, and it just happened they were looking for an attorney. He mentored me for two years before he retired last year."
Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your own success?
A. "Involvement in the community. I've been with the Council for Drug Free Youth for about two years and also serve on the Cole County Special Services board. Meeting people is important because I've definitely found out it's not what you know, but who you know. I think the No. 1 thing to do is to be able to work and communicate with people."
Q. Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
A. "My husband joined this firm last November and we bought into the firm, so we are now partners and we're in our mid-30s and small-business owners. I feel like that's pretty good — to own your own business at a young age and at a well-established firm."
Q. What do you see as the biggest issues facing women in the workplace?
A. "In the legal profession, female attorneys are still compared to male attorneys. When I go out to more rural counties, like back home in Miller County, I'm usually the only female in the courtroom and I've been, more than once, mistaken for a paralegal or secretary. 'What are you doing up here young lady?' — that sort of thing. It can be a challenge to be taken seriously. If you're in the outlying counties, not so much in Cole or Boone counties, and you're not one of the 'good old boys,' it's hard to break in."
Q. What drives you most in life and in your career?
A. "Just making my family proud of what I do and what I've done. I like what I do, but sometimes it is stressful. I am proud, though, of where I'm at."
Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?
A. "Try to be as self-assured as possible because it's very easy to be intimidated by not only male employees but other female competitors in the workforce. I think men are generally, even from a young age, given more encouragement than women are. It is difficult to learn. I don't think I really became confident until I was in my 30s."
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