Eight Questions With: Nancy Bistritz-Balkan

The Director of Cybersecurity Communications Program at McKesson tells all about her love of public speaking, Italy and alligator pears

If you could teach a college class, what would it be called? And what would it cover?

I think I would call it: “Public Speaking: Like a Boss.” Public speaking is a passion of mine, and I think that comes from my father, who has done it his entire life. I speak for professional purposes, and personal ones as well. And I’ve done this since I spoke at my high school graduation in 1990. As such, I’m always surprised at people who are terrified of it, and more importantly, people who don’t do it well. If you’re passionate about the topic, confident in yourself, and are intimately familiar with the subject, you cannot go wrong. And despite all the PowerPoint courses on the subject or images of people sitting in their underwear, it simply boils down to remembering no one will know if you make a mistake!

What can’t you live without? OR What is your secret vice?

This sounds like a food question, or maybe I’m just hungry, so: avocados. I eat a half an avocado every morning and swear by it. Also known as “alligator pears,” I am completely obsessed with this power food, and have eaten one every day for about five years. If I don’t have one to start my day, it’s usually not a good morning.

What is the best business advice you have ever received?

Before I left for college, my father gave me a plaque that says, “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue these vigorously.” I don’t know that it’s business or personal advice, but I have applied it to both. I despise the saying, “It’s not personal – it’s business,” because in my mind, business IS personal. No business (or work – whichever word you choose) should be your life, but my philosophy is when and if business stops becoming personal, you need to find another line of work.

What is your favorite place in the world to visit?

Hands down: Italy. It is one of the few places I’ve been where everything was delicious – the food, the wine, the sights, the weather, the history. Everything delighted my senses and left me wanting to see more. The other thing that I loved about Italy is its simplicity. Whether it’s a dish full of pasta and olive oil, or a simple glass of table wine, nothing needed to be overdone to be wonderful. It doesn’t hurt that I have Italian roots (so I may be biased), but I could go back to Italy over and over.

What is the smartest marketing, communications or PR thing you’ve ever done?

Disobey the president of a company. Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that, but there was a situation with a well-known media outlet that had approached a company I worked for about participating in a segment it was airing. The combination of the outlet and the story they were aiming to tell was compelling, but the president of the company was reluctant to participate and cautioned against it. At the end of the day, we participated in the segment, and it resulted in finally being able to tell a story we had always wanted to tell – to the tune of 17 minutes. As a PR professional, there is something to be said about going with your gut.

Who is the person you most admire?

Other than members of my family, I most admire my friends with Lupus. I have lived with Lupus since 2006, and thankfully, have successfully lived a productive life with the disease. It doesn’t mean I don’t grapple with it – I do. However, most of my friends with Lupus, who are my age, cannot work, and have had to abandon many of their life’s passions. I admire their ability to live the life they’ve been dealt with such positive attitudes.

What is your motto or favorite quote? Where is it from?

“People in hell want ice water; that doesn’t mean they get it.” I saw a movie about Patsy Cline when I was younger, and it’s a quote from that movie. I’m not sure she coined the phrase, but it was in the movie, and I love it. I think one of the reasons I love it is that people overuse the words, “I want” all the time – to the point where it’s annoying. We don’t always get what we want – in fact, most times, we don’t. So, when I hear someone make a comment that starts with, “I want …,” I typically follow with that phrase.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be?

A veterinarian. I went to Auburn University and began studying animal science. I quickly learned I am not a math or science person – which is unfortunate because to be a veterinarian, you should excel in these areas. I moved out of the college of science and math and into the school of liberal arts, but I always wondered what it would be like to be a veterinarian.


Eight questions with… is an occasional series where we ask marketers to share a little of their professional and personal insights. To suggest someone you’d like us to ask eight questions – or to answer them yourself! – go to https://arketi.com/8questions.

By Arketi – November 20, 2019

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