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  • Evan Billups

Introducing Mara - our new case manager!



We are so excited to introduce Mara, our new case manager at AsiaWest Egg Donors and Intend Egg Donors! Mara is originally from Monterey, but recently moved to Portland with her partner. As someone with a background in biology and who is also interested in having a baby non-traditionally, the case manager position was perfect for Mara! Mara is a nature lover and also enjoys baking in her free time.


Where are you originally from?

Monterey, California. Born there, moved around a little bit. Got to live in the Philippines, Japan, Texas, but then we moved back to Monterey when I was in my teens.


What was your career background before coming to AsiaWest and Intend?

In school I was studying to become a doctor, and I did that thing where all the teenagers just go to the nearest retailer. I was lucky enough to work for a luxury resort in Pebble Beach. Did retail there for about eight years. They had me pretty much with a foot in the door with everything. So they had me doing online retail, buying, all that great stuff. So I had a really good handle on retail. Then afterwards, as part of wanting to get my med degree, I moved into the nonprofit space and I got a decent amount of experience working for a drug and rehab facility.


Was that also in Monterey?

Yeah, so there’s a tri-county area and that particular nonprofit served three different counties.


Cool! What was your specific role at the nonprofit?

I was the prop 47 program assistant, so that basically meant I was partially one of the hands in charge of setting up three new programs in a new a group of cities. So we were building an extension of our program in a brand new city from the ground up, so getting anything and everything. We were building a brand new facility so I was the main point of contact for contractors – I don’t like working with contractors! – hiring new staff, getting certified by the California board for drug and rehab – all that jazz. I had a lot of hats on!


Sounds like it! I’m curious what made you want to transition to a new job and what caught your eye about egg donation?

Well, I ended up during the pandemic to get my Master’s. It just seemed like a good time, and my partner was able to support both of us so it ended up working out really well. It was a good opportunity for me to just study, because I did an accelerated Master’s program, so it was a full MBA in two years instead of the typical four. During my schooling we moved to Portland which was really nice. We wanted a change of scenery. My partner is female so us trying for kids isn’t really a straightforward process, and we were thinking of trying in the next five years or so. The job opportunity with AsiaWest came up like exactly right around the same time that I was jumping into the rabbit hole of IVF and all the things that come with trying to have a baby the non-traditional way. So it just seemed like it fit.


That is quite serendipitous!

I know! I just took it as a sign like, oh my gosh this is something I’m really into right now. We’re super busy trying to figure out how we can make children happen for us and this was just a perfect opportunity that came along. And it just seemed a little good to be true actually because the office is five minutes from where I live, I have a background in biology and essentially doing all the things a case manager would do. So I was like this is a little too good to be true!


That’s amazing! With your background in biology, did you have much knowledge about IVF and that whole process, or is that something you’re kind of learning now?

I had some experience with it. I did my internship for my premed program in the neonatal unit, specifically the NICU, and it was super fulfilling and great dealing with those patients. But unfortunately, it was a little too much for me. It’s sick babies day in and day out. The NICU is definitely something for people who have a very special place in their heart for dealing with sick children – it’s a lot.


I imagine. Do you feel like there are a lot of skills from your retail and nonprofit background that transfer over to this new role as case manager?

Oh yeah definitely! I think my previous CEO, she kind of just handed me a really big grant and just said, hey I want you to be one of our leads in getting three different programs off the ground. And it was kind of just a blank check. She said, hey, I want you to make a new program – get it done. And I was like, okay let’s do this! I’m really grateful that she had faith in me, but also felt like she was taking a risk because that’s a lot! I’m grateful to her, but I don’t know that I would’ve had the same courage as her to hand that over to somebody new.


Well, she clearly thought that you could handle it!

Clearly!


Is there any part of this job in particular that you’re excited for, now that you’ve trained and seen it up close?

I think so far my favorite part has been meeting with the donors and intended parents. They’re so sweet and lovely to work with, and I think just with my experience working in the drug and rehab sector of healthcare, there’s a lot of having to be understanding about a lot of things, and that super translated to this job. There’s empathy, but there’s also excitement of starting life and getting that process going, and it’s such a wonderful opportunity to meet people at such an important time in their lives. I love it! I loved that aspect of working in retail, just talking to people and getting their story, and I get to do that which is pretty awesome!


Yeah that is a really amazing part of it. Can I ask if you and your partner are still looking into that for yourselves or have you put it on pause?

Yeah we’re definitely still looking into it. We’re maybe upping our timeline, instead of the next five years maybe the next seven. Just see where we’re at, because I know personally that I wanted to carry, but I don’t think it’s an option for me, so we’re trying to see if my partner feels comfortable. But we’re definitely looking for some sort of way in the near future.


Well, you have so many resources and information around you now!

Oh I know I do! I have a wealth of information all of a sudden. And the contacts needed!


I’m curious what you drew you guys to Portland?

We’re both California natives. We grew up in the Bay Area right below San Francisco, and as much as people like to think of sunny California, the Bay Area is not that sunny. It is a solid 55 all year round and super cloudy. And we both just wanted a place where we could experience all four seasons. We get a little bit of that here. Ironically enough, we moved to Portland just in time for snow-pocalypse. We moved mid-2019, didn’t get to explore the city at all because of Covid, and then snow-pocalypse hit literally that February in 2020 and then it’s just been Covid since then! So we haven’t gotten to explore as much as we wanted, but Portland is a bigger city, definitely way bigger than both of our hometowns, and it was just something we wanted to experience. And also it was far enough away from our families that we feel like we’re independent.


You did come at just the time that everything shut down!

I know, we were super bummed out. We’re both hiking and nature lovers, and we have a lot of that in Monterey. We were hoping to explore all the green here in Portland, and then that ended up not happening.


Well hopefully over the summer you will have more time!

Yeah, with all the restrictions coming down we’re just super excited to do what we wanted to do in the first place.


Exactly! What do you like to do in your free time?

We’re hiking people definitely. Huge nature lovers, especially oceans, beaches, that kind of thing. I’m also a huge fan of experimenting with baking. I’m a big baker. I don’t like cooking that much, but I’m definitely a baker. Cooking is fine, but baking is where my heart’s at. It’s the treat at the end of the meal and I’d rather do that then have the pressure of feeding everybody. You don’t have to have dessert, but you probably want it!


What’s your favorite thing to bake?

I have these things called crack bars and it’s basically like a graham cracker crust. It’s almost cheesecake-y with butterscotch chips all throughout the bar – they’re so addictive! They’re so unhealthy for you because it’s literally a bunch of sugar, a bunch of creams, some condensed milk, and then a bunch of golden butterscotch weaved into graham cracker crust.


That’s why it’s so good!

It’s super indulgent and will make you gain weight like crazy, but it’s so yummy.


I love that. I baked a lot during the pandemic because I felt like there was nothing else to do so might as well!

I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon – I did it!


How did it turn out?

Not as well as I hoped because my starter was weird. It was hard to know if my starter was at a good consistency to rise, so I think my first two loaves were a little flat. The sour was there, the tang, but it wasn’t that big, poofy round loaf that you want.


Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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