The Day Job: senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Principal Financial Group Inc.

Mary O’Keefe has been with Principal since 1990 and was promoted to her current position in 2004.


The Hobby: Showing Horses


Watch out for flying pigs; the Mary O’Keefe of 12 years ago didn’t see this coming.

It was then that she got her son, Michael, a pet horse and consequently fell in love with riding and showing horses.

Though O’Keefe had never been an athlete growing up, she began competing at shows all over the Midwest and had what she called a pretty good season in 2011.

“You’re being very, very modest,” cut in Vikki Vogel, who owns Heartland Stables, where O’Keefe keeps all three of her American saddlebred horses.

That she was.

In 2011 O’Keefe, riding her 12-year-old gelding, Shady Creek’s Genius, was the American Saddlebred Horse Association’s National High Point Award winner for the amateur three-gaited park division. She also won the national award from Saddle and Bridle magazine in the same category and won the Iowa Horse Shows Association’s overall high point award.

Modest indeed, but the success has surprised O’Keefe.

“My motto was when pigs fly,” O’Keefe said. “I actually have a pin of a pig with wings. So it’s been a fun surprise to do well.”

But perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. Three times a week, O’Keefe escapes work and drives out to the stable in Grimes and trains with Amanda Simpson, a trainer at the stable who has been working with O’Keefe since the beginning.

“This is a challenge to me that is completely different,” O’Keefe said. “It’s not something that I am inherently good at so I really have to work at it, but it’s something that completely takes my mind off work."