Q&A: Dawn Garcia Ward


Dawn Garcia Ward. Courtesy Warner Norcross & Judd

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Dawn Garcia Ward sees herself as “a pioneer” in the field of data record information management and information governance.

A litigator by training, she has spent more than a decade advising Fortune 500 corporations and other businesses how to properly manage data — a practice that saves money and helps reduce legal risk. 

As an attorney at Warner Norcross & Judd's Holland office, Ward said she works to create legally defensible document management programs “that stand up in court and stand out on the bottom line.”

Biggest career break?

Seventeen years ago, I was a brand new attorney who as introduced to records retention — an area of the law I had never heard of and didn’t know existed at the time. I was tasked to create a records retention program for a global, tier-one auto supplier, essentially from the ground up. If Candace Dugan had not given me this project, I’m not sure I would have found my legal career calling. 

Proudest moment?

When my dad brought my mom, who was nearing the end of her battle with Alzheimer’s, to an outdoor soccer game. She already couldn’t talk or move well. This was at a time when most adults did not know what to say or how to react to someone with the disease, and my kids yelled out with happiness and pride at seeing her, “That’s my grandma!”

Best advice you’ve ever received?

A friend told me: the good news is that nothing lasts forever (fear and sadness over an event eventually subside); the bad news is that nothing lasts forever (happiness and excitement when something great happens also go away). But, the best news is that God is eternal. 

How did you make your first dollar? 

Watering trees in the desert. I grew up in New Mexico. In the summer, my parents paid me $1 dollar to water each tree around in the house.

Most-treasured possession? 

I’d have to say my wedding ring. I think it’s irreplaceable — not because it is extremely unique or expensive, but because it’s part of me now. It’s just about taken root into my finger. It’s a great reminder of the wonderful life I have with my family.

Dream job?

Overseeing and managing large-scale information governance programs, not just for current companies, but for other organizations I have an affinity for, such as my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital, Hope College, Perrigo, Google, Amazon and the Alzheimer’s Association.  

If I were president for a day, I would…? 

Sign into law (assuming the bill was ready to sign when I arrived) a requirement that presidential pardons may only be issued in the first three years in office, unless some very narrowly defined exception exists. For every pardon, the president must issue an explanation to the public and answer questions from Congress regarding this explanation. 

Last book you’ve read?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2: The Sea of Monsters,” by Rick Riordan. My 9-year-old son was so enamored by these books, he asked me to read one, so we could talk about it. I loved it.

Last thing you Googled?

Swiss Coffee Benjamin Moore paint

Your worst habit?

Taking every last second I have to work on a project. If a have five days to complete a project, I will take the full five days. I survive on false deadlines.

To unwind, I like to…?

Have my family around me, snuggled on the couch, watching a good movie

Dream vacation?

A month-long stay in the summer with my family in a large, well-decorated apartment with full amenities in Chicago, along with tickets to the theater and museums, a list of restaurants we were required to try and a spending allowance.

Favorite food?

By far, tostadas — no meat, just beans

Person you most admire? 

I most admire an amalgamation person who would have my dad’s love, kindness, respect and talent to be a 24/7 caregiver to the very sick (including my mom who suffered with Alzheimer’s), my husband’s never-wavering love, energy and enthusiasm to keep us all happy and engaged, my daughter’s sense of humor, daringness and imagination and my son’s courage, thirst for knowledge, focus and athletic ability. 

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