Major: Political Science
Year of Graduation: December 2005
Current Position: Manager, Corporate Responsibility & Executive Director, ArcelorMittal USA Foundation, Chicago, IL
Please give a brief description of your previous position: I was the Founder and CEO of a tech startup located in Chicago called Career Girl Network. This is an online media website for women who are interested in gaining resources, information, and building a network to help them empower themselves in their careers. You can check out Career Girl Network and get advice for your career at www.careergirlnetwork.com.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After graduating from CSB, I worked my way up through numerous nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities and found my passion in organizations and programs that served the needs of women and girls. Through my work in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, I was introduced to women at all stages in their careers, from those who were just beginning to incredible female CEOs who had "figured it out." I developed a passion for the issues that both held back and propelled women in business. After moving to Chicago in 2010, I embarked on a career in corporate fundraising consulting where I worked with additional women's organizations and realized that my passion was in entrepreneurship and working within my own company to grow opportunities for women around the world to excel in their chosen fields. My new position represents my desire to return to my roots in philanthropy, bringing my experience as a nonprofit fundraiser and the skills I've built as the CEO of a social enterprise initiative to the corporate sector to influence key giving decisions in a multinational company.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
I recently heard someone say that entrepreneurship is like "chewing glass and staring into the abyss." And as laughable as this description is, it's true. Being an entrepreneur-especially when you're out on your own and before you have staff and a Board of Directors to guide you-can be incredibly isolating. It's up to you to wake up every morning, motivate yourself, set your schedule, reach out to powerful people, and drive your business. If you succeed or fail....it's all on you. And while it's terrifying at times, it's also phenomenally empowering. I control, by the work I do, my schedule, my goals, my achievements, and ultimately the amount of money I make. I'm able to create my life the way I see it working perfectly and develop partnerships that fulfill me both inside and outside my company.
What skills are important in your field?
Entrepreneurs must be expert networkers. You cannot build a company on your own, and in the beginning stages, you can't pay people to help you. You have to rely on the strength of a network surrounding you to chip in and help you out when you need it most. You must be willing not only to network but to ask for help clearly and with passion. Of course, vision is important, but equally as key is having a strong business acumen. I am grateful that I worked in multiple organizations and learned to build budgets, marketing plans, and how to create strong partnerships that resulted in revenue growth. Without that basic business knowledge, I would be nowhere in my business.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job? Most challenging?
The most satisfying part of my job is seeing the impact Career Girl Network is making on the women who interact with us and are members of our network. When I meet someone who is a reader and she tells me Career Girl Network taught her the interviewing skills she used to get her dream job or when a mother tells me she's reconnecting with her daughter over Career Girl Network articles. I see every day the need that Career Girl Network is filling and the ways we're making big changes for individual women. That's what makes me feel confident and strong and keeps me forward-thinking, knowing that we'll affect the whole of women and girls over time. The most challenging aspect of my job is having to choose which paths to follow and which to forego. It would be easy to allow every opportunity and every partnership offer to take over your business. I have to be strategic and make choices that don't just affect Career Girl today but will make it a strong business 10-15 years from now as well. Being strategic can mean hurting feelings and saying no, which is challenging!
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for your career?
First and foremost, I would point to the one-on-one relationships I developed with professors. I credit Political Science Professor (and my freshman symposium prof) Kay Wolsborn, with the path of my career. She knew me so well...better, at the time, than I probably knew myself. And when I was considering a different path, she very nicely but sternly told me that she just knew I needed to work in nonprofit organizations. She was right. The same goes for Claire Haeg, my advisor. Her advice and guidance still motivates me today and even seven years after leaving CSB/SJU, I maintain a relationship with her that is one of the most important in my career and life. Second to my development at CSB/SJU, I would credit my internship experience in the Political Science Department. Along with a handful of other Bennies and Johnnies, I had the opportunity to live and work for a summer in Washington, DC. This kind of experience built my resume and gave me a clear path in my career more than any other single experience in my life. I learned what I wanted to do, what I didn't want to do, and began to form a network that still stands strong in Washington, DC today. Again, even seven years after graduation, I keep in touch with my friends from that internship program and my coworkers from Washington, DC. I would not be where I am today or have had any of the experiences I've had without that internship, and the guidance of Claire and Kay!