Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I was born and raised in Boston — Jamaica Plain, specifically, where I now also live after several years away from Boston. As a very young child, I was shy and quiet, and would immerse myself in books or my Lego set. Around 4th grade, I started doing pretty well academically and as my grades improved, so did my confidence to speak up in class and on the playground. In my preteen and high school years, I was pretty outgoing and social and participated in band, sports and academic clubs.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
In college, I studied Economics with a secondary focus on Psychology (at the time, Behavioral Economics was a growing and popular subject so it was a perfect fit!). I discovered my interest in Economics when I was a senior in high school. On our first day of class, we played the Prisoner’s Dilemma game and I ended up learning about all sorts of real life examples in business and public policy of this game theory, and it was super fascinating to me.
Going into and in my early years of college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. However, as I learned more about Economics, it became clearer to me that a career in business would be a better fit and I had to do a fast pivot to secure a business internship in my junior year. Thankfully, American Express gave me a chance and I did a summer internship, and eventually returned full time. I worked within Amex’s Strategic Planning Group (SPG), which served as an internal consulting arm. The model for SPG was to be staffed on a new project every few months. Through this role, I was exposed to many different types of business problems across many parts of the business.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
My career path started at Amex. Next was FinLeap (Berlin based fintech incubator), an MBA at Wharton, management consulting at Kearney, strategy and finance at Texas Capital Bank, and my current role at Knox Financial.
Critical moment #1 was definitely landing my first job at Amex. As I mentioned in my prior response, I scrambled a little to get my first job out of college and I fortuitously landed in financial services. Critical moment #2 was when I decided to do a pre-MBA internship in Berlin at a Fintech incubator named FinLeap — although I only spent 3 months there, it really exposed me to the breadth of sub-industries within financial services that were being disrupted by technology and solidified my interest in Fintech. Critical moment #3 was deciding to leave management consulting to go to Texas Capital Bank to help launch a new digital consumer bank. After two years of being exposed to numerous business problems, industries, and companies in consulting, I realized what got me most excited about business were the projects where I was helping to build and launch new things. Critical moment #4 was deciding to join the start-up world and becoming a member of the Knox Financial team, which is where I am today. Critical moment #4 has been my best decision to date as I love the fast pace and the interesting problems I am solving every day.
Inside the Reichstag in Berlin (which houses the lower house of the Parliament)
What is your current role and responsibilities?
At Knox Financial, we are committed to helping people turn the homes they are moving out of into investment properties.
I sit on our Growth team, which is responsible for helping our company expand and grow, including expansion into new markets, launch of new business lines or development of new processes to help the business scale. Specifically, my role is to help launch new partnerships and products that will help our clients from a financing perspective. For many people who are moving out of their homes, keeping their home as an investment property is a financially smart decision (plus there is the sentimental value of keeping the home they have lived in), but figuring out everything that comes with turning a home into an investment property — from financing to finding a tenant and doing proactive maintenance — can give people pause. My role is to work with our internal and external partners to provide the tools and products that will help our clients navigate the complicated financing process.
At a recent Knox gathering
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
No, but that’s more because I had very little idea of where I would be professionally. That being said, I love my current position and I like to tell myself that if I had the foresight and clarity to plan for a career goal, it would be where I am today!
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
Raise your hand and don’t be afraid to stretch yourself in a function or area that is new to you. I think there is value in being specialized in a specific skill set or role, but there is also value in having experience in many functions (even if it is just volunteering to work closely with another team). We often call this “knowing enough to be dangerous”. I think I can take on the role that I am in now because I have dabbled in finance, in marketing, in sales enablement, and product.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
Three things really come to mind: 1) Problem solving, especially in a whitespace, 2) Managing many competing priorities and 3) Not being afraid to roll up my sleeves and help my teammates in Product, Marketing and Sales help me achieve my goals
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s the most challenging
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am helping everyday Americans build their investment portfolio and keep the homes that they love as investment properties, while also challenging myself mentally with very interesting problems. The most challenging part is navigating a very complicated and heavily regulated industry — but having been in financial services for over a decade, that is not new to me!
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Every time that I (along with my teammates) have launched a new campaign, product or business. One example that particularly comes to mind is when I led a new campaign at American Express called Dine For A Cause. The campaign donated $1 every time a cardmember made a dining purchase to a non-profit organization called Share Our Strength, whose mission was to help end childhood and poverty in America. The campaign was a win-win: it was for a cause that was close to my heart and it also helped drive topline revenue to the business.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
Every year, I do college admissions interviews — I love this volunteer work as it is always so inspiring to see the amazing achievements of our young leaders.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to cook and explore new recipes and to try out new gym classes / exercises. If I have a lot of free time (a real luxury), I like to play board games or read on my back porch.
In a cooking class in London
How do you manage stress?
By giving myself the space and time to do something for me — even if it’s just a simple walk to help clear my mind and reset.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Usually just one on workdays and zero on the weekends.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
I always recommend What Money Can’t Buy by modern-day philosopher Michael Sandel. In the book, Sandel tackles the moral limits of capitalism and where markets should or should not play a role. It may sound a little dry in my short synopsis, but in reading it, you get to explore cool questions like “If markets can help to allocate adoption of babies or donations of organs more efficiently, should there be a market for selling babies or organs?” or “Should you pay kids for good grades, even if it gets the job done by incentivizing them to study?”
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Two pieces of advice come to mind:
Do not be afraid if you do not have every step of your career planned out. You should have an idea (it can be extremely rough and it can be a moving target) of where you want to go so that with each move in your career that you make, you are building towards that goal, but you do not need every step mapped out. A lot of the beauty of building your career comes from the lessons you learn along the way about yourself -- what excites you, what you find rewarding and what works with your personal life. And, you should take that feedback into consideration versus trying to stick to a rigid plan.
Maintain the relationships you build with your peers, your leaders and your mentors throughout your career. It is fun to keep in touch and see where people are in their careers, but it can also help you as you navigate your own career. Twice now, I’ve been hired into new roles at new companies with former managers -- in fact, one of my hiring leaders was my first ever manager when I was an intern in college!