Carol Cheswich

Carol Cheswick
Women's Business Development Council 

I am a very strong proponent of women’s education and am committed to building access to women’s education worldwide.

I worked my tail off during college.  My first year was a little shaky as I learned from one warm and loving English professor that “I could not read and I could not write.”  After surviving his course, and I truly mean surviving, I started to understand what attending Wellesley really meant.
Art History was my salvation.  The blending of disciplines and visual stimuli got my blood pumping.  I loved it so much, I ran out of courses and finished my major requirement by the end of sophomore year.  I had discovered the joy of sinking into a subject and just “getting it”.  This was and is a subject I am made to study.  My brain loves it.  While I learned I could take any course and perform well, I couldn’t wait for my art classes.
In an effort to become more employable post-graduation, I added a second major, political science with a concentration in the eastern bloc countries.  This, of course, provided me with a very good excuse to spend a semester abroad studying the Hapsburg art collections in Vienna, traveling to iron curtain countries, while consuming vast quantities of potent Viennese wine.  My Vienna experience also gave me an early taste for what a Wellesley education had done for me.
I was in an eastern European history class with students who had come from 12 college exchange schools such as Trinity, Middlebury, and Wesleyan.  I was the only woman from a single sex school.  Sitting in the front row, I once again raised my hand and answered one of the professor’s questions.  A male student sitting to my left, leaned forward and said, “You know Carol, I really respect you, you are the only woman who has the balls to speak in class.”  The rest of my female classmates sat in the back of the room and rarely said a word.

I got my MBA at night while working full time. This was before computers or laptops or even the internet.  I studied on the train in the morning and at night and had to go into the city again on the weekends to do group projects. Needless to say, I was a zombie for four years and truly didn’t have a life.
I majored in Finance instead of my preferred marketing courses because I was told that a woman would be taken more seriously with heftier financial credentials.  Again, I realize that I can do anything.  I just needed to realize that just because I can do anything, doesn’t mean I should do it, or even want to do it.  Why did I listen to that advice?

My career started with three jobs over three decades.  I have a history of taking a job and sticking with it regardless of the circumstances.  Fortunately I was often given new responsibilities, which kept the work somewhat interesting.  I worked with many wonderful people and some who were not so wonderful.  Lets leave it at that.

Upon graduation, I and 15 of my Wellesley classmates went to work in New York City in the Management Trainee program at Citibank.  All of my friends went to Upper Manhattan amidst the poshest of the posh neighborhoods.  Me, I went to a branch on 34th Street and Seventh Avenue right across the street from Macy’s and Penn Station, right in the middle of the Garment District.
For the first month I was called the “College Girl” by a perky lady from Queens who had “I love Lucy” red hair and a penchant for light blue eyeliner.  Few of my co-workers had college degrees or ambitions to go onto graduate school.
By the end of two years, I had any semblance of Wellesley elitism kicked out of me.  I knew every bag person in Penn Station and spoke with anyone who had the patience to stand in line to talk with me.  My very first customer didn’t understand why he had received a Con Ed bill.  Another came in and unbeknownst to me urinated on the floor as I was talking to him about cashing his check, another repeatedly smashed her head against the glass frustrated when she learned that service fees had destroyed the meager balance in her passbook savings account.
In retrospect, this job was very much suited to my personality, despite its somewhat gritty nature.  I love being with people, I have been told that I become energized in the middle of a crowd.  I will add that the crowd needs to be smart, engaged, and funny, but I digress.  The daily deluge of humanity provided me with non-stop stimulation and further developed my ability to talk to anyone about anything.
I spent seven years at retail banking and marketing at Citibank where I learned to reconcile bank statements, speak to anyone about anything, and complete direct marketing mailings to customers interested in home equity loans and lines of credit.  I became mired in the bureaucracy and was actually told that I couldn’t get promoted because I did my job too well.  See ya!

Moving to Scudder, was a transition to what I thought would lead me to sanity.  On my first day, I was reprimanded for running to a meeting.  I was late.  One was not late at Scuddah, Stevens and Clahhk, one moved with decorum, purpose and dignity.  I am amazed I stayed there for as long as I did.
At Scudder, I worked in a group affiliated with AARP, where we learned to be sensitive to the needs of the over 50 crowd.  Since I am now a member of the 50-plus group, I can be somewhat thankful of the sensitivity training we completed which encouraged young telemarketers to be patient as our customers looked for their reading glasses or spoke too loudly when their hearing aids were turned off. This part of my career was all about collaborating with lawyers, compliance officers, investment managers, marketers, operations managers and advertising agencies.  It was a balancing act to integrate everyone’s ideas into a well-conceived marketing communication.  Basically it was a nightmare of conciliation.
I was then moved into Scudder’s investment management arm, which involved working with a lot of guys in ties.  Research indicated that I took on a daughter role in this environment.  I learned a lot about investing.  I learned a lot about the OBN (Old Boy Network), and I made some fantastic friends.  Scudder has since dissolved into a haze of mergers and buyouts.  I stopped commuting and started working in the ‘burbs.

My last “corporate” job was as an investment manager in a family business where I worked closely with family members to serve the needs of high net worth individuals and their families. I loved the interpersonal aspects of my investment management career — talking with people, learning how they ticked, how they felt about money and how it influenced their lives and decisions.  While I could appreciate the story of a great company, great management, a great product, I found the daily machinations of the stock market fluctuations somewhat tedious.
There as a voice inside, saying, I need more.  I can’t sit in this office behind a bank of computers watching numbers blink at me all day.  My days were crawling by.  I knew how “happy” felt, and I wanted more of that feeling.