Roberta Garland (TMC ’73) headlined the President’s Council’s Spring Executive Leadership networking event on May 10 at the New York Athletic Club.
Garland, a cum laude graduate of Thomas More College, founded Garland Actuarial in 2002 and claims Alaska Airlines, Costco and Williams Sonoma as clients. She told the audience how she rose through the ranks of accounting giant Arthur Andersen and how she rebooted her career after the firm collapsed in 2002 in the wake of the Enron bankruptcy.
“I remember bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t an equity partner at Arthur Andersen and my husband said, ‘There’s also an upside to that. It means you don’t have a lot of equity at risk.’ I told him, ‘Don’t be silly. Arthur Andersen’s been here for 85 years,’” she said. “Thankfully, he was very gracious not to say, ‘I told you so.’”
A native of the Bronx, Garland said she greatly benefited from attending Villa Maria Academy, which is run by the Sisters of Notre Dame of Montreal.
“What was special about them was their dedication to learning and especially to empowering young women. We never heard things like, ‘Girls aren’t good at math,’” she said.
Upon graduation, she wanted to stay local, but not at an all-women’s college.
“Fordham was the ideal combination of a big school environment with all the possibilities you could want, but also it had that intimate feeling that I was used to,” she said. “You could go to your professors and sit down and talk to them.”
As for the issue of women working in male-dominated fields, Garland said it is a shame that it remains prevalent in 2011.
“Your worth is not determined by how many hours you work, how many conferences you attend, or how many sales calls you make or briefs you write, but by your contributions to yourself, your family, your employer, your clients and society as a whole,” she said.
“I’ve always felt that had I made a decision to work 60 to 70 hours a week, I might have progressed up the corporate ladder faster. But I deliberately chose not to; I deliberately chose to keep my family time very special,” she said. “I felt that sometimes the idea of working 60 hours a week, staying until eight o’clock at night, wasn’t really accomplishing a lot.”
Mita Menezes, a first-year student in the Graduate School of Business Administration, said the event interested her because it gave her a better sense of the Fordham business schools as a whole.
“It’s great to have events that are for undergraduates as well as graduate students, because graduate students don’t have as much exposure to the undergraduate University experience,” Menezes said. “This was a little bit of an opportunity for us to see what the culture is like at Gabelli.”
James Viceconte (GSB ’85) managing principal at Global Securities Advisors, LLC, was one of a dozen members of the President’s Council who spoke with students in the networking portion of the evening. It was the fifth time he had attended one of the council’s networking events, and he said he continually emphasizes to students the value of belonging to the Fordham family.
“I stress that they should take full advantage of that network—not only in the world of finance, where everybody seems to be so focused—but outside of it as well,” Viceconte said.
“There are a lot of other careers in media and law and entertainment. There’s just a lot of other things going on in New York,” he said. “A lot of people, when they think of finance, they focus on Wall Street, and that’s not the only thing happening.”
Although he majored in finance and minored in economics, Viceconte said he took every liberal arts course he could, from philosophy to Latin. Many students at the event asked him to explain his career path, to understand how he got to where he is now.
“One of the questions was, ‘Was there one thing that stuck with me in terms of what would make someone successful or persevere in their career?’” he said. “People want to get a sense of whether there is continuity—some thread that they can see in someone’s career path.”