At Montrose’s Professional Forum & Networking Dinner, a group of successful Montrose alumnae shared advice with upper school students and young alumnae. The eight alumnae, representing a variety of professional backgrounds and expertise, shared their insight and discussed career experiences.
In small-group discussions, topics ranged from the importance of flexibility and willingness to take on new challenges, to the skills needed to navigate ethical challenges in the workplace.
Megan Fox '88, Associate Vice President of Knowledge Management and Information Technology at Jobs for the Future, reminded young women of the importance of intellectual habits they are already developing at Montrose: "Often, whatever the technical skills of a job are, you can learn. So although your job may evolve, you maintain those critical skills: listen, follow through, be responsible, be responsive." Responsiveness and relationship building was a theme touched on by small business owner Michelle Domey ‘91, who advised the attendees, “Always take time to make real connections with people. From a professional standpoint, you never know what relationship might propel you into a new opportunity.”
Dina Roche '14, a junior at the University of Scranton, said of the alumnae panel, "As a college student anticipating the transition from student to professional, I was reassured by their insight and wisdom that developing my faith, pursuing my passions and simply giving my best would help lead me to a fulfilling career."
Mary Bruhl '99, Director of Secondary Special Education for the town of Dedham, emphasized the importance of exploration and reflection with respect to the career path, telling attendees, "The more interests you have, the better. I was pre-med doing cardiovascular research after college but realized it was not my passion. Working in a rehabilitation hospital led me to an interest in people’s brains, and that led me to the special education field. You don’t have to know right now. Be open and explore; don’t lock yourself in. You never know what opportunities are out there."
This advice was especially meaningful for pre-medical student Saoirse Healy '16, a freshman at New York University, who enjoyed speaking to Mary and to pediatric hospitalist Dr. Jehanna Peerzada '86. Saoirse said, "They encouraged me to explore a variety of courses in college because where you begin studying in college, isn't necessarily what you will end up doing as a career. Dr. Peerzada began as a philosophy major but now is in the medical field, and Mrs. Bruhl started out as a premed student and then ended up majoring in philosophy and pursuing a Master’s in education."
Asked about the importance of a Montrose education, Megan '88 noted that at Montrose, "Each individual is recognized. Faculty and staff see the value of every person and work to bring out the best in each of us. [As Montrose alumnae] we are able to appreciate what each person brings to the table. This is something we all take into the world."
Mary added that reflection she had practiced at Montrose was a critical part of her career path: "You have that reflective experience from your Montrose education," she told students and young alumnae. "Use it. It is a gift, because many schools don’t provide it. Reflection moves you forward in life."
Several presenters reflected on their gratitude for the confidence and strong communication skills, both written and oral, instilled at Montrose. “As a young professional woman in my field, I’ve received feedback from veteran architects and builders who’ve been impressed with my communication skills and ability to see the big picture of things,” said Cassandra Piorkowski ‘10, a structural engineer with Foley Buhl Roberts & Associates, Inc. “Montrose set me up for success by giving me the confidence to know what I want and where I want to go.” Dr. Peerzada echoed this Montrose benefit, noting that strong writing has been “one of the most important skills I’ve brought to every job I’ve had, whether it’s been teaching English, getting into medicine or my fellowship in bioethics. I spend a lot of time writing and need to write at a high standard. Montrose taught me that.”
Megan Leader ‘88, Senior Clinical Operations Lead at Biogen, spoke about finding purpose in one’s vocation: “Montrose taught me to take risks and follow my passion. At the end of the day, I wanted to feel like I was making a difference in the world, not just taking a paycheck. I knew I would never be happy otherwise in my career.” Christina Gagne ‘86, a court investigator for the juvenile court of Massachusetts, finds her purpose helping children in difficult family situations: “Montrose taught me never to give up. I am grateful for this gift, as I need to be persistent and thorough to get important information to serve the needy kids in the court system.”
Students were eager to ask Dr. Sarah Bascle '03, who will soon open the Women's Wellness and Fertility Center of New England at New Hampshire's Catholic Medical Center, about maintaining integrity in a challenging professional environment of women’s health care. "I was upfront with what I was comfortable doing as a physician...My work ethic speaks for itself." Dr. Bascle added that her Montrose education helped develop confidence to confront professional challenges. "My strength of voice came from Montrose."