Twenty Hours, Fun, and Lessons Learned

Disclaimer: Names and pictures were not altered in the post below. I’m happy to oblige to any edits or omissions – message me and I will update promptly!

Twenty hours of driving and over 1200 miles complete! I’ve had a busy couple of weeks driving, reconnecting with friends, and spending time with my family before leaving for Asia. This is also a bit delayed as I got caught up in preparing for my Asia trip and am now relaxing in Bali 🙂

A few of the highlights on my road trip:

  • Hanging with Ady & Mike in Winston-Salem while the dogs, Killian and Tandy, co-existed
  • Tacos, cocktails, and a successful fight against the towing company with Soraly & Colin in Atlanta
  • Ramen with my brother, Liam, in Gainesville
  • A delicious steak dinner with my father, sister Aileen, and Hugo
  • A little taste of Naples before I return for a few weeks at the end of July – reconnecting over lunch & drinks with high school friends
  • An amazing Yoga on Tap event hosted by one of my best friends, Lauren. She founded Donation Yoga Naples and I’m so happy to support her wonderful business!

As I embark on a new chapter in my life, I’ve been reflecting on the past six years of my career and all of the incredible things I’ve learned. A few lessons and experiences stick with me most, among the many. (Apologies for the novel – they won’t all be like this!)

Do the right thing

The Golden Rule was always something that resonated with me – “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” One of Capital One’s key values is a variation of that very rule. During orientation, I thought the words sounded nice, but had no idea how impactful they would be.

My mother passed away from Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer four months after I began my career in 2011. Three months into work, she made a turn for the worst following three and a half successful years battling the disease. After sharing with a few people on my team at the time and the rotation program staff, I was quickly assured that my job would be intact regardless of the time I needed to take off.

As I was traveling back-and-forth to Florida, I saw people I barely knew making selfless gestures through multiple avenues – picking up all of my work while I was out, buying my family dinner, and sending me encouraging emails – to name a few. I was astounded; I did not expect such sincere acts of kindness from coworkers I barely knew.

What I sometimes neglect to mention was that, since I moved out of the house for college, my mother and I spoke on the phone almost daily. We had such a strong bond that seeing her in a weak state during that last month was emotionally and physically draining.

Having the immediate support system from my coworkers who wanted to ‘do the right thing’ and help me in my time of need was invaluable.

Be humble, but not too humble

Humility is usually seen as a virtue. I believe it is a great leadership and human quality. However, a humble person can sometimes be perceived as meek and submissive and, therefore, can lead to suboptimal outcomes.

For most of my life, I was blind to the disadvantage modesty could have on life outcomes. The real tipping point was during my first-to-second role transition in the Finance Rotation Program. We had the opportunity to preference 5 out of about 20 different role options – when I received my role placement, it was not remotely close to the five I had requested. While I won’t go into the reasons cited for my placement, I read between the lines and realized it was my lack of assertion in asking for what I wanted. This stemmed from many instances in my life where I was short-changed not from lack of merit, but because I was least likely to ‘kick-and-scream’ about not getting something. I couldn’t stand for it any longer and, in as professional of a way as I could, ‘kicked-and-screamed’ for my third rotation preference – to which I received and happily stayed on the team for 4 ½ years.

Instead of choosing the passive route, I learned to raise my voice when something is important and really matters to me.

Establish your professional presence

Ask yourself how you want to show-up at work. For me, I want to be seen as trustworthy, responsible, just, caring, and fun…among others. It took a few years to define those, but I like to remind myself of those characteristics on a regular basis. The last one, in particular, was something I learned from my parents – ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’.

I remember my first day on the US Card finance team. I walked onto the floor and I’m pretty sure you could hear a pin drop. It was so quiet and, frankly, uninviting. I was introduced to the team and met another newer teammate, Jeff, who remained one of my closest peers at work for many years. He was not afraid to speak-up and talk across the desks when he had questions and I took real advantage of that – I believe face-to-face interaction is so much more productive than email or IM. Slowly, or maybe quickly, the culture of the floor changed. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that Jeff and I influenced it, I believe we were catalysts.

If I had to sum up my current professional presence mantra it would be – a catalyst for change in a positive way.

You need to drown to learn how to swim

While I cannot remember who I heard this saying from first, I do remember who I heard it from most. As I was finishing the rotation program, I needed to decide where I would land full-time. Enter Mayte. She was a new leader on the finance team, but I could immediately tell we would get along and choosing the role on her team would not let me down.

Now, I can’t say it was easy. I chose a role on a fully staffed team and thought my transition and move from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC would be easy peasy. Boy, was I wrong. I entered an extended period of corporate disarray. Barely two months after joining, both my peer and manager quit. I unknowingly entered one of the most challenging and rewarding periods of my career thus far. The recruiting landscape was bleak, so I acquired the work of three for five months – all while my support areas were going through immense change. I spent long nights alone building new models, cleaning up messy files, and creating plans to guide business leaders to make better financial decisions. While I felt supported by Mayte and my leadership team, I could barely keep my head above water. I would be dishonest if I said I didn’t cry on my way home or think about quitting.

However, while I was drowning, I learned to swim. I became a stronger analyst and person by identifying what was highest priority to the company and to myself.

Realizing when it’s time for a new chapter

Experiences become a part of our identity. While Capital One helped me develop and define my professional identity, I was beginning to feel complacent. Moving abroad and obtaining an MBA are experiences I wanted to add to my list. As I reflect on my personal identity and the foundation for my adaptability, I point to both traveling and moving several times during my childhood where new schools and social settings were the norm. I lived in four different cities and traveled to seven countries all before the age of 18 (and I’ve added even more as an adult).

I grew up with a thirst to learn about other cultures from moving, traveling, and surrounding myself with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The yearn to study and work abroad is practically genetic as my mother spent her junior year at Michigan State studying fashion abroad in the Scandinavian countries. My father worked many years in the International Division for Campbell Soup with extended assignments in Australia, Canada, and Japan, often referring to how his experiences altered his perspective for the better. I guess you could say the ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’.

Now I wish to enhance my global perspective by living abroad and learning from non-Americans with different perspectives.


If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! And now for the fun part – my favorite non-work-related memories from the last six years and pictures.

Volunteer events – It was so wonderful working for a company that values giving back to the community

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Fun Outside of Work – bowling, indoor skydiving, holiday parties, happy hours, field days, and a day at King’s Dominion

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Fun @ Work – Gator pride, Punny t-shirts, “Budget Buddies” (aka me embarrassing my team in front of 100+ people), fantasy draft nights, and celebrating big work achievements

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2 thoughts on “Twenty Hours, Fun, and Lessons Learned

  1. Hey Colleen! This would definitely be a highly rated Pulse article :). And yes, our “unique” voices definitely changed the culture of the floor.

    Sounds like things are off to a good start, can’t wait to hear more about Bali and the rest of your Asia trip!

    Liked by 1 person

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