I first discovered Mary Beth immediately after joining the global women’s network 85 Broads: I was specifically looking for other members living in France and I remember being drawn to a picture of a smiling skier standing proudly on the top of a snowy mountain. I clicked on her profile and was impressed by her moxie and the list of her accomplishments in the male dominated world of finance.
I particularly love the advice that Mary Beth offers in this Q&A – which could be applied to all professions.
What is your name, age, and location?
My name is Mary Beth Vigneron. I’m 48 years old, and I work and live in New York City. I returned to New York City 1 ½ years ago from an international assignment at my company’s home office in Paris.
What is your profession?
For the last 6 months I have been managing the Records Management Department in the corporate investment banking division of an international bank. I have been at the bank for nearly 11 years, with positions in the Americas region of the Business Continuity department, as well as in Paris at the global level. Prior to this, I held positions as a Financial Controller at various banks and brokerage firms, as well as a tax auditor and preparer.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
I studied Business Administration, earning a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a major in Accounting and a minor in Marketing.
What was your first job?
My first professional job was working as a tax auditor for the American Internal Revenue Tax Service. My primary role was to audit individual, small corporations, and partnership tax returns, identifying whether the appropriate amount of tax was paid, as well as whether the return was filed fraudulently. Being 22 – 23 years old, I didn’t realize how much power I had when interpreting the tax payer’s substantiation used to complete their tax returns.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
The most rewarding project that I have worked on is providing Business Continuity for my bank during and days after 9/11. Knowing that my bank had an office less than a mile away from the World Trade Center, my department, working with IT, Communications, Business departments was able to ensure everyone was safe and successfully recovered during a very sorrowful time. It was amazing how well everyone worked together despite the circumstances.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
Having been working the financial industry my entire career, I’m afraid that I can’t recall where being a woman has helped my career. I think I have had to be much more vocal to get attention in the workforce. It certainly has been challenging. At times I have experienced ‘unwanted’ attention from male colleagues!
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
Throughout my career, I have or tended to either be the only woman or one of the few women in the department. Because of that I felt as though I have been excluded from conversations that begin as a chat about a sporting event, and then turned into a business chat or project discussion. At times I felt that I missed out on opportunities because of this. So, I have had to push myself hard to ensure that I am included in the conversation, whether I knew anything about the sport or not. It was even harder when I was working in Paris, as most of the chats among co workers were in French, and about sports I barely knew anything about.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
This is a tough question because there are so many amazing women that have achieved so much and have paved the way for women. The first one that comes to my mind is my mother. I think my mother having graduated from university in 1952, with a major in Elementary Education, when she had very few choices, paved the way for the future of women. She had pride herself as a teacher in that she was developing building blocks for children to reach success as adults.
Those building blocks and discipline that my mother provided me with have helped me succeed in my career, as well as develop civic minded responsibilities throughout my personal life. And she certainly taught me how to put things in perspective.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Absorb as much as you can and recognize opportunities when they present themselves.
When / if you make a mistake, recognize that the correction is an opportunity to change. Learn from it. Working / learning is a process. Recognize that you won’t be excellent at everything. And excel at what you are good at.
Be aware of your surroundings, meaning find that area in your department / business that is missing something such as coverage or control. Try to be the ‘go to person’ for that missing piece.
Relax, enjoy yourself, and don’t forget to develop your personal life because work will always be there tomorrow, but friends and family may not.
– Interview by Elena Rossini