“A man’s job,” #WomenofWharton

“Make it happen for yourself.” These were Dad’s words of wisdom, our family motto, if you will. Figure out what needs to get done, and get it done. Don’t expect handouts, or expect it to be easy. Just make it happen.  

Mom stayed at home to raise us, but would always tell us stories about when she worked at the Reading Railroad, where she “took a man’s job,” running a major logistics piece of the railroad system in Philadelphia. Every holiday season, she would receive cards from people we had only heard about in her funny stories about work. Oh, and there were fashion stories, too, of the pointed toe heels and the fabulous capes and coats variety! #lifegoals

After college, I set out for a career on Wall Street, armed with Dad’s words of wisdom and Mom’s stories reminding me that taking a “man’s job” was not only possible, but also rooted in my DNA. That, and a love for markets and numbers that follows me to this day. 

Today, we talk about micro-aggressions; the beauty of the Street in the early 90s was that they weren’t micro – they were right there, all the time. “We can’t have our pictures up, because you’re here now,” they said, after an edict from the firm to remove the naked photos. “We can’t go to the ‘ballet’ (strip club), because you’re here now,” they said. I liked to think that their wives and girlfriends appreciated that those activities were being curtailed on our collective behalf.  

Fast forward many years – Dad was sick, my family was in Philadelphia, and it was time to think about what to do next. The work I was doing within the bank with junior women was really rewarding. Watching them make the journey from analyst and associate to the senior ranks was challenging, but so much fun. Being able to see them experience the 2.0 version of what investment banking was like, knowing what I’d seen, was both frustrating, as they couldn’t have known how it used to be, and refreshing because they were starting the race from a better place. Then I met Wharton, and we clicked.

Now, I’m a mother. My daughters and son see me leave every day excited about the work I’m doing and the people I get to work with. They know our family motto of “make it happen for yourself,” and they hear Grandmom talking about her time at the Reading, the pride she has in her railroad pension. And they know that the work I do really matters to me.

My 9-year old recently told me that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up – “and a pediatrician on the weekends, and a mom, all the time.” From her perspective, it’s all possible, #NBD.

Maryellen Reilly is the Deputy Vice Dean of MBA Admissions, Financial Aid and Career Management at Wharton. She will moderate a panel at the Wharton Women’s Summit on building your personal board of directors.