ARA Chicago

ARA Chicago: Insights From an Evening of Mentorship

On Wednesday, March 25, ARA Chicago hosted its first mentoring forum of the year, “Embracing Challenges, Managing Trade-offs & Facilitating Success” at Northern Trust. The event, which brought more than 120 attendees from different stages of their careers, featured a series of moderated roundtables, covering topics such as:

  • Embracing Challenges
  • Managing Trade-offs
  • Facilitating Success
  • Building Confidence

The evening was filled with engaging dialogue and varying perspectives from women ranging from the beginning stages of a career to 30+ years of professional experience. While the event itself is designed to uncover lessons learned and promote mentorship, some of the most impactful takeaways were from the opening remarks of our special guest speaker, Chief Operating Officer for Northern Trust, Jana Schreuder.

Jana, whose career has spanned over three decades at Northern Trust, was the inspiration behind the moderated table topics for the evening. Citing the four topics as both personal and professional values, Jana shared stories and reflections with the audience, noting the ways in which her career has continued to evolve over time.

Embracing Challenges

Despite have very little knowledge about accounting, Jana jumped at the chance to join the accounting department at Northern Trust when a position opened. Rather than letting a lack of experience prohibit her, she used it as an opportunity to join a company she had long-admired. Eventually, she was able to move between departments and work in other areas she felt were more suited to her skill set and afforded her more development opportunities. By saying “Yes” and taking a chance, she said she was able to lay the foundation for her career.

Managing Trade-Offs

“You always have a choice. You may not like the choices but you are in charge of making the best one you can.” Though this advice was given by her grandmother during a period of youth peer pressure she endured, Jana said this mantra is one she has repeated over the course of her career. It’s important to consider all stakeholders and possible scenarios when making decisions that affect more than just yourself or your position, Jana shared. In doing so, you open yourself up to different perspectives and can gain more clarity along the way. Certainly, there are decisions that will always be tough to make – no matter how deeply they’re examined – but by being willing to do what’s right, you’ll set yourself apart from the rest.

Facilitating Success

“It takes working with a lot of people along the way to get anything accomplished.” One person is not responsible for creating success; rather, it comes down to teamwork and being willing to jump in and help others when needed. Jana recalled a time during the Financial Crisis when a lot was being asked of her team. All-nighters were pulled, personal lives were sacrificed – all for the greater good of the company. After she and her team worked straight through the weekend and were ready to present a communications plan to tackle the challenges presented to the financial services industry, one of her colleagues commented that it wouldn’t have been possible without her. Jana said that was the most surprising moment of the weekend. “I just helped keep everyone organized and made sure support was readily available – they’re the ones who did all the work. They had the tough job. It’s my responsibility to make sure my workers, my colleagues are provided with an environment of support. You shine by reflected light – if you help partners succeed, everyone succeeds,” said Jana.

Building Confidence

Confidence continues to be one of the biggest obstacles women face in the advancement of their careers. Taking ownership of your own knowledge and experience and being unafraid of sharing those lessons learned with others is the first step in establishing true professional confidence. Jana said one of the most important takeaways of her career has been the idea of, “If you think you can or you can’t you’re probably right.” Pushing through the confidence barrier levels the playing field.

Jana concluded her remarks by sharing her guiding principles, in addition to the quote above, that have helped her along the way:

  • Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
  • Leadership is action, not position.

Our team at ARA left the evening truly inspired by the insight Jana and all of our table moderators shared. We hope these words leave you as inspired as they did us.

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A special thanks to our panelists for the evening: Ellen Barry, Acting Director of IT, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District; Patricia Braun, Senior Vice President, Workflow and Document Management Solutions, Northern Trust; Cheryl Johnson, Senior Vice President of Talent, Echo Global Logistics; Sandee Kastrul, President and Co-Founder, i.c.stars; Sue Lopardo, Director, Information Services, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare; Krista Moutzouros, Director, Software Engineering, Chicago Mercantile Exchange; Barb O’Malley, Senior Vice President, Engagement Manager, Applications, Northern Trust; Tasneem Osmani, Vice President, Manager, Asset Management Technology, Northern Trust; Janet Peterson, Director, Operation Solutions and Services, Paylocity; Lori Powers, Assistant Vice President, Service Management, C.N.A. Insurance; Silvia Prickel, Managing Director, Cargo Portfolio/Connected Aircraft Program; and Wanda Whitson, Leadership Coach.