Alumni Spotlight: Penny Phillips | Macaulay Honors College

11/13/2017

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I graduated from Macaulay at the Queens campus in 2010. I went into a career in financial services, I’m a consultant now and do business consulting specifically in financial services. I worked in the corporate world for about seven years, and was the youngest-ever vice president at New York Life Insurance Company.

I travel a lot for work, but any opportunity I can get to give back and speak on behalf of Macaulay, I’m there. My parents were born in Greece, and I didn’t have any family members, friends, or anyone who worked in finance, so my mentor was Macaulay.

“Everything I have today, every success point that I’ve reached in my career professionally also personally is because of Macaulay. I will speak and donate to this school. I started doing it the minute I got into finance and I’ll do it forever.”

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One thing that’s incredible about Macaulay is that it was designed to identify students who have an X-Factor even when they don’t realize that they have an X-Factor. Macaulay accepts kids that they see real potential in; I was one of those students.

I knew that I wanted to go into business but didn’t know what that really meant. Other kids were playing with dolls and wanted to be teachers, maybe, or doctors, while I would be organizing files at a desk in the basement.

My advisor, and also the Dean, spent an enormous amount of time helping me figure out the business world and where I might fit in. They helped identify an opportunity for me at the London School of Economics that was designed to help students hone entrepreneurial skills, leadership skills, and really closely study cooperate finance, economics and marketing. I didn’t tell my parents I was going there until the week before (true story!) because they were strict immigrant parents. They didn’t want me to go, but they supported my decision and it completely changed my life.

What ultimately launched and catapulted my career in finance was coming back to speak about my experience in London and talking about what it did for me personally, and what it did for me in terms of understanding my abilities as an entrepreneur and a leader. I spoke to an audience similar to this, and in the audience was the CEO of New York Life, and he said, “I’ve got a job for you. And you will be perfect.” And that started what has been a very successful career for me. I’m most proud because it allows me to give back to my family, provide for them and help them, but also give back to the College.

I’m often asked by students and even some parents, “Do people really know the name Macaulay? Do they know that name in the profession my child is going into?” And what I say to everybody is: “Tell your children, if employers in New York City do not know Macaulay then personally I probably wouldn’t want to work for them. They should know Macaulay because the school is designed to raise future leaders for the city and the state!”

I’m very proud to recognize Macaulay and I’m very proud of the school.