Women in Finance club welcomes two leaders to campus to share insights on career success.
Connie McCallon remembers her first big promotion at Disney like it happened yesterday.
She was having a career conversation with Clark Jones (Acct’91), already an executive with the company, who asked her if she was ready to try something new.
“I was comfortable where I was, passionate about what I doing, and just didn’t know if I was ready for a bigger role,” she said.
Jones clearly saw something she didn’t: The next day, he called her to tell her she was changing roles, from a senior manager leading the sales finance team to leading the resorts finance team.
“It was one of the best things that happened to me in my career,” said McCallon, now director of site operations finance at Disney. “I needed an advocate, a leader like that, to show me I had the potential to do more.”
That was just one of the career lessons McCallon and Jones, a senior vice president and site CFO at Disney, offered to about 100 students attending a careers event at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.
‘I love opportunities’
Jones held up McCallon’s story and used it to share his own outlook on career development, which he summed up in three words: “I love opportunities.”
“In your career, don’t be afraid to take chances and make moves,” he said. “I firmly believe anyone can do anything for a year. You do it a year, if it doesn’t work out, you move on to the next opportunity.”
The two Disney executives shared lessons from their own careers before doing an extensive question-and-answer session with the Women in Finance club, which co-sponsored the talk with Leeds Student Government, and students in the audience. It was just the latest career-focused event that allows Leeds to tap its extraordinary alumni base and unique location, in Boulder’s entrepreneurship hub, to provide invaluable experience and perspective to business students.
Molly Galloway (Fin, RE’22), president of Women in Finance, said McCallon “encompasses everything that women should aspire to be from a personal and professional standpoint.”
“It is one thing to hear from people at a Fortune 500 company, but it is another thing to feel the passion that one has for their work,” said Galloway, who created the club from the existing Women in Finance Forum. “That is abundantly clear about both Connie and Clark—they truly love what they do.”
Some of the highlights Jones and McCallon shared with students:
- The value of networking. Students asked several questions about how to network effectively. “It’s easy to talk about it, harder to actually do it,” Jones said. “But I’ve never met an executive who didn’t love to talk about themselves. And I’ll give anyone a 30-minute meeting if they go to the trouble of tracking me down. You better come prepared, though.”
- Push your leaders. When it comes to hiring, “we look for people who will challenge the status quo,” McCallon said. “We love questions—that’s how we all learn, that’s how we make the business better. Curiosity is very important.”
- Update soft skills. “What you all went through in these past two years—as hard as it’s been, there’s been a lot of value there,” Jones said. “We still have a lot of virtual meetings. The need to communicate, collaborate, work on projects and innovate virtually is not going away.”
- Keep learning. Both McCallon and Jones earned graduate degrees while working. “Get your MBA—there’s a ton of value to it from meeting people with such a diversity of experiences,” Jones said. And, he added, as a leader, “surround yourself with people who are way smarter than you. When it comes to my team, my job is to get out of their way and get hurdles out of their way. If I let them run wild, they can accomplish anything.”
Audience members also asked questions about their hardest days, what excites them about work and how to set boundaries as early-career professionals. A particularly interesting question was how to build an inclusive culture, at a time when more businesses are paying attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“For me, I’m on my own journey when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and learning as I go,” Jones said. “The best way to be a leader in this space this to open yourself up. Be vulnerable to making mistakes and be empathetic toward those you are trying to lead.”
Galloway said she was thrilled Women in Finance was able to offer career insights to its members and other guests.
“This entire event—and particularly the Q&A session—proved there is more to life than just checking the boxes,” she said. “Meeting new people, sharing our life experiences and trying to inspire the people around us is what matters, and I believe that every student at Leeds is capable of doing exactly that.”