When Carolyn O’Connell graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, she assumed her career would follow a retail track. Circumstances changed, however, and she found herself in the unfamiliar waters of the investment world.
In 1999, O’Connell’s friend, David Wood, launched Gateway Financial Group in Glastonbury, and invited her to join the firm.
“I entered with no more experience than the average investor,” she said. Wood, however, recognized O’Connell’s efficiency, high energy and methodical thinking, as well as her corporate experience, and named her vice president and director of operations of the company.
O’Connell’s detail-oriented, self-starter personality found the day-to-day operations systems in the office cumbersome.
“So I taught myself Access and built a database system far beyond what we needed at the time,” she said. “I wanted to develop a system that someone could understand intuitively.”
O’Connell considers the way in which she entered the investment industry both a challenge and an accomplishment.
“I had to navigate the industry independently,” she said.
And having no experience and no resources led her to develop an efficient office.
“I developed resources and tools because I didn’t want my staff to struggle,” she said.
Her experience has taught O’Connell some valuable lessons.
“Keep a cool head, follow your instincts and be fair. Look at the decisions you make from an outside perspective. Ask yourself if you would gain respect from the decisions you’ve made,” she commented.
She also recommends becoming involved in networking groups, which can serve as a built-in support system.
Shifting from the familiar to the unknown did not deter O’Connell; rather, she has flourished and found a career path in which she has excelled.