Mary Strange Etheridge '11 is a New York-based assistant vice president at Alex. Brown, America's oldest investment bank, which was recently re-launched after being acquired by wealth management firm Raymond James. There, she is on the strategy and finance team, which oversees strategic initiatives for the Alex. Brown division. At Dartmouth, she was a psychology major and classics minor, and worked as an undergraduate advisor and student assistant in the classics department and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. You can learn more about Etheridge on her LinkedIn page.
Was there a part of your Dartmouth experience that especially helps feed your career today?
I've always been interested in what makes people tick, and at Dartmouth that passion was channeled through my classics minor. It still amazes me that I can read a beautiful passage of the Aeneid and feel moved by those words, written thousands of years ago. I gobbled up Latin, ancient Greek and Hebrew—every ancient language I could get my hands on—because I was fascinated by the universality of human nature. At the time, I didn't realize how applicable this was to business—and while in hindsight I wish I had taken an economics class or two, I'm grateful for the greater perspective that I gained from the classics department.
You started your career in human resources and recruitment before moving into strategy. What made you take that leap and make the change?
While I was at Dartmouth, I didn't know what I wanted out of my career, but human resources was a logical path for a psychology major. I loved HR’s unique birds-eye view of the business, but overall I didn't feel challenged by the subject matter and realized that I was more interested in financial modeling than headcount reports. It was challenging since I didn't have a quantitative background, but I was able to leverage the connections I had made in HR to land a role on a strategy team that was facilitating the spin-off of our business. I was flying by the seat of my pants at first, but it's proven to be the best move I've ever made for my career.
Since you have real insight into the recruitment process, what advice would you offer to alumni who are looking for that first job or who want to make a career transition?
Having a compelling story can open the door to a career change. In my experience, hiring managers will be more willing to overlook a hard skill gap if you can frame your prior experience in the right way. Whenever you consider a new opportunity, always think ahead about how it will fit into your broader story down the road when you’re ready to make your next move.