One night in September, I selected the sleep story, "For the Love of Jazz" on the Calm app. With so much on my mind and work blending into home life, I've been having a harder time falling asleep these days (weeks, months…). During my attempt at a restful night, I immediately perked up when the narrator, Greg Thomas, mentioned his friend Mason. I reached for my phone and googled Mr. Thomas. Sure enough, this co-founder of the Jazz Leadership Project is Hamilton family—class of '85. And the friend he mentioned is Mason Ashe '85, mentor, fellow attorney, and friend to me for over 20 years. It was at this point that my plans for an immediate slumber were derailed; instead, my mind took a welcome meditative detour.
I’m gonna reflect a little here. This year is my 20-year anniversary. Hamilton, in the form of many relationships, has been one of my near-daily companions. I'm part of a mommy group with Shammara Wright '04, Krisann Friday '03, and Olabisi Adams '04. In the past several weeks, I've chatted with Amanda Sackey '01, John O'Keeffe '01, Tait Svenson '00, Nicole Wright '02, Morolake Thompson ‘14, and Peggy Garte '01, sharing memories and laughter, talking shop, trading ideas, or just checking in. I recently met up with Torrence Moore '92 and his wonderful wife Jamie in San Francisco. Back in ’97, Torrence (along with fellow Chicagoan Art Massolo '64) convinced me to go to this tiny college on a hill and he gave me the sage advice to take advantage of Hamilton's academic and extracurricular offerings. He also gave me a heads up that really getting to know my classmates and introducing myself to alums would deepen the value of my experience. Torrence was right. I took advantage of campus life and then some. I was everywhere, including the dance floor, diner, theater, computer lab, and career center. One thing I know for sure: the fun, the learning, the connections—it’s all up to you!
Earning the Clara B. Kennedy Scholarship meant that I also gained vital mentorship, sponsorship, and support from Karen and Kevin Kennedy '70. I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and Karen Kennedy was very encouraging as she talked with me about her career in medicine. After changing course during my sophomore year and deciding I didn't want to be a doctor (thanks Orgo!), I chose English as my major. My brilliant professors in the English department transformed the way I read, wrote, thought, and saw the world. The only problem was that I was clueless about a post-Hamilton career. Even with a full academic and social life of my own, I spent lots of time learning about my friends’ coursework and plans for the future. After countless conversations with my friend and younger mentor, Nicole, a spark was lit and I’ve been traveling this legal journey ever since.
Kevin Kennedy and Mary McLean Evans ‘82 introduced me to many Hamilton alumni in the legal field. An introduction to Tom Schwarz ’66 (then, a partner at Skadden in New York City) led to a litigation legal assistant position after graduation. I applied for law school two years later. After getting accepted to a number of schools, I got a call from another Hamilton alum, James Coupe '71, to inform me that I received a fellowship for Hamilton alumni attending Vanderbilt Law. This surprise made my choice simple. More importantly, Hamilton showed up for me again.
After law school, I returned to New York to practice law at Seward and Kissel LLP. Hamilton alum and S&K partner, Hadley Roe '60, was happy to meet me! His welcome gave me instant credibility at the firm and helped calm my nerves as I transitioned into corporate life. Years later, I moved to California and attended a Hamilton alumni event in San Francisco where Dan Nye '88 gave a presentation. I sent him a quick note afterward, letting him know that I enjoyed the event and the one lesson that would stick with me was his "Three important ‘Rs’ to remember as a professional: Reputation, Relationships, and RESULTS!" This principle still serves me well professionally.
When I met Dan again a couple of years later—because Torrence, Kevin Kennedy, and Mary Evans advised me on Dan's latest career move as President and CEO at a rapidly growing startup, Rocket Lawyer—my career as in-house counsel began. After 11 years as an attorney at several startups in the tech space, I was able to check "going public" off my bucket list this summer.
Not everyone has their professional plans all figured out after college. Even so, during every phase of your career, you're connecting with folks who are also in a development phase—beginning, transitioning, or maintaining. Many, like me, are constantly navigating their next steps, collecting achievements and creating rewarding experiences along the way. I've been fortunate to have many Hamiltonians willing to help me think about my potential, explore opportunities, and open new doors. Alumni like Julia Cowles ’84, Humphrey Polanen ’71, and Julie North ’84, have been so generous with their time and networks. They’ve also shared with me an abundance of wisdom that helps me even today.
I’m transparent because I strongly believe that very few people, if any, are self-made. If you look back at the Hamilton alums I’ve mentioned above, you’ll see that my network spans a few generations. Note that there’s also no way I could even begin to name all of the Hamiltonians who have made a significant impact on me. My network, which includes mentors who are older, my age, and younger, inspires me to take pride in my accomplishments and to continue to be courageous. Hamilton is a small liberal arts college, but our community is vast! Hard, individual work is the foundation. Relationships are the other critical part. I’ve found that cultivating authentic relationships—being open, curious, kind, humble, and honest—has led to cherished exchanges and great fulfillment.
I commemorated my anniversary on May 20th with a glass of wine and an Instagram post. After the sleep story by Greg Thomas and a night of reflection, I've been holding an even deeper sense of gratitude for my Hamilton experience.