As part of our Learning from Leaders Q&A series, we met with five of our female leaders to learn what has shaped their careers and what advice they have for others looking to grow professionally. Here, Gina Cristallo, Vice President and Chief Ethics Officer at New York Life, explains how she didn’t plan on spending 15 years working in compliance, but now knows that her calling found her.
What career advice would you have given yourself as a young person? What advice would you give to young women today?
When I joined New York Life, I had just left law school and taking a job in the Compliance department meant not acting in an attorney capacity, which was a little disheartening for me. That being said, I quickly learned that it was the right choice for me professionally. I was able to apply what I learned in law school to something I loved to do—and still love to do.
The lesson here is not new advice—you can’t judge a book by its cover. I probably would have dismissed the opportunity had I not had a relationship with the then Chief Compliance Officer who explained the role to me. She convinced me to come in and interview for a role where I would be responsible for managing risk and aligning our compliance policies and procedures to the numerous regulations that apply to our business.
The advice I would give is to look at all opportunities that come your way with an open mind. What has kept me engaged in compliance for 15 years is never turning down a new opportunity.
“Try to look at all opportunities that come your way with an open mind.” - Gina Cristallo
When considering companies to work for, what are important things to look for?
A culture of inclusion is very important when considering a potential employer and representation matters. At New York Life, it's pretty rare that I walk into a room and I'm the only woman. It’s nice to walk into a meeting and see diversity around the table.
Beyond inclusivity, it’s the people I work with that keep me at New York Life. We share an open mindset, working together toward making the clients happy. They understand that great things can happen even when we approach tactics differently.
What drives you? And then how do you kick back when you need to relax?
I want to make a difference at work--that’s what drives my success. My favorite thing, hands down, is developing and coaching the people around me. It is so rewarding to see people become energized when I explain the roles, purpose, and vision for compliance at the company. Also, having people reach out to me because of the energy level I bring to the room has been so humbling.
And my guiltiest pleasure is baking! If I’m not in the office and I have some free time, I’m whipping up something sweet with my kids!
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