How has WIPN had an impact on you and your career? WIPN has impacted my career and personal life in many ways. Not only has this organization opened doors that I never deemed possible, but I have also met so many wonderful mentors and colleagues at events throughout the country. Through WIPN, I have connected with countless intelligent and thoughtful leaders in the industry at leadership summits, local chapter events, national events, etc. who have given such great advice and mentorship. One of my favorite parts about being in WIPN is that these relationships go further than the workplace, and many WIPN “connections” have blossomed into real friendships.
Why did you step forward to volunteer as a co-chair in your local chapter? And, how would you describe WIPN to a peer or colleague? When joining WIPN upon graduation in 2021, I never imagined co-chairing the Boston chapter within the next year. The opportunity to step forward and volunteer as Boston WIPN Co-Chair was presented to me by the previous co-chair of the chapter and the offer was quite hard to turn down. I have always considered myself a leader, and wanted to eventually lead a WIPN chapter, but I felt too young. In the spirit of WIPN, Stefanie Rzepecki truly served as a sponsor and helped me realize my potential as a leader!
That said, I would describe WIPN as an organization flooded with career and networking opportunities for members and sponsors alike. It is an incredible opportunity to meet people and elevate your career, but most importantly, WIPN is a group of women who truly support and uplift each other. I recommend this organization to all of my friends and colleagues, especially those who are new to the industry.
What has been most important to your career so far – a mentor, a sponsor or both? Exposure to the industry as a whole and being open to connecting with new people have been the most influential for my career so far. I recognize I am very lucky to be working with retirement legends like Dick Darian and Peter Campagna, and my time at Wise Rhino as well as WIPN have offered me insights on the various paths my career could follow – Advisor, DCIO, Recordkeeper, etc.
Being a sponge and going into everything with a growth mindset is the key to tap into this complicated world, and having good mentors to help navigate the challenges and sponsors to throw you right in the middle of the action is a game changer. I am very thankful for all who have sponsored me and allowed me to take advantage of opportunities to develop my career.
Tell us something we may not know about your chapter? The Boston Chapter is growing quickly and we have many fun events on the horizon, including an MIT Age Lab Presentation, Panel Discussion about “Being an Ally,” and our signature holiday event. We have many members from all over the country attending our events and would love to see WIPN members from other regions attend any of our events. You do not want to miss the holiday party in December 2023!
How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? As I begin my career in the retirement industry, I am realizing how important it is to have strong role models for the upcoming generations of women in the industry. The friends and mentors I have met through WIPN are all successful, driven, caring, and down-to-earth individuals who have very pure intentions. They are the blueprint – and are my current role models. With time and experience, I hope to be a role model, mentor, and sponsor to those younger than me just like them.
Michelle Miller, CIPM
Senior Consultant | Relationship Manager CAPTRUST
How did you find out about WIPN? Years ago, one of my colleagues invited me to a WIPN event but I didn’t have enough confidence in my industry knowledge to go. A couple of years later, one of my goals was to begin networking more. WIPN was the first place I turned to meet other women in our industry.
How has WIPN had an impact on you and your career? I joined WIPN in early March 2020. My goal for the year was to start networking more and due to Covid that looked a little different than I expected. I joined the virtual networking that was offered and it was one of the best ways for me to practice not only my networking skills but also practice using different virtual meeting platforms in a low stress situation. Once in-person events were offered again, I was able to really connect with other women not only in our industry but also in my area. I now have a solid network of women in the Atlanta area who work in all fields supporting retirement plans.
What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 –10 years? In the next 5-10 years I hope to see more women in leadership throughout the retirement industry. I also hope that the number of women in sales and client facing service roles increases.
What has been most important to your career so far – a mentor, a sponsor or both? I have been very fortunate that since my first day in the retirement industry, I have worked for supportive companies. But even more beneficial than that, I have been surrounded by a very encouraging team that has allowed me to question the norm and at least try anything I set my sights on. This has allowed me to explore different avenues of interest and hone in on what I do best.
In particular, I have one sponsor who I’ve worked with for the last 7 years. In a lot of ways, our work styles are very similar which allows us to partner well. He challenges me to step outside my comfort zone and as a result I am much more well-rounded in my career. He pushes me to not only give my best but also bring out the best in those around me. Building relationships with colleagues and clients doesn’t come as natural to me but being able to observe him form deep connections with people is truly inspiring.
How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? I think it’s really important for the next generation to have strong role models especially in industries that are typically dominated by men. I live by the motto “ask for what you want.” If there is something I want to try, then I ask to do it. If I believe I can do something better or more efficient, then I ask to change it. Seeing other women have an impact with their career is powerful and motivating particularly for younger women who haven’t quite established themselves in their career.
How did you find out about WIPN? I was first introduced to WIPN in 2019 at an event open to non-members on the topic, “Getting it All Done & Delivering Your Best While Short-Circuiting.” The focus was of interest to me, but I did not know anyone else attending. I reluctantly attended the event, had a great time and found everyone to be very welcoming. This is where my journey with WIPN began, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to network with other women in the retirement industry as well as gaining helpful information through various speakers and events.
How has WIPN had an impact on you and your career? WIPN has provided me a fresh perspective on managing my personal life and my career as separate and important priorities. Without work/life balance, all people, but especially women, struggle as they try to “do it all” and often feel as though they fall short. I previously found myself feeling defeated many days which led to mental and physical unwellness. Meeting other women involved with WIPN who were dealing with similar struggles and sharing tips for better balance as well as attending supportive and educational events have been priceless in prioritizing my well-being and family alongside my career goals.
What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 –10 years? While the retirement industry, historically, has been very male dominated, I do see that there is a trend toward more women showing interest and being hired in this field. However, in the next 5-10 years I would like to see more growth for women within management and partner/officer roles. I would love to see the retirement industry embrace women as valued leaders and more than that I would love to see women feel more supported in their personal life journey. All those who identify as women should be celebrated for who they are and not made to feel as though value or success is reliant upon being like their male counterparts. Women should be recognized for their unique and successful problem-solving skills and management of relationships. I currently manage an all-female team and find that they are caring, hard-working and very valuable members of the retirement community and hope that they find success with their future career goals based on their abilities rather than their gender.
What has been most important to your career so far – a mentor, a sponsor or both? My career has benefitted from incredible mentors but ultimately, I have found that having a sponsor has been far more important to my advancement and success. Mentorship has been very helpful in achieving balance and determining my career goals as well as learning the industry and getting up to speed in the corporate environment. However, having a sponsor has been priceless to my growth and career goals. I started my professional journey at the age of 34 after spending my 20’s and early 30’s as a stay-at-home mom. I immediately felt a desire to learn and grow but I wanted to have a meaningful career, and I wanted advancement in order to achieve my personal definition of success. Over the past 16 years I have had many amazing mentors but most recently I have been fortunate to have found a few amazing sponsors that have been very invested in assisting me to not only work toward my goals but have sponsored my desire for management responsibilities by promoting me with upper management and helping me to successfully advance my career.
How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? I believe that being a role model is very important to young women or those early in their journey within the retirement industry. Role models are invaluable as a way to show and support levels of growth and success. The cliché of “do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind frequently. I find that it is easy to tell others what to do and how to be successful but ultimately, being a role model and actually “showing” others how to accomplish tasks and goals is critical to their success. I work daily to find ways to show efficiency and leadership to my team with the goal of modeling success and growth in all that I do. Realistically, I am not perfect and I sometimes struggle to “put my money where my mouth is” but I strive to be a positive role model and to see those new to the industry benefit from my actions more so than my words.