English and Teamwork with Mary Mannion ’17

Mary Mannion is a senior from Camden-Wyoming, DE. We talked with her about her academic major, the CIL, and what’s next.

You’re an honors English major but you’re working at JP Morgan when you graduate. How does what you learned in the English classroom carry over to banking?

What I learned from my internship at JP Morgan this past summer is that in many post-graduate (as well as undergraduate) fields, your success is often shaped by your willingness to throw yourself into new experiences, your level of excitement about learning new concepts and ideas, and your ability to adapt to new settings and to communicate well within your team. At the bank, I was placed with a team that was interested in helping me learn more about the Wholesale Loan Market, and super invested in the success of their team and the company at large. I think that my English education at Swarthmore has helped me immensely in giving me confidence to communicate openly and fluidly with my professional superiors and peers. Being an English major, and a Swarthmore student in general, has taught me to ask a million questions about the topic at hand and approach a given situation from a variety of perspectives. I think that when you are first starting out in the professional world, not being afraid or embarrassed to ask for help is key. It’s better to ask a simple question and do the task correctly than to not ask a simple question and do the task incorrectly. 

As an intern for the Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL) here at Swarthmore, what have you learned about leadership?

I think that leadership is all about being a team player, and about being receptive to alternative suggestions. I think that to be a good leader, you need to be open to what your team has to say and open to different ideas or approaches to a problem that you might not have thought of yourself. I’ve definitely seen this style of leadership exhibited in the CIL, and I saw it at work this summer as well. A manager at work this summer told me to “never hesitate to share things that you notice with your teammates, because even if what you mention isn’t particularly important itself, it will get other people thinking in a new way and it might be the very spark that leads to the solution that we need.” I think that as a leader it’s important for people on your team to feel like they have agency in a role or project, because this way they become more excited about their work and become personally invested in the success of the team or organization. I think that work (depending on your field, of course) should ideally be fun and invigorating, and you need an excited and highly receptive leader in order to achieve this.

You’re also a student athlete, but you’ve had some setbacks with injuries. What have you learned from those challenges and how did you overcome them?

So when I first started off college, I for some reason thought that success was an entirely linear process. I thought that the road to success was cleanly paved and that any setback or diversion from the ideal path was an automatic recipe for disaster. If nothing else, my Swarthmore experience, particularly in terms of athletics, has proven to me that if you truly want to be happy and successful, you’ve got to be flexible with your plans. Ideally I think that you should be willing to try new things, and grateful for whatever new opportunity you’re given. It’s not always easy to be positive, especially at a challenging place like Swarthmore, but I think that if you tell yourself you can do something (even if you don’t necessarily believe it at first) you can learn to edit your conception of success and learn to view setbacks as new opportunities. Also, it’s important to appreciate what you’re currently doing. I met so many interesting, kind, and welcoming people as a result of being a member of the field hockey and cross country teams that I probably would have never met if my Swarthmore sports experience didn’t work out the way that it did. I’ve learned that instead of focusing solely on the benefits of reaching the end goal, it’s important to be appreciative of positive experiences and opportunities that arise along the way to what you envision as success.

What advice would you give first-year students who want to major in a subject that isn’t directly related to their professional goals?

Don’t be afraid. And if you’re afraid, and you still think you really want to do something, ignore your fear, and try it anyway! Especially considering how young that we all are in our college years, now is a perfect time to try something new. And if you’re not currently doing something that you’re in love with or excited about, remember that you’re in charge of your own life. There are certain fields that are of course more rigid than others, like medicine or engineering or law for example, but I think that overall it’s really important to be flexible. This cheesy but I really love going on Tumblr and believe it or not, there’s a lot of good advice on there. One of my favorite quotes is this: “You’re never going to be 100% ready and it’s never going to be just the right time, but that’s the point. It means that every moment is also the right moment. If you want it, you just have to do it.” Being brave is always easier said than done, and while there are sometimes practical or circumstantial factors that might limit you, I think it’s always important to try, and to develop confidence in your own abilities and judgement along the way.

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