Inspired by the marking of Women’s Equality Day in August, Mesirow’s WomenConnect employee resource group heard from two women at Mesirow who each are entering new roles—Mesirow President Natalie Brown, and emerging professional Lorena Esparza, Marketing Associate and former Mesirow intern through the Cristo Rey work/study program.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Natalie and Lorena shared thoughts and anecdotes about their professional paths, including the successes, opportunities, and obstacles that have cultivated their experiences.
Natalie: Lorena, I’m thrilled to have you with us in your new role at the firm. I remember starting my first job after college—I joined KPMG as an auditor. I had taken auditing classes and even passed the CPA exam, but I couldn’t picture what my days would look like or what I would be doing. I know you have intern experience at Mesirow; what is on your mind as you start your new job?
Lorena: Thanks, Natalie! I felt ready and very excited about the opportunity at Mesirow. Having interned on the Marketing team for the past two summers, I was familiar with the group and how it contributes to the firm’s strategy and growth. Now, my role is more defined and feels like a “real job.” It’s a great team, and I’m learning every day.
You were recently named President of the firm, so I want to turn the question back to you. Is your new role what you expected? How do you feel about the changes that came with your new role?
Natalie: Good question. Richard [Price, Mesirow Chairman and CEO] has been a fantastic mentor and, throughout my time as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), he consistently pushed me to do more and learn more than a traditional CFO. I’m particularly excited about partnering more directly with a number of our businesses as they meet with prospective clients.
Back to you, Lorena. I know you’re just getting started – but what are your career aspirations for the long-term?
Lorena: That’s a good question! I’ve learned that professionals can start in one discipline and end up somewhere completely different in a few years. I am happy to learn and grow in my current role, and I also have an interest in public relations, community outreach, and non-profits. As my career grows and develops, it is important to me that I feel good about the work I am doing.
What advice do you have for me, Natalie?
Natalie: I have a couple of pieces of advice for you as you start your career – and I agree that careers can grow in unexpected or new directions.
First, do not be shy about asking questions. If there is something you don’t understand, your colleagues will be happy to help you learn and will impressed by your curiosity and engagement.
Second, be open-minded about opportunities that are offered to you. We grow when we are taken out of our comfort zone and try something unexpected.
Do you have any advice for me in my new role?
Lorena: I’m honored that you would ask me for advice! I will share something that I have only realized since March 2020: Nobody knows if tomorrow is guaranteed, so let’s make the most of our lives and take good care of ourselves and the people we care about.
I have one last question for you: The firm is on a positive track with its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) focus and initiatives. As President of the firm, how do you envision this moving forward?
Natalie: Thanks, Lorena. First, your advice resonated with me, and I agree wholeheartedly—this has been a year unlike any other and staying adaptable and focused on what really matters has been so important. Thanks also for asking about our DEI initiatives. Richard and I serve as executive sponsors of our DEI Council, which leads efforts to create career pathways by building a diverse pipeline of candidates, then ensuring retention and advancement over time. We both meet regularly with DEI Council leadership and its members, and we are excited by the results of our recent partnership with an expert third party to chart a course forward as we implement DEI best practices and ensure strategic alignment with the bottom line. More to come on this as we prioritize this urgent and critical initiative.
Lorena, it has been a pleasure to connect—I look forward to watching your career develop at Mesirow!