RPCS Alumnae Share Career Advice with Upper Schoolers

RPCS Alumnae Share Career Advice with Upper Schoolers
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back,” goes the famous Chinese proverb. Roland Park Country School Upper Schoolers did just that when eight alumnae returned to campus, in person and virtually, for the School’s annual Professional Connections program this December. Organized by the Alumnae Office, the RPCS graduates met with small groups of Upper School students, where they discussed how they chose their respective careers, offered wise advice for handling life’s challenges and revealed how being a RED helped prepare them for life after graduation.
Annette Fleishman, 2008, a senior product manager at Autodesk, spoke about how the critical thinking and study skills she learned at RPCS prepared her well when she attended Vanderbilt University to study civil engineering. Attending an all-girls school also instilled in her a sense of confidence that helped her in college and beyond as she was never afraid to speak up and ask questions. She encouraged our current students to notice and appreciate the sense of empowerment that is reinforced at RPCS because it will be valuable for years to come. 
Emily Sunderland, 2009, a principal at Boston Consulting Group, advised her group of Upper School students to explore various career options and focus more on the process of learning, growing and gaining new experiences rather than the destination. “There is no single path for what to do, no matter what your end goal is,” she told them.
Several alumnae also spoke about the importance of connecting with other students to create ties that may last a lifetime. “Coming from a school like RPCS gives you an opportunity,” Deniece Holley Roahrig, 2006, who works in digital entertainment at Spotify in Los Angeles, shared with her group of students. Deniece has built her career in integrated media working at companies that include Buzzfeed, Complex and Fullscreen, Inc. and encouraged the students to value their lasting friendships with classmates and keep in touch with fellow graduates to network. “Someone from RPCS might be your inroad to your next job.” 
Tanaira Cullens, 2008, an environmental scientist at Biohabitats, Inc., an environmental consulting firm, and Elizabeth Duke, 2004, a pediatric neurologist and medical officer in the Office of Oncologic Diseases at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shared similarly wise advice. “Making real connections is very important,” Tanaira emphasized to the students. “Make sure to make good use of the space you are in now and use your network while you have one.” Dr. Duke shared her email address with students to help them take the first step to build their own professional connections. She also urged the students to pursue work they are passionate about to ensure a fulfilling career. 
The alumnae speakers also imparted wise advice that can be applied to both careers and life. Tiffani Jefferson Reidy, 2000, whose work at Reidy Creative encompasses interior architecture, creative direction, graphic and publication design, and photography, talked about the importance of adaptability and flexibility, especially during unpredictable times, such as COVID-19. 
Kelly Donovan-Mazzulli, 1994, a child advocate lawyer, advised the RPCS students: “A good life lesson is being able to immerse yourself in others’ perspectives and opinions, in order to form your arguments….it’s essential.”
Carla Johnston Driscoll, 2004, a registered nurse in the Neurobehavioral Unit at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, summed it up well when she spoke about pursuing a career: “Just go for it and don’t be scared!” Carla also noted that her classes at RPCS were harder than any of her university courses and noted, “That’s why they call it college prep!” 
The theme of finding happiness and meaning beyond their careers resonated with many of the alumnae. “You can and will do amazing things, but always remember how important it is to have a good work-life balance.” Kelly Donovan-Mazzulli said. “With balance and mental health stability, all good things flow, it is of primary importance. Fulfillment in life is not all about how much money you earn."
Our annual Professional Connections program was held on December 6, 2021 for Upper School students. The following alumnae returned to campus (in person and virtually) to share the stories of their career paths and their best advice for current REDS. Pictured here, from left to right: Tiffani Jefferson Reidy, 2000, Carla Johnston Driscoll, 2004, Elizabeth Duke, 2004, Kelly Donovan-Mazzulli, 1994, and Tanaira Cullens, 2008, – along with our three remote participants, Annette Fleishman, 2008, Deniece Holley Roahrig, 2006 and Emily Sunderland, 2009.