Finance Alumni Share Career Insights With Students

financeBowdoin Career Planning recently invited three Bowdoin alumni and entrepreneurs to campus to speak to students about their careers in finance. Debbie Wissel ’03, Bob Whelan ’83 and Ben Butcher ’76 talked about their jobs as vice president at PayPerks, finance executive at the Federal Reserve Bank, and CEO of STAG Capital Partners, respectively.

Wissel is the VP in PayPerks’ strategic initiatives department. PayPerks is a personal finance management company, founded by Arlyn Davich ’03, which helps low-income people with financial planning. After Bowdoin, Wissel studied at Wharton Business School. She then took jobs at start-ups, including Innovest and LearnVest. At the talk, she encouraged Bowdoin students to work for young companies where they will likely have to handle multiple responsibilities.

Whelan emphasized the importance of making one’s own way in pursuit of a career after college, and to be actively engaged in forging one’s path. Whelan worked in investment banking and went to Harvard Business School. “Don’t just process but create,” he said. “Speak up and be active.”

Butcher works in the commercial real estate sector for STAG. He said he changed jobs frequently when he was young before enrolling at the Tuck School of Business. Butcher talked about how much traveling and interacting with people from different cultures can enrich one’s life and work. He counseled Bowdoin students to cross boundaries, to be aware of what’s going on around them, and to not be discouraged by failures.

All three panelists referred to their liberal arts education at Bowdoin as a plus at the workplace. Wissel said her Bowdoin education enabled her to take up many different positions, from production management to talent management. Curiosity and courage, which she developed as a student at Bowdoin, helped her take risks and disrupt the ordinary — qualities that are helpful to be successful at a start-up, she added.

Whelan pointed out that at Bowdoin, students “learn how to learn.” Even though liberal arts graduates might have a hard time with financial planning at first, they fall back on their logic skills to solve problems as well as, or sometimes even better than, their colleagues from technical university backgrounds, he said.

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