As we kick off Women’s History Month, the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) is bringing back the beloved Women’s Leadership Series to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of our female leaders here at National Life Group. This year we will be profiling a series of National Life leaders to hear their experiences navigating both life and the financial industry as a woman. Check back for more posts throughout the month of March and beyond.
This past summer, National Life Group welcomed Rose Ann McDonald to its leadership suite in partnership with its Atlanta Agency. Rose Ann joins her team as the Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives encompassing all areas of the firm’s business with a focus on organizational effectiveness, creating and streamlining systems and processes, including general oversight of the firm. Rose Ann holds thirty-five years of experience in compliance, leadership development, operations, training and development, marketing, coaching, mentoring and management in the financial services industry.
During her career, Rose Ann has been instrumental in attracting and developing women in financial services. She has been a champion in this area as well as other implementation initiative areas. Rose Ann prides herself on her ability to build relationships and consistent systems throughout an organization. She has a real passion for developing people and helping them to reach and maximize their full potential, not just their goals.
Rose Ann graduated from Herbert H Lehman University, City University of New York with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Pre-Law. She lives in Ellenwood, GA and has two adult daughters and a 7-year-old grandson. Rose Ann is active in her Church and enjoys travelling, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.
What’s your career pathway been like? How did you get to where you are now?
Early in my career, I sought out and met with leaders in the workplace who had already had an impact in their role, regardless of race, gender, and ethnicity to support me and help advance my career. As a recent college graduate, one of my mentors at Smith Barney (Brokerage Firm) Don Eichinger, gave me an opportunity within the firm and with each new role thereafter, I made it my own. It was easy for me to identify diverse leaders or influencers because they were a rarity in corporate America on Wall Street, in NYC.
I have had many great mentors along the way and in the early years of my career. Most of them were men however, because in the mid-eighties, there were few women in leadership roles at brokerage firms. I was given the opportunity to work as a member of the Branch Liaison team, supporting several of our branches throughout the US. It was at the height of the Insider Trading years, the bull run on Wall Street and the demise of EF Hutton and Drexel Burnham Lambert.
From that introduction and many promotions later, I have been privileged to work at several Fortune 500 companies and fortunate to work alongside many high performing professionals and business leaders who have all contributed to my success.
What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
What do you like most about working with National Life Group?
The welcomed opportunity to collaborate, influence and offer a different perspective to enhance the ongoing growth and development of the company. You have a voice, and you are heard at National Life.
Has the industry landscape changed during your career? What have you seen?
Oh yes, the impact of technology is real and necessary and continuously evolving and shaping the way we do business. The speed at which we operate, the ease of doing business and the availability of data and the ability to manipulate it is phenomenal and often scary.
The number of women in leadership who are at the table making decisions has increased. We are visible and increasing daily.
There is a definite push to have more women and overall diversity in firms in advisor ranks. I also see the interest in learning about the market, investing, and financial matters from the middle and high schoolers to the college students.
In honor of women’s history month, is there a particular woman who has inspired you in life?
My mom is my heroine (RIH). Although she had no formal education, she instilled in her nine children that we could do anything and become anyone. No one was allowed to feel inferior or inadequate in her house. She was a visionary who did not take “no” for an answer. She always found a way to overcome obstacles. She had a vision for her life and her nine children and executed it well. She was wise beyond her years, full of faith and unrealized potential given the roles women of her generation were offered. My mom radiated joy and fulfilled her purpose through her children. She is the reason why I know who I am.
Also, there is nothing like a community of women who support and lift each other up. WIN and WIFS are focused on doing that. At every firm, and in every role, I have been intentional about securing a “mentor” or “insider” who had candid conversations with me about my opportunities for improvement and overall progress within the firm. Very often, that man or woman did not look like me, but gave me the opportunity and challenged me to success. There was also my personal and professional sister circles and family who were only a phone call or text away when I needed them. Above all, my faith keeps me grounded in that I can’t take myself and my ambitious goals too seriously, but I PAY IT FORWARD.
What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?
Do the Work, put in the time and effort and pursue excellence in everything you do.
Find a mentor and hone your craft.
If you fall short, just get up, dust yourself off and start over.
The real lesson is not in the falling, but it’s in the getting up.
What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?
Perseverance – against all odds, make it happen
Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion?
I am on the Board of a Non-Profit organization – Women Helping Women, Inc. Our mission is dedicated to the economic and educational empowerment of at-risk women in the US and third world countries. We support several women shelters here in Atlanta because the need is great.
What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering doing business with us?
I was attracted to NL’s vision and its simplicity resonated with me.
Do good. Be good. Make good.
The Golden Rule is alive and well
NL is a well-kept secret that is impacting lives quietly and deeply.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Today, success to me looks very different than it did in those early years of striving for the next title, salary, and leadership role. It is more about influence, legacy building – Coaching and mentoring the ones who are coming after to me to ensure they feel supported, better positioned for success, and knowledgeable about the financial services industry. It’s less about me and more about them because I must replicate myself to feel comfortable about my exit. I love to work with those who know what they want and are hungry and proactive with their career.
As a pioneer of sorts, you had to create your own path and demand to be heard and/or offered the position – constantly selling oneself, always striving for excellence and forging ahead despite systemic real and imagined roadblocks to my success. After several decades in the industry, I see progress, but we are not at our point of arrival. PROGRESS is slow but it is sure.