Business Panel Overview- Caitlin Canal ’25 and Vittoria Maher ’25

The FBLA Club helped to organize a business and networking event, which included a panel of businesswomen and a series of small group discussions. The panelists Lucy DeStefano, Caroline Abel, Christine D’Agostino, and Kristen Ehinger shared their experiences with business and insights into their journey to hold the positions they have currently, along with advice for the upper school. One of the first pieces of advice spoken was from Mrs. D’Agostino who emphasized that setting yourself up for success by teaching yourself good habits is important when holding yourself to a high standard. Mrs. D’Agostino works as the Global Head of Enterprise Risk Management at KKR. Mrs. D’Agostino went to Wake Forest Business School and remembered that getting the experience and taking the most out of her classes gave her the leg up she needed. After college, she highlighted that she always wanted to go abroad and involve herself in a different part of the industry. When she was asked how she was affected by being a woman in a male-dominated industry, she responded by underscoring that working with a male majority didn’t matter to her, as long as she was authentic, she would have her place.

In addition, Mrs. DeStefano, who graduated from Princeton and runs trading at Soros, shared with the upper school that something important for her in the line of work that she does is learning how to think and not what to think. She alludes to curiosity being a driving force when staying informed. A significant piece of advice Mrs. DeStefano spoke about was being able to handle criticism with the intent that it was meant. Criticism is not the easiest thing to digest especially when you are in a fast-paced environment. But being able to correct yourself when asked will help you grow and be better at what you do instead of taking it to heart. For Mrs. DeStefano, the considerable amount of variety at her job makes her day-to-day schedule look very different, but it has taught her how to adapt to multi-faceted situations. When asked about the legacy she wanted to leave in her career for future generations she said that she would want more women to do these jobs and that men can feel confident to seek women to fill those positions. 

Ms. Abel graduated from Harvard with honors and works in computer science closely with Artificial intelligence. She spoke about doing Girls Who Code during her time at Oak Knoll which helped further her love of computer science and AI. She exclaimed that this experience really helped her figure out what specifically she was interested in and pushed her to pursue it in college and beyond. Ms. Abel spoke very highly of AP computer science as it allows you to dive deeper into the realm of Artificial intelligence as well as do research and experiments involving AI. She finds that the most difficult part of her job is the initial research and figuring out how to break problems down into simpler, smaller ones when she is given a task. Ms. Abel spoke on how her job and many jobs involving tech and software are flexible with remote and in-person learning and facilitate a positive work-life balance. She thinks it is incredibly important to try out the things you are interested in by joining clubs or applying to internships to gain further experience. She believes that having more women in STEM is incredibly important and advocates that the girls at Oak Knoll explore computer science. Ms. Abel is currently one of only two women on her team of twenty people. She hopes to see more women join her field of work and explore tech and software engineering.

Our last panelist, Ms. Ehinger graduated from Georgetown after majoring in history. She currently works an office job, runs her own business, and is a mother. Her business, key concepts in design, launched during COVID-19 when she taught herself how to sew and began creating purses and bags. Since then, she has managed to grow her business and focus on other aspects of her life. She exclaimed how important it was for her to study something she was interested in which is what drew her to being a history major. Ms. Ehinger claims being a history major taught her how to properly take in and summarize information which has benefitted her in her office job now. She runs on about 4 hours of sleep a night which works for her as she spends her night hours following her passion of creating bags. At first, after college, she believed she wanted to be a lacrosse coach because she played lacrosse throughout her whole life and loved it. Soon she realized that she didn’t want to be an actual lacrosse coach, but instead, she liked the fast-paced environment and the bonding with people which led her to work on a trading desk. Ms. Ehinger believes that the most difficult part of her job is balancing having it all but not all at once. With so many different passions and parts of her life, she has to find the time for all of them and know when to put more effort into one versus the other. Overall, Ms. Ehinger loves her fast-paced, busy life, even when things get difficult, and believes coming from Oak Knoll helped her on her journey to success.