Options & Confidence: Carolyn Connolly ’16, new job, new mom, former Roller Derby Queen

This is a fun story to write. I’ve had three interviews with Carolyn Connolly, FEMBA 2016, in the last 18 months and every time I’m more impressed. First was her admission interview, the second was last summer, and the third was today. (You gotta read to the bottom, or you’ll miss the best photo ever!)

20140220 Mara Connolly

Meet Mara Connolly-Gould, born the week before Leadership Foundations to Carolyn Connolly. “I’m so proud of my mommy!”

When I had the admission interview with Carolyn, I learned that she’d had a full-ride in Electrical Engineering as an undergrad at Cooper Union before a career in semi-conductors. That’s a pretty regular story for us, engineer-in-transition, but Carolyn is anything but regular.

20140101 Connolly-Caroline_1 professional headshot

Carolyn Connolly ’16, New FEMBA, New Mom, New Career Track

She reached a plateau in engineering–she was good at it but didn’t love it–and decided to take a sabbatical year. She had a nest egg from her first career and some investments and she came to LA. She was testing theater and film and then got into roller derby, skating for the LA Derby Dolls.


Carolyn Connolly, AKA “Firefly”, during her LA Derby Doll career. This promo shot is utilizing real Bacardi 151. Photographer Marc Campos.

Roller derby was actually lucrative so her sabbatical was extended. She knew skating wasn’t forever, and was looking for a new career chapter. She tested the waters with tax work. That didn’t click for her and so she pursued a new path, city government work, getting an entry-level job for the City of Santa Monica.

We liked Carolyn. She is smart and bold and curious. We admitted her to the FEMBA Class of 2016.

In my second interview with her, it was months after her admission just before the start of school.

“Dylan guess what? Things have really been taking off. After I got admitted to FEMBA, I started noticing a change in my confidence at work. I signed up for a pre-supervisory-track event and when I gave my pitch, one of the leaders told me about a whole new pathway that I should consider. She and I had lunch and I applied and I have an entirely new job, at about 50% more pay.”

“Wow,” I said. “That is terrific. FEMBA’s supposed to help your career, and it’s helping yours even before you take your first class!”

“But wait Dylan,” she said. “There’s something else. I’m pregnant. I’m in my third trimester. It must have happened right around the same time I got admitted. My baby is due almost exactly at the time of Leadership Foundations (our kick-off orientation).

Well, it turns out baby Mara was born healthy and happy just before Leadership Foundations. With support from the Faculty, and hard work from Daddy and Mommy, Mara had a great week as Carolyn launched her FEMBA journey.

20130931 Carolyn Connolly and Mara at LF completion

Daddy Jack, Mommy Carolyn and Baby Mara. All together at the closing ceremony of Leadership Foundations, summer 2013.

And finally, today, I had an update interview with Carolyn, to hear how year one is going.

“It’s great Dylan. School is still good academically.  Getting A’s.

“The confidence of FEMBA has really kicked in. I have no fear that I’ll get stuck in a counting room. I’ve actually had two different classmates approach me to work with them. I’m not even looking, so it’s encouraging.

“I’m back working full time and I miss Mara very much, because some days I barely see her.  I don’t get to network as much as I’d like too, because once class is over, all I want to do is rush home and see the baby.  Sometimes we bring her to Happy Hour, and my classmates are very supportive.

“She’s in a great daycare that I would not have been able to afford without my promotion, and she’s a people person – very social personality. She loves watching all the other kids at daycare and interacting with them.

“For our FEMBA group work, we use Google hangouts a lot. Sometimes I turn the camera off and feed Mara and she falls asleep in my arms. I can put her to bed and continue with my studies.

“I’ve been able to feed her 100% breast milk. I didn’t know if that would be able to happen or not. I’ve used the Anderson New Mother’s Room the whole year, every Saturday, usually twice a day, at lunchtime and after my second class before I go home.

“I’ll send you some pictures of Mara. She is doing great.”

20140220_Mara Connolly sleeping on Carolyn Connolly lap during homework time

Baby Mara falls asleep on Mommy Carolyn’s lap. Mommy learns about the elasticity of demand while Mara dreams.

Congrats to Carolyn, Mara and Daddy. Thanks for the story. Thanks for the photos. Thanks for the inspiration.

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