Nancy Girondo Applies Lessons from her Parents and Professors to her Role as Product Manager of a Multi-Billion Dollar Product Line.
Nancy Girondo ’98 (A&S/ MAX), ’16 MBA is a vice president of Equity Product Management at OppenheimerFunds. Her product lines represent more than $48 billion of the firm’s assets. She earned an undergraduate degree in economics and international relations from Syracuse University and an MBA from Whitman. She has paved an impressive career path from product analyst to vice president with stops at leading financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley and BlackRock. Though Girondo’s success is enviable and is clearly the result of hard work and commitment, she is quick to credit her parents for their example of work ethic and constant support in realizing her educational goals and professional success.
“I am where I am because of my parents, Mick and Jane Girondo,” she shares. “They have always modeled a strong work ethic and given me an incredible amount of encouragement and confidence. Being successful was never a question. It was just a matter of how I would get there.”
Girondo’s great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy. Her parents were among the first in their immediate families to go to college. They each went on to earn a master’s degree and have enjoyed fruitful, fulfilling careers— her dad as an engineer and her mom as an educator.
When she and her parents made the trip from Philadelphia to Syracuse for a tour, the Carrier Dome was a beacon of sorts for Girondo. “When I first saw the Dome from a distance on I-81, I told my parents, ‘This is it!’ They were really impressed by the parent tour, and, to this day, I can’t imagine choosing any differently.”
Originally accepted into the accelerated liberal arts law program, Girondo made a detour in her choice of major after taking an economics class taught by Jerry Evensky. She paired economics and international relations for a degree that would prove valuable in her career in equity product management.
After graduating in 1998, Girondo started working full time in the financial services industry in January 1999 at a company that specialized in mutual fund and shareholder services. Eighteen months later, she was hired by The Dreyfus Corporation (a subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon), where she spent four years in the firm’s investors communications group before moving to a product management role in 2004. After a successful year, Girondo was hired by Morgan Stanley as an associate on the product management team for the firm’s retail global/international equity products. She was product manager for the launch of Morgan Stanley’s China A Share Fund, Inc., the first offering of its kind by a U.S. firm in 2006.
Girondo survived layoffs during the financial crisis and remained at Morgan Stanley until 2011, when she took a position at BlackRock. She worked there for two years as a vice president/product strategist for the Global Equity and Emerging Markets Equity Teams.
A move to Oppenheimer Funds in 2013 marked the last stop, to date, on the course of Girondo’s career. She came to the firm first as an assistant vice president of Equity Product Management and was promoted to vice president in 2016 while enrolled in the MBA@ Syracuse program.
After a couple of years at Oppenheimer, Girondo felt the timing was right to pursue an MBA. “I had always wanted a master’s degree,” she explains. “Those values of higher learning go back to my parents’ influence, but this time I wanted to be in a place where I could pay for it on my own, have some professional experiences for context and have the flexibility that comes with a more established career.”
Years before, she brie y considered returning to school. “Some friends were getting their MBAs as a way of sidestepping the financial crisis,” she adds. “I decided to focus on my job and try to stay the course. I felt I hadn’t lived the subject matter enough for the proper context of an MBA. I thought if I kept doing good work, I might make it through the financial crisis, and the time for an MBA would come.”
She did make it through and the time did come. When it did, Girondo’s choice of an online MBA program was easy.
Despite having earned her undergraduate degree years prior, Girondo had stayed connected to her alma mater both in spirited Orange fandom and in service as a mentor with the Syracuse University Mentor/Mentee Alliance (SUMMA) and also as a board member of the Friends of Leadership and Public Service High School, a New York 501(c)3 that oversees the relationship between the University and the high school. The Friends is a volunteer organization that runs many other programs for the high school, which was created by SU in a special partnership with the then New York City Board of Education in 1993. Girondo helped get Whitman added to the tour itinerary for the annual visit by juniors to the SU campus.
“The first and only place I applied was Whitman,” she shares. “My undergraduate education at SU got me pretty far, and Whit- man’s online program is superior in many ways. There wasn’t a debate; I was going back home.”
Girondo found the MBA@ Syracuse curriculum both relevant and challenging and the program very collaborative. “Access to accomplished faculty, like Eunkyu Lee, Alex McKelvie, Bill Walsh, Will Geoghegan and Lisa Knych, was tremendously valuable. I really feel my online education was on par with the full-time program—just from a different location.”
Girondo also considers the connections with classmates significantly beneficial. “Though I didn’t join the program for networking, those connections can really make a difference,” she adds. “I made many friendships not just contacts.”
Girondo has brought the lessons from her time in the MBA@Syracuse program to her position at Oppenheimer as the lead product manager for The Emerging Markets Equity Team—the stewards of the largest actively managed emerging markets equity strategy in the world. Her role entails a range of responsibilities, including market research, product positioning, competitive analysis, collateral development, sales support and product launches/recommendations, in addition to working closely with Distribution, Investments, Legal/Compliance and Operations. All of these competencies and the ability to work with groups across an organization are critical for success. Success to Girondo, however, is not just execution and collaboration but that her work clearly articulates portfolio management view and strategy. “It’s really about the end-clients and their needs,” she says.
“The MBA program has broadened my perspective,” shares Girondo. “I appreciate how different situations call for different leader- ship styles, and I approach decisions in my job with greater awareness and more experienced judgment.”
Girondo also pulls from her economics and international relations education in her role as product manager. “My undergraduate education gave me the foundation- al knowledge of how international markets are shaped by economic, political and cultural influences, which has helped me be effective in my job.”
And Girondo’s job varies widely in scope. “There isn’t a typical day,” she says. “My first meeting this morning was on social media strategy and how we can better leverage it when marketing our insights and strategies. I then spent time analyzing actively managed and passively managed strategies for a marketing piece I am developing. The afternoon was focused on product initiatives which entailed working with Legal, Compliance and Operations. My responsibilities require collaboration with every key function of the rm.”
The fast pace, variety and complexity appeal to Girondo and have kept her in the industry for nearly two decades. “Another important lesson I learned from my parents is that you will not be successful long term if you don’t love what you do,” she continues. “They both still work, because they enjoy their jobs to this day. My father is up at 4:30 a.m. and commutes an hour to his office. My mother is equally enthusiastic about going to work. I really enjoy my job and have fun doing it. I recognize the importance of that, and I am grateful. I think we should all be as fortunate as my parents, who have had long and successful careers loving what they do.”