Surprisingly simple secrets to professional success: Know yourself and pursue happiness
Since he started Immaculata’s M.S. in management and leadership, Simon Madrinan ’22 M.S. has seen remarkable results—two promotions and then a new job at Harvard University Employees Credit Union. But his most significant gain from the program surprised him, going beyond his professional life into something deeper.
“Pursuing happiness—I think that’s the most important thing to be successful,” he reflects. “I have learned skills to be a successful manager and leader, but more important, I have realized the importance of the purpose in life, and I have learned that aligning my personal and my professional goals is the key for success and happiness.”
Born in Colombia, Simon worked as a financial manager in corporate banking at the Bank of Bogotá and earned an MBA. He moved to the U.S. in 2016 and took a job in financial services at Citadel Credit Union. Citadel recommended Immaculata’s M.S. to its employees and offered some tuition reimbursement, and in addition to a partnership discount, the program was affordable for Simon.
“I learned that this master’s would be a great complement to my MBA and a good opportunity for my personal and professional growth,” says Simon. “Building a purpose in life, which is part of the program at the beginning, is important.” He adds, “I didn’t learn that in my MBA—that’s a big difference!”
Simon and his classmates read a book called “Designing Your Life” for one of their first classes in the program, and they were asked to write down seven brief stories about moments in life they enjoyed. Reflecting on those stories, they articulated what makes them happy and what they value.
Simon has found greater happiness by improving how he makes decisions. “I am the kind of person that when I have to make a decision, I open my Excel file and [list] pros and cons. But if you’re too specific with that process, you’ll never be happy with the decision that you make.” Simon says the M.S. program has helped him learn to choose the best option with whatever information he has, rather than overthinking things.
“I am now more confident when making decisions,” he says, and this has helped improve his management skills. “A good leader needs to be a good decision-maker.” Citadel rewarded Simon’s efforts and their results with promotions, first as a senior financial services representative, and then as assistant market manager. And the most important skill he has developed to be a successful manager? “One word: listening,” Simon says. Even when someone else in his workplace is the official leader, Simon exerts influence by asking questions of his teammates—“What do you need? How can this project help you?”
Brian Petersen, Ph.D., assistant professor and program director, starts classes by asking, “How do you feel?” Students have the chance to grow in self-awareness and to share what’s happening in their jobs and perhaps also in their lives. “I’ve learned it’s important to have that space,” Simon remarks. “It’s part of the listening skills we are developing in the program.”
As a testament to the program’s success, Simon determined he wanted to work for the finance department of a nonprofit organization, because that aligned with his sense of purpose and what makes him happy. He also knew he liked education, so when he saw a job posting last year for a financial analyst at Harvard University Employees Credit Union, he applied and earned the position.
“I can say that all of this is thanks to what I learned at Immaculata,” Simon reflects. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing now.”