by Nick Passarelli
When I began with my former firm, Kellogg Group LLC, in 2003, I was hired as the Director of Human Resources, but was told that my help was needed in other areas, specifically compliance. I knew about regulatory compliance from my days at Prudential Securities, but never considered it as a career. Here I am starting a new position and immediately was asked to get involved in an area where I have zero experience. Since I was new and the company was small, I agreed to help.
The experience in compliance began primarily in areas such as registration and continuing education. As I became more familiar with the different areas of the firm, my manager gave me greater compliance-related responsibilities. Six months into the job, my day was split between 50% HR and 50% compliance. I’m not sure if many people would be happy doing something other than what they were hired to do, but I actually enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed compliance more.
In 2005, I was named the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) of Kellogg Partners, the Institutional Sales division of Kellogg Group. The experience really helped me grow professionally into a compliance role. At a small firm, there is a lot of baptism by fire. I made mistakes, but I learned from them quickly. As I began to understand the business in detail, it only helped me develop further into the role.
I stayed in compliance at Kellogg Partners for over four years. In 2009, I accepted a position as the CCO of Hilliard Farber/Dealerweb in 2009. My current firm has a different business model, but the responsibilities remain the same. When you work in compliance, you are the liaison between your firm and the various regulators who oversee you. It’s important that regulators understand what your firm does and that you’re compliant with their various rules and regulations. There’s a delicate balance between being compliant and tying that into the firm’s business. If you say no to everything your business wants, they will never make any money. At the same time, giving the business free reign on everything will inevitably lead to issues. It’s my job to work closely with my business people and help put them in a position where they can be as successful as possible while satisfying our regulatory responsibilities.
I am a graduate of Baruch’s MBA Program and always appreciated my experience at the school. My professors were excellent. They always made you think and tied everything into real-life scenarios. I also believe that attending part-time at night while working full-time during the day enhanced my experience. We always discussed general work items in class and the professors were always appreciative of it. It also helped the full-time students get a better understanding of topics in terms of their real life applicability.
I have always enjoyed mentoring younger people and will continue this fall as a mentor in the Executives on Campus program. There were so many people who gave me their time when I was younger and I was always appreciative. I made myself a promise that I would do the same and share my experiences and advice to those who are just getting started in their careers.
For the mentees who are reading this, here’s some advice from my experience: When it comes to starting your career, your biggest obstacle is lack of experience. It’s something you’ll overcome in time, but you need to be patient. Also, people with certain personality traits tend to be more desirable to employers. If you are willing to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and handle the grunt work, it shows me that you’re not above anything and I respect that. I learned a lot about HR by starting in an administrative on-boarding position. While it wasn’t what I envisioned in HR, I learned how the on-boarding tied in with the different HR functions at the firm. The experience was great.
Even after 15 years of experience, I am still amazed at how some people have difficulty working with others. I don’t care what you decide to do as a career. If you don’t know how to work with all types of people in your field, then your upside is limited. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you do need to find a way to work with them and get the job done.
One final piece of advice for the mentees in the program which I think is important: Network!! I cannot begin to stress the importance of networking. Create an account on Linked In, exchange information with people you meet and keep in touch with those in your network. You’ll be amazed at the amount of people you meet who may know someone that you do. I always tell my interns that what you know helps, but who you know will lead to more opportunities for you.