Kelly Mullane’s Journey from Basra to Banking
While taking fire over the deserts of Iraq aboard a Chinook helicopter, a career in finance wasn’t on Kelly Mullane’s radar. Now, the senior business consultant and newly appointed SVP can’t see herself anywhere else.
Kelly served in the military for eight years, obtaining the rank of captain and becoming the British Army’s first female Arabic Media Spokesperson. On the advice of a fellow veteran, Kelly began her civilian career in finance with roles at Barclays and Goldman Sachs. She took time off to have her first child, Imogen, Age 10, and then joined Northern Trust as a program and portfolio manager in the product development team.
Almost nine years and another child later – Edward, Age 6 – Kelly knows that the path isn’t always clear for people with non-traditional backgrounds. She is proud of her unique experiences and all the ways they have empowered her throughout her career. That’s why she is intentional in being a “wedge in the door” for others and emphasizes that the strengths we have can always be adapted to new situations.
“Using what I learned throughout my time in the military has allowed me to do well in my career because I’ve transitioned those skills – leadership, teamwork, organization, project and change management – and made them appropriate for the role I have today. I think that’s why I’ve been able to progress. Northern Trust looked at those skills and said, ‘You know what? We want people like that.’”
“Northern Trust recognized the experience I was bringing to the table and they absolutely jumped on it,” Kelly continued. “They want to see how far I can go.”
For Kelly, that growth trajectory has existed both in her day job as well as additional leadership opportunities. Kelly is a co-chair of the EMEA branch of the Military Assistance and Appreciation Resource Council at Northern Trust and volunteers her time as Lead for the Veterans Workstream for The Diversity Project, an organization highlighting unequal diversity and inclusion across the investment industry as well as for Aanchal Women’s Aid, a charity supporting women and their families, who have been affected by domestic violence.
To help balance her job responsibilities, volunteer work and family, Kelly maintains several calendars, tries to implement strong boundaries, and makes sure to get in plenty of sessions on her Peloton. One challenge is the guilt she feels in balancing her job while also being present for her family.
“I’ve been in meetings with very senior execs when Teddy, my six-year-old, comes running around in the background turning into a transformer,” Kelly explained while laughing. “It’s fine because you can still see that I’m working, I’m here, I’m just also a mom with a little boy and a little girl.”
Knowing that there are many demands to prioritize in and out of the office, Kelly has four pieces of advice for all partners looking to grow in their career: be like a sponge (learn as much as you can), get really good at your role (be the expert in the room), think about how you’re going to add value to the organization (if you see an issue, fix it!), and network as much as possible (spend the time getting to know as many people as you can).
Kelly also credits the teammates, mentors and Northern Trust culture for seeing potential in her, supporting her and helping her thrive in her role so she can in turn welcome others.
“Northern Trust is the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever worked with. And that’s what sets us apart, our partners. It’s knowing that someone has your back and you have theirs. It’s all about the trust we have in one another. I can honestly say I have not experienced true, true teamwork like this since I left the Army.”