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Fellowship Reflection: From Cerebro-Spinal Fluid to Long-term Debt to Equity Ratios

Tags: Fellowship

Cecelia Crossen

On my first day at El Pomar Foundation, my first “real person” job post-graduation, I was asked a terrifying question, “What are you going to do after the Fellowship?” I was rather flabbergasted – I’d only just arrived, how did they already want me gone? I’d only just found this job, couldn’t I relax for a bit? When I accepted my position in the Fellowship, a two-year leadership and management development program, I did not realize that one of my primary tasks as a Fellow would be planning my own departure.

I’m writing this blog, quite simply, because I’m a Fellowship success story. I came into this experience with an open mind, and at the time a vague vision of my future. I’m “successful” in the sense that I used the Fellowship for one of its intended purposes: as a springboard to the future. I embraced opportunity, listened to my instincts, and employed the vast resources of the Foundation to begin what has felt nothing short of a sprint to my future. Mr. Tutt, El Pomar’s President and Chief Investment Officer, frequently tells me, one of the purposes of the Fellowship is “to help Fellows get to a better place, after their time at El Pomar, than they could have arrived at on their own.” I can’t attest to this statement yet personally, as I’m still a Fellow, but I can say wholeheartedly that El Pomar has prepared me to take the leap.

I came into the Foundation interested in pursuing medical school; I am leaving the Foundation pursuing a career in the investment world. The cerebro-spinal fluid and hemoglobin that once entranced my mind have been replaced with long-term debt to equity and price to earnings (P/E) ratios. It’s a rather radical shift, I admit, but I can point to countless instances in my time as a Fellow that have led me to where I am today.

The Investment Challenge class that all Fellows participate in was my first exposure to investing, and I got hooked – throwing myself into our annual equity analysis project with the fervor of a starving coyote. Now, a year later, I co-teach Investment Challenge with another Fellow, Matt Weigel. In addition, I spend some days working in the Investment Office helping run weekly and monthly reports, tracking trades, and generally attempting to sponge up as much information as I can muster.  El Pomar staff has facilitated numerous meetings for me with investment professionals. As of January, I have begun studying for Level 1 of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam, which I will take in June. Recently I also started a one-day-per-week internship with a wealth management firm in Denver, Grandview Investment Advisors, allowing a first-hand look at portfolio management and running a small business.

The Fellowship is a strange amalgam of experiences. First and foremost, the responsibility is to staff and direct Foundation programs, study all areas of the nonprofit industry from fundraising to finance, and identify and support new avenues to enhance the lives of Coloradans. Next, it provides a valuable opportunity for personal leadership growth using annual reviews, various strength and personality assessments, and a daunting “360” review in which peers, senior staff, and other colleagues provide detailed feedback on our leadership practices. Finally, and most importantly for my purposes, it gives Fellows a perpetual push towards the “next-step” with countless networking opportunities, special projects, externships, and a handful of days-off designated specifically for job-hunting.

I am still just as terrified by the future as I was on day one, but I am now equipped with a support system, tools, and experiences to help me make this transition.  I have the Foundation to thank for that.