Economics alumna joins liberal arts leadership conference

September 16, 2016

This is the fourth of nine in a series of Q&As with College of the Liberal Arts alumnae who will be participating in Penn State Women: Leaders of Today and Tomorrow. The event, scheduled for Oct. 25-26, will bring together leaders from the finance, technology and business fields for a panel discussion and one-on-one meetings with students from all majors across the University.

Pam Kiernan, a 1991 economics alumna, is the chief administrative officer of Two Sigma, an investment manager that uses technology and data to drive business. In her role, she is responsible for operations, corporate platform initiatives, and workplace services.

What activities did you participate in early in your career and/or as a student that helped prepare you for leadership?

I took the summer and fall off to work to pay for my final two semesters. I was fortunate to have opportunities at Merrill Lynch during my first break, which catalyzed me to change my major from engineering to economics. During my second semester off, I worked at a smaller technology firm, which peaked my interest in information technology. I spent my first seven years in technology before moving to finance.

How do you distinguish yourself in a large organization?

I think performance is what distinguishes an individual in any organization, but performance alone does not guarantee opportunity. Being an effective team player and performance will lead to new opportunities. 

What one quality do you think is essential in a successful leader?

It’s very hard to isolate just one attribute since a “cocktail” of qualities is really essential. Strategic orientation, executive presence, and the ability to connect and motivate your teams toward a common vision are all essential. 

How have you been able to utilize your liberal arts background during your career?

I think liberal arts has really given me the flexibility to experience many different types of roles and industries in the last 25 years of my career. I spent three years in engineering before I decided to switch. I knew an engineering career wasn’t for me, but I’ve been able to apply a strong math orientation with good problem-solving and people management skills in technology, consulting and finance. 

  • Pam Kiernan, ’91 economics

    Pam Kiernan

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated September 16, 2016