Rockoff joins liberal arts alumnae leadership panel

September 30, 2016

This is the sixth 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.

Karen Rockoff, a 1981 French and accounting alumna, is the former executive vice president and chief risk officer of Peapack-Gladstone Financial Corp. and is an expert in all facets of enterprise risk management, particularly strategic risk appetite evaluation, regulatory compliance, governance and identification, and communication of emerging enterprise and industry risks. 

How have your priorities shifted throughout the course of your career?

Every day of our lives involves choices, most of which are made unconsciously. After working up my own ladder of success, which involved some sideways rungs and a few steps backwards, I am now ready to pick and choose how I wish to spend the rest of my working life. Rather than serving a philosophy or strategy or a single organization, I am ready to embrace discrete projects that interest me and allow me to live a life where I choose the priorities.

How do you distinguish yourself in a large organization?

In a large or small organization, understand the organization’s core values and let those values guide your work product and professional conduct. Ask questions. Be kind and polite. Respect deadlines and hierarchies. Network. Complete assignments on time. If you screw up, own up, immediately. Stick your hand in the air, and volunteer for all the extra assignments you can, especially the ones that aren’t fun. In short, treat others how you wish to be treated, with respect and kindness, and you will shine.

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

My liberal arts education has made me a better, more creative analyst, approaching solutions to problems in a more holistic, less clinical way. Banking and finance require quantitative solutions, but the brain training from my liberal arts education has often helped me see a different path to a solution. My French education provided me the skills to work in Paris for an extended term. I traveled the world for several years, using my foreign language skills (French, Italian, Spanish) in an analytical role for financial services institutions.

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

Recruiting and being recruited has helped me identify character strengths and issues, as a prospective employer and a prospective employee. In a very short window of time, interviewing, from either side of the table, helped me reach a conclusion, with limited information, which is a critical skill for an excellent leader.

  • Karen Rockoff

    Karen Rockoff, a 1981 French and accounting alumna, will be participating in Penn State Women: Leaders of Today and Tomorrow, scheduled for Oct. 25-26.

    IMAGE: Karen Rockoff

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Last Updated October 02, 2016