Top Recruiter Now, Financial Analyst Then
“I don’t actually plan my life,” Jackie Dorfman ’82 (economics) comments, “but I do take advantage of opportunities as they come my way.” Today she is the manager of human resources for Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York, a leader in sophisticated, international legal services, serving the most successful companies in the world with their high-stakes matters and transactions. Dorfman, at corporate headquarters, recruits all staff, oversees their training and career development, and is the team leader for succession planning. Earlier in her career, though, Dorfman was an international financial analyst with major companies like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and McKinsey & Company. The question is, how did the transition from financial analysis to human resources occur?
The journey began when Dorfman, who hails from New Jersey, chose UMass Amherst over Smith. “I came for a weekend visit and the Amherst campus was so full of life and energy that I decided to attend right then and there,” she says. Dorfman entered the honors program in economics her freshman year. The honors courses were small, so interaction with professors was easy. Dorfman notes, “I had wonderful mentors—Douglas Vickers and Kenneth Flamm in the economics department and Louis Greenbaum in history—who helped me before and after graduation. I also took advantage of study abroad, during which I spent a summer at Oxford University’s Trinity College. I’d never been out of the country before, so it was a real turning point for me.” In addition to her academic pursuits—Dorfman minored in art history and math – she participated in various student activities and summer internships. “The programs I chose to be part of — SGA, MassPirg, UPC — helped make the campus smaller, and thereby more personal and fun. I loved it all,” she recalls. Still, when she graduated, she wasn’t sure what to do.
Dorfman headed for Paris where she lived and studied for six months while attending New York University’s post-graduate program there. “That experience essentially pointed me to graduate school,” she says. With an MS in international economics from Georgetown University, Dorfman landed a job with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “I started in 1987 as a junior economist in international research,” she says, “I helped senior staff analyze US trade performance in oil markets and forecast oil and commodity price movements for them.” Dorfman quickly rose through the ranks. By 1992, she was a senior financial analyst, analyzing current market trends and developments, evaluating the financial performance of foreign and domestic financial institutions, and assessing the economic conditions of foreign markets.
“But when in 1998 I found out that my next job would be in Buffalo, I knew it was time to move on,” she says, pointing to the fact that she had become a true New Yorker. That’s when Dorfman began her six-and-a-half-year relationship with McKinsey & Co., the internationally known consulting firm that is advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential businesses and institutions. Dorfman notes that, although her entry into the firm was not through the more common channel of campus recruiting—she applied for a position she saw advertised in the NY Times—this experience mirrored her earlier entry into the NY Fed, where she simply wrote to the human resources department and asked for an interview.
“During my first two years as manager of the Banking & Securities Practice research group I built an organization of eight people into a team of more than twenty research professionals that supported McKinsey financial consultants globally,” Dorfman recalls. “Our aim was to improve the management and dissemination of the division’s internal knowledge and to keep tabs of developments in the financial services industry.”
After a couple of years in the New York office, Dorfman was chosen to go to Paris to rebuild a research team to deliver insights on the financial services sector in France. The six-month stint turned into two years during which Dorfman worked with pan-European leadership groups and core practice members to develop innovative knowledge products. “I ensured that consultants were conversant with the Financial Institutions Group’s experts and latest thinking.”
Her ailing father was the catalyst for Dorfman’s return to New York. Still with McKinsey, she became the manager of the Global Knowledge Management Learning Redesign Project. This required a shift in focus to developing training opportunities for the Knowledge Management Community of more than 700 professionals worldwide. In six short months, Dorfman co-led the design of an online learning portal, created an orientation program for all new hires, and developed self-directed learning modules that enhanced communication skills of the research community. More promotions followed, first as the firm contact responsible for all mobility related policy issues for transferees into North and South American offices, and then as practice manager to fill managerial roles for the Telecommunications and Nonprofit Practices.
“At this point, a good portion of my responsibilities with McKinsey revolved around recruiting consultants into the Telecommunications and Nonprofit Practices,” Dorfman says, “and then I myself was recruited for a position at Russell Reynolds Associates, an international executive search firm. Beginning in 2004, my job as Director of Research for the Americas was to identify, attract and cultivate senior-level executives for positions in leading Fortune 500 companies.” When the opportunity came along to join Weil, Gotshal & Manges, however, Dorfman decided to make the move to be an “in-house” recruiter. “It just felt right,” Dorfman states, noting that “the minute I walked through the door I felt as though I could make a difference. Now fifteen months into the job, I know I made the right decision.”
Dorfman says that all of her positions have afforded her the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. “Perhaps the greatest reward is working with individuals who support you and encourage you to challenge yourself. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some exceptional people who still serve as mentors and friends. Although my career has followed paths I never envisioned, UMass Amherst prepared me to take advantage of new experiences and taught me how to navigate through difficult situations.”
November 29, 2007