With 327 years of history and (almost) as many classes of graduates heading out into the world, the Penn Charter network is as deep as it is broad. But it is still tight-knit.
Over all those years, no doubt there have been many instances of OPCs providing advice, informal mentoring and even offering a hand to help another OPC break into the workforce. Hard work, dedication, a great education and the ability to generate ideas carries one through, but a connection can help jumpstart a career.
Monica Butler OPC ’09 and Emma Cataldi OPC ’12 illustrate the OPC network – and education – in action. Butler and Cataldi both work for Victoria’s Secret (VS) in New York City, Cataldi starting out as an intern in Butler’s department last year.
“I was good friends with Monica’s younger sister, Sarah Butler OPC ’12. Before I moved to New York City, I reached out and asked Monica if she knew of any openings at Victoria’s Secret, or who I could talk to,” said Cataldi, who graduated from Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media, Arts and Design. “Monica told me that they had an opening for an intern on her team, so I applied.”
At the time, Butler was working on the VS international beauty team in merchandising. “We hired Emma to a three-month internship, and she did a great job,” Butler said. “When the internship ended, there wasn’t anything in the international side at the time, but she was great, so we connected her to the brand development side of merchandising.” The PC connection helped Cataldi break in, but her skills and hard work set her apart for a full-time position.
In a great twist to their story, and a testament to both the company’s desire to nurture and support internal candidates and Butler’s own swath of talents, she too has switched to the brand merchant team, responsible for product development and sales for U.S. stores and digital “I have been at VS for four years. I worked exclusively for e-commerce beauty, and then international beauty, and now I am in a new role with product and U.S. stores’ arm of the merchandising team,” Butler said. “So when I moved over, Emma had already taken a role in accessories. I moved into the desk next to her. We don’t work hand-in-hand regularly and have different businesses to manage and drive, but we are in similar meetings.”
Butler, connected to VS by a fellow graduate of Connecticut College, has hired three cycles of interns during her tenure at VS. “I don’t look specifically for Penn Charter graduates,” she explained. “I look for people with the skills learned from liberal arts experiences, which I think are really foundational. Emma had both the traditional education in liberal arts and specific skills in design and merchandising that fit with the many VS employees coming from Parsons School of Design or FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology].”
Butler’s experience at Connecticut College and at Penn Charter has influenced her career, she said. “In smaller-scale educational settings, you gain intimate connections and people look out for you,” she said. “And it is fantastic to be able to draw from the PC experience, to be able to transfer those communication skills you learn in small classes into the everyday environment. In our corporate atmosphere, there is level of respect and political conversations you have to have in order to get the work done. The PC experience taught us how to work with peers and those different from us. That has translated to strong trajectory for my career and for Emma, too.”
“You’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other in this industry,” Cataldi said. “You take ideas and run with them.
“My parents are always saying that people from PC have a way to talk to people above them, older than them, and to adapt,” she said of her ability to speak persuasively and to lend respect in meetings with superiors and others with more experience.
What might the future bring for the duo? “VS is growing and has a lot to offer,” Cataldi said about her career plans. “I can see myself happy here for a while. I see Monica’s experience with the brands, so I can see myself moving up, growing.”
“The most important part [of work] is feeling valued in your role,” Butler said. “No matter your compensation or title, people want to feel like they are valued when they walk in the door at work. That has kept me at VS, too. We talk at the office about how ‘you own your own development.’ If you know what you are looking for, speak up for it. Penn Charter taught us to speak up for our needs and interests, and I have gone far being able to do that. I talk about what drives me, and the company has been responsive to that.”
For both women, their network opened a door to a career. And their skills, abilities, experience, voice and hard work, bolstered by their Penn Charter education, meant they could walk through that door – and through the next door, one they made themselves. PC