Frances Messano: Following Her Heart From Wall Street To NewSchools Venture Fund

Frances-MessanoAlumna: Harvard Business School (MBA, ‘08) and
Harvard College (BA, Economics, ‘02)

A native of Brooklyn, Frances Messano benefited from having parents determined to ensure her success in life and a non-profit that opened the door to an exceptional education. After graduating from Harvard College, Frances started her career in finance but soon realized her work needed to align more closely with her values. She obtained an MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) and, after strategic roles in consulting and at Teach for America (TFA), she landed at NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), a mission-driven venture philanthropy that invests in social entrepreneurs who are reimagining K-12 education. It’s a role that seems tailor-made for Frances, who brings her entire self to work…what she calls being “Fully Frances.”

Wall Street wasn’t my final stop.

After graduating from Harvard, I spent four years in equity derivative sales and trading at Morgan Stanley. After three years, I wanted to shift careers because my values were not in line with those around me. The main motivator there was to make a lot of money, and I knew that wouldn’t be enough to get me out of bed every day. However, I’m glad I began my career in finance because I learned so much. If you can hold your own on the trading floor, especially as a woman and a person of color, you can pretty much do it anywhere.

I set out to find my passion, and an MBA was key.

I reached out to my network to set up informational interviews. I did 30-40 of those, maybe more. You have to put in hard work to figure out your career path. I noticed a common thread among women I met doing interesting things: They had an MBA. To effectively switch from finance, I needed the training, network and validation that business school offers.

I went to a Forté information session and joined a non-profit called Management Leadership for Tomorrow. It’s for high-potential black, Latino and Native American professionals and it demystifies the MBA process. Through that, I decided business school was right for me.

An MBA helps you to acquire skills that will power any career path you want. I’m much more confident going into any environment. With the case study model at HBS, you are constantly asked to state your opinions, support them with data and be ready to defend your point-of-view. You also learn what kind of leader you want to be. MORE

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