Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that have a greatest impact on the people we turn out to be—little day to day interactions that seem ordinary at the time but end up being very profound.
In the case of Victoria Celano, a sophisticated, driven young woman who spent her summer finishing an MBA program at the venerable University of Chicago Booth School of Business, those ordinary moments are as simple as the memory of being on horseback at her parents’ property in Barrington.
Or of the leadership examples set by her parents Gerald and Robin Celano, who moved the family to Barrington just as Celano was finishing high school—in part because of her and her mother’s, shared interest in riding horses.
“They are my biggest advocates and my favorite people,” says Celano, who now lives in a stylish Streeterville apartment. “My parents are my biggest role models and they are both in careers where they are natural ‘helpers’.”
For Robin Celano, that’s 41 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner and her current position at Lurie Children’s Hospital; for Gerald Celano, it’s his work with the Chicago Police Department, from which he is now retired.
“My mom is a nurse through and through. She’s smart as a whip, incredibly good at her work, and a true giver. Working in pediatric neurology is such difficult work and she does it with empathy, grace, and strength,” says Celano. “She’s also an avid horsewoman and a nonstop worker. I’ve never seen her sit still—she’s constantly making whatever she chooses to do, better.”
Her father holds an equal place of prominence in shaping the woman she has become.
“My dad is also a full-time supporter for me,” she says “To this day, anytime I come home, at some point my car disappears and comes back washed and full of gas. During the pandemic he drove down to the city weekly to deliver delicious homemade pizza, pasta, and whatever else he and my mom made from scratch that week. He’s always there when you need him—anytime day or night. His loyalty is unmatched.”
It’s no wonder then that she found herself taking on roles as an advocate and champion for those whose voices were not being heard.
“When I was an undergrad, I interned at a resource agency for survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” explains Celano, who earned a BA in English, Women and Gender Studies, and Biomedical Studies at St. Olaf College in 2013, while also serving as Captain of the Equestrian Team. “It was the first time where I saw the ideals that I learned about in theory being actively worked toward in the ‘real world.’ I met people whose daily job was to support strong families and communities, to empower women and girls, and to work toward a world free from violence and a world of equity.”
It changed her view of the world and charted a new path she might not have imagined before.
“Whether my work is in the nonprofit sector, business, or government, my motivation remains the same—to actively work toward a world where people’s lives are demonstrably better, especially for the most vulnerable among us.”
In the years since leaving St. Olaf and applying to the part-time evening program at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Celano has held several positions in the nonprofit sector. Most recently, she worked at ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital— an institution that’s leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Making a difference in the lives of others is what drives her. But she says the MBA is going to be a critical tool in helping her be more bold, innovative, and effective in elevating those endeavors.
“Working in the social sector, I realized while there is much that nonprofits get right, there is also room for improvement, and different ways of thinking. In my first job out of undergrad—at the same sexual assault survivor resource organization where I interned—I was able to triple the number of survivors who we could serve in area hospitals through streamlining operations. While I created these process efficiencies without formal training, this helped me realize the greater impact I could have with the knowledge and tools from a formal business education,” she explains.
“I knew an MBA could give me frameworks and introduce me to new ways of thinking. In particular, the University of Chicago is known for encouraging students to challenge the status quo, embrace a highly critical lens, and innovate. It was the perfect school to push me to think differently, to consider case studies across different industries, and meet colleagues with diverse array of perspectives.”
Celano will take the influences of her Barrington family and the work she’s done so far with her to Washington, D.C. this fall as she takes on a consultant position at the prestigious Bain & Company, one of the world’s top management consulting firms.
“Bain & Company is an incredible firm and I am thrilled to be joining them this fall in Washington D.C.,” she says. “As a management consultant, I am looking forward to immersing myself in different industries and tackling some of clients’ biggest problems. Switching careers from nonprofit to consulting, especially at a top firm, is a big leap for me, but I am excited to lean into the growth.”
Knowing what we know about Celano, that “leaning into” is likely to be done with grace, humility, and elegance.
While her work is her passion, her family and the equestrian pursuits in Barrington that keep her grounded.
“Barrington is the perfect place to have horses and be an equestrian. My mother is an avid rider and taught me a love for horses and how to ride from a young age,” Celano explains. “I’m very close with my family, so spending time with them is very important to me. Visiting them at their Barrington home really feels like an oasis away from the business of the city—the serenity and respite I feel when I visit Barrington is something really special.”
As for her personal style, she likens it to a Booth tag line: “Be Bold.”
“My style parallels my personality—a mix of traditional, bold, eclectic, and quirky,” she says, explaining that she favors wearing all black with pops of color, fun shoes, dramatic statement dresses, and topping it all off with a good leather jacket.
“I love M.M.Lafluer,” she continues. “They have beautiful clothes for professional women especially those who are constantly on the go—their pieces are machine washable, versatile, travel friendly, and of course, make me feel amazing!”
Finishing graduate school and embarking on a bold new career in the midst of a pandemic hasn’t been easy, but Celano says she’s grateful for the lessons it has taught her.
“While the pandemic has been devastating, it’s an opportunity to rebuild some of how we work and connect,” she explains, noting the focus on company culture and how various companies responded during this crisis. “How a company reacts when something so large and unprecedented as a global pandemic happens is telling about the core of that company. Do they take care of their employees? How do they handle furloughs and layoffs if it comes to that?”
Bain & Company, for example, lived up to its international reputation.
“I have not even officially started, and Bain has already gone above and beyond in their communication, support, and care,” Celano adds.
With graduation and the move to Washington, D.C. imminent, she’s taking comfort in that future that awaits her, while also reflecting back on the things that brought her to this point.
“In life and my career, I am constantly striving for ‘more” and “better.’ However, as I build my career, I try to be cognizant of the the words of civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell and ‘lift as I climb’,” she concludes. “Achievement falls hollow without a strong and motivating ‘why’ and my why is to use my platform, my knowledge, and my resources to help others.”