Nancy Reiner has influenced my life not only as a friend, but she changed my career trajectory. I met Nancy in the spring of 2008 after I relocated to Boston for my husband’s job. I, unfortunately, has been laid off right before we moved to Boston, and found myself somewhat rudderless at the time.
I started networking and interviewing. Nancy was opening a competitor search firm and hired me to join her. We figured things out together. She always treated me as an equal even though she has been a large law firm partner and knew everyone in Boston. She was quick with mentorship and sage advice when I needed it. After nearly four years together, she was recruited to join MLA. She very thoughtfully suggested that I would be a great addition to the interim legal team. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I would not be where I am without her, and I thank her for EVERYTHING—including writing the recommendation that led to us adopting Whitney.
My grandmother Margaret Fredella (nee Hay) was from a small town in upstate New York, and her parents did not believe in sending girls to college. She was, according to her, the only one in her family with any brains at all, so she found this policy unbearable. She ran away with the local bad boy, my grandfather, and they eloped and lived in NYC with their two children. Even though she never went to college, my grandmother wanted a career and she went to the one place that wasn’t a school or a hospital that hired women: the phone company. She likely started out as some kind of secretary, but by the time she retired, she was running a department of her own. (The photo is of her and her team.) The men are all wearing what was standard 1960s office attire, fairly casual, but she felt compelled to dress up every day—it was one of her tools for commanding respect.
Her other tools were her sharp mind and her unbeatable toughness. People called her “the dragon lady.” Decades later, when my mother also carved out a career at AT&T, people were still calling her mother that. The two women had different last names so no one realized the connection, and my mother heard a lot of stories about this feared and respected dragon lady. Apparently, it was her idea to charge different rates for telephone calls at different times of day. The company was looking for a solution to a traffic flow problem, and she independently studied the issue and presented the solution that was embraced for decades after by just about every phone service provider in the country.
Despite all this, I still have the “normal” memories of my grandma – cooking, cleaning, spoiling her grandchildren – because she had to live two lives. She worked full time in an office, and she worked full time at home. Grandpa would never have tolerated anything less, and it was his condition for permitting her to work at all. He considered it a great embarrassment that his wife would work in an office and forbade her from talking about it at home. Still, even though she was mostly quiet about the subject, she was clearly an inspiration for her daughter and her daughter’s daughter (me).
She used to tell me all the time, whenever I got myself into trouble: “For all your days prepare and meet them ever alike. When you are the anvil, bear. When you are the hammer, strike.” Because, like her, I am headstrong and outspoken, it took me a really long time to develop my anvil side, but she was right: There is strength in choosing your moments and biding your time. Had she not known how to be both anvil and hammer, she would never have been able to succeed professionally or stay married to her husband. I have a much easier time of balancing both, and I cannot possibly imagine how hard she must have worked or how tired she must have been.