An incubator of women leaders

Member Spotlight - Catherine Cannon-Francis

Name: Catherine Cannon-Francis

Job / Title: Wealth Advisor Associate

Industry: Financial Services

Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

 Catherine: I believe that being true to my core values, setting ambitious goals, and giving back have been the keys to my success. One of my core values is a continuing commitment to personal growth. Regularly, I make time to reflect on what I’m doing to develop myself. I consider each area of my life: career, health (mental and physical), relationships, finances, spirituality, and lifestyle. From there, I identify a specific area to improve.

As a recent transplant from the east coast, I have chosen to enhance my leadership abilities here in the Bay Area. Prior to my move to the west coast, I had been dedicated to my students and profession in ways that extended well beyond the regular classroom. For years, I mentored new educators as part of a local mentoring program and was a member of a team that hosted a South Korean exchange student for six weeks. Additionally, I led and advised a regional literary magazine that features the creative talents of middle school students; orchestrated the literary magazine’s “Author Night”; directed the school’s monthly newspaper; and helped numerous students win awards for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Currently, I co-lead Morgan Stanley’s Silicon Valley complex’s Women Owning Wealth Leadership Network. Inspired by The CLUB, I wrote the organization’s mission statement which is to “accelerate female advisors' careers, business acumen, and leadership through mentorship, networking, support, and sponsorship.”

Outside of work, I participate in The CLUB’s year-long Incubator and Mentoring Circles. Both of these outstanding programs have given me greater clarity and insight into my personal mission and brand, public profile, and community involvement. They have also fostered connections with a number of brilliant women. Eager to meet more CLUB members, I volunteered to lead and host The CLUB’s Silicon Valley’s monthly networking social events. We’ve enjoyed great conversation at luncheons, evening cocktails, and hikes at Stanford’s DISH.

I also represent my alma mater, Brooks School, a private, co-educational secondary school in North Andover, Massachusetts, and serve on its Alumni and Career Advisory Boards. In these roles, I aim to reinvigorate the alumni community and foster opportunities for connection in and around the Bay Area. Brooks School was integral in preparing me to be an exemplary citizen and strong leader. As a day student, I led the school and student council as Vice President, captained varsity cross-country and crew teams, and served as an ambassador to De├ík Ferenc, a bilingual public high school in Szeged, Hungary, for a five-week exchange. It’s an honor to give back and be part of this special community once again.

Q: How has your career differed in the past and what is your focus now?

 Catherine: As an English teacher, I was focused for fifteen years on helping adolescents develop a love of learning through literature and writing in order to help them achieve their fullest potential. I loved my students. I loved teaching. I never imagined that I would leave the profession.

Then my mother had a stroke. It crippled her mental acuity and forced her into an unexpected, early retirement. As a result, she and my father had to sell our family’s beautiful, historic home, which they had intended to be their legacy. Not long after that, my brother had his eighth psychotic episode and was hospitalized. Since his adolescence, he has battled with schizoaffective disorder and addiction. And while my parents have given him their love and support for decades, they are now no longer able to provide for his financial needs.

I wished that I could have prevented my family’s loss and my brother’s struggles, but I couldn’t. I realized, however, that what I could do was help them manage their finances better. This gave me the inspiration and determination to learn to help others avoid my family’s situation. That is why I transitioned to wealth management. My ambition now is to help people secure and grow their wealth by creating comprehensive financial plans geared towards long-term goals and values while keeping in mind the possibility of unexpected calamities.

Q: How does goal setting play a role in your success?

 Catherine: I find that I’m most successful when I regularly set, review, and work towards specific goals. When I decided to run a marathon in 2009, I created a training regimen with smaller goals consisting of daily/weekly/monthly mileage targets along with a variety of road races that prepared me for the full 26.2 miles.

In high school, I had been captain of the varsity cross-country team. I was the fastest runner on my team and won several awards, including first place at the annual homecoming race. I built on the memory of these successful experiences.

Yet, I failed three times before I achieved the 22 training miles needed to run a marathon. The first time I tried, in 2002, I made it to 10 miles, then suffered an ankle injury, which had resurfaced from high school. A few years later, I reached 14 miles and then, in 2007, 16 miles, only to be foiled by another twisted ankle again, followed by a strained knee. Regardless, in 2009, I believed that I would finally realize this goal at the Sugar Loaf Marathon, and I did.

I’ve applied this lesson to studying for the Series 7 & 66 financial securities licensing exams. With four months to pass both exams while carrying a full-time teaching load, I became a regular at the San Jose Public library, settling in for five- to eight-hour stretches on afternoons and weekends. During evening walks, my husband quizzed me on complex options, bond types, industry rules, and fundamental and technical analysis. While I had passed the practice quizzes, I botched the 85-question green light exam, an indicator of one’s readiness for the six and four-hour exams. Paralleling my marathon training experience, I gave it a “final push” and passed both licensing exams on the first attempt.

One goal that I have yet to achieve is sharing the story of growing up with my mentally-ill brother. Initially, I drafted it as a screenplay and received feedback from a film-industry leader; however, the content was judged to be too dark. Nor did I yet have enough emotional distance to convey the story’s deeper meaning. In 2005, I returned to the project, deciding the story would be best written as a memoir. Yet, after a ten-week long “Finding Your Book” course at Grub Street in Boston, I was in tears, unable and unwilling to process the material that remained so raw and present. I didn’t realize that this, in fact, was part of healing, so I abandoned the project. Ten years later, I participated in Grub Street’s year-long Memoir Generator course and produced one-hundred fifty pages of content. I reconnected with Jeanne Schinto, an independent writer and my high school English teacher, who became my mentor and dearest friend. Jeanne has been instrumental in helping me discover my memoir’s central narrative, inner and outer stories, high points, and universal themes. She’s taught me the importance of “meaty” scenes, line editing, and fresh word choice. Since my 2016 cross-country move and career change, I’ve missed my regular brainstorming, writing, and revising sessions with Jeanne and the Grub Street community. And while I haven’t produced much, I believe that I will eventually find the stamina and strength to tackle writing again, and one day, finish and publish my memoir.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

 Catherine: In 2011, my husband and I traveled the globe for seven months. Aside from a near-attack by wild bush pigs in the Serengeti and a visit to the Emergency Room in Bali, we survived -- and thrived! We camped out in the Ngorongoro Crater, hiked the Great Wall, climbed Machu Picchu, and interviewed Sergei Rapu, the renowned archaeologist, on the mystery of Easter Island’s Moai statues. With only a backpack and carry-on suitcase each, we traveled by air, ship, train, local transit, 4 x 4, auto and pulled rickshaw, slow-boat, vaporetto, tuk tuk, elephant, and foot. Before our sojourn, we launched Create Your Own Path, a website about personal growth and world travel. Throughout the journey, we interviewed locals and fellow travelers and captured our experiences through blog posts, photography, and video. We chose to forgo souvenirs in exchange for new friendships and memories (we couldn’t carry them, either!). Of course, there were moments when we longed for our own bed, a home-cooked meal, and the comfort of family and close friends, particularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yet, we’d do it all over again. Our goal is to be in The Travelers’ Century Club -- 25 more countries to go!

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