Julie Casella-Esposito’s career in Human Resources (HR) grew as the field itself was evolving. Originally known as “personnel,” the profession had begun to develop and diverge from industrial psychology. Casella-Esposito recognized in the fledgling field an intersection of her interest in psychology and her early work experience in finance and business. “As I became more involved at work, I could see how powerful it could be to bring the two fields together.”
Growing up in Manhattan, where she still lives, Casella-Esposito was in the first generation of her Italian immigrant family to attend college. She was a strong student who figured out solid study habits, such as being well-prepared, doing all the readings and attending class regularly, all by herself while in high school. Nevertheless, she credits her mother with teaching her and her three siblings that education was critical to success and the key to advancement. “Both my parents felt that the most important investment they could make in us was in our education. My mom pushed us all; she always said we should make a million mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are not failures, and failure was not an option.”
“We should make a million mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are not failures, and failure was not an option.”
Casella-Esposito did not have the typical college experience. Through a special Pace program available at the time, she began college at 16 after her junior year at her all-girl Catholic high school. She planned on studying the sciences, but her first year’s psychology coursework – a requirement in the early start program – piqued her interest. By the end of her second semester, she had switched majors.
Even with a small scholarship from Pace, Casella-Esposito still needed to work to cover her expenses. To find a position, in the summer before started her studies, she created a map of all the Wall Street area financial institutions within a fifteen-minute walk of the New York City campus. Then she hand-delivered her resume at all of them. “You can only imagine what the resume of a 16-year old looked like,” she joked. She knew that financial institutions would offer her future opportunities and good training, as well as benefits like tuition reimbursement for her coursework.
Her strategy worked. She secured a summer internship at Manufacturers Hanover Trust as an intern, stayed on for the full year and became a part-time employee a year later. Soon she was working 30 hours a week and taking 16 credits at Pace as well. “Life was crazy for me then and I took both day and evening classes.” Because of her work experience, she was very pragmatic and focused on her career options throughout her sophomore year. School psychology? No. Private practice? Not for her. “I was always thinking, how do I apply what I’m learning? How do I figure out if this is really what I want to do? Eventually I realized I could integrate business and psychology in the developing field of HR.”
“I have always believed that you have to re-invent yourself every ten years with the skills, expertise and talents you have [...] You don’t just finish school and that’s it. You have to continue to network and keep current.”
Manufacturers Hanover reimbursed two courses in her business minor per term, and by her junior year Casella-Esposito was working in HR at the bank. “I studied management, economics and accounting while in my psych major. I published research, presented at conferences and built a foundation in reading and writing that I draw on even today,” she commented. “When I went on to graduate school [at the New School] and wrote and defended my master’s dissertation, I was grateful for the writing and speaking skills I had learned at Pace.”
As banks were merging and changing names, Casella-Esposito became a senior vice president in the 90s and eventually the partner in charge of HR at JPMorgan Partners (the result of one of the many mergers she weathered) private equity division until 2005. She went on to form her own firm with colleagues, CCMP Capital Advisors, and between 2005-2015 she served as the managing director in charge of human capital. Recently, she has re-invented herself again, entering “the new gig economy” with her own consultancy in HR strategies, talent, compensation and benefits.
Throughout her career, she has followed the advice she would also pass on to young people: “I have always believed that you have to re-invent yourself every ten years with the skills, expertise and talents you have. Sometimes you can reinvent yourself at the same organization, if it’s big enough, and sometimes you can’t, but every one of us has to be a lifelong learner. You don’t just finish school and that’s it. You have to continue to network and keep current. Success doesn’t just happen. Success takes hard work and learning,” she says. “Guidance and mentoring can make a real difference too.”
Casella-Esposito also counsels young people to look for new experiences; “The power of new experiences is that they lead you to your passion. Every new experience is a gift because you learn more about what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do.” She notes that the New York area has so much to offer as the financial powerhouse of the world. ”The path in the liberal arts is not always linear, so see where new experiences can lead you.”
“Being on the Dyson Advisory Board has been an opportunity to give back by helping Dyson to help its students. We discuss what we can do to help the students to make the most of their years at Pace and to navigate a career.” These strategy discussions are what she most enjoys as a board member. “Pace gave me such a strong background, and I believe in helping others as I was helped,” said Casella-Esposito.
A favorite trip? Casella-Esposito joined her 24-year old daughter in Tours, France where she was presenting at a conference of biomedical engineers. “Where we spent time was not on the usual list of tourist spots.” Her 27-year old daughter is finishing an executive MBA and is a certified applied behavioral analyst.
Learning something new? More like continuing to learn. She makes it a practice to enroll for additional HR certifications as they become available through her professional organization. ”If there’s something new, I’m on it. Staying up-to-date is so important,” she says.
What’s cooking? Casella-Esposito loves preparing Italian food for her large extended family. (Her mom was one of 16!) Holiday dinners often include homemade pasta and sauces.
Favorite way to take a break? “At art exhibits and museums, I can get lost and forget everything that’s going on.” The Dead Sea Scrolls fascinated her when she visited the exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Another Pace connection? Her husband of thirty years is a Lubin Business School alum although they met many years after graduation.
Contact Julie Casella-Esposito through the Alumni Office and the Dyson Advisory Board.