Real Gals is an interview series in collaboration with the nonprofit GlamourGals (GG). (If you missed the last few posts, here's part one, on poet extraordinaire Rosalie; part two, on Pat, whose love stories are epic; part three, about the young women who are going above and beyond to support the elderly; and part four, on Farrah, who gives some amazing career advice.) GlamourGals encourages high school and college students to volunteer with the elderly in senior homes across the United States, creating a unique bond between two generations of women.
Since GlamourGals empowers women of all ages, this series focuses on women of all ages, as well, and the careers and passions that make them who they are. Some are seniors served by GlamourGals, some are advisory board members for the nonprofit, all have the most wonderful adventures and advice to share.
For part five of Real Gals, meet New York City–based, 29-year-old Mary Hall. She's a finance manager for a tech startup called Sprinklr. Mary has a twin sister, Elizabeth; she grew up in Kentucky; and she went to boarding school in New Jersey. (She's also an advisory board member for GlamourGals!) Read on for the cool beauty product Mary loves, her go-to winter accessory, and what it was like to take a month off to travel the world before starting her new job.
On not settling until she found the job she really wanted: "I worked at my last company for three and a half years; it was my first job ever in New York City. Prior to that I was doing accounting; I'm a CPA. I started doing forecasting and budgeting and I liked it. The goal for me was to transition into financial planning and analysis (FP&A). It's basically the important metrics that measure how well a company is doing and help it set annual budgets and make decisions, like whether or not they want to take on a big expense or how that might affect their numbers. So that's what I wanted to do full-time. Having an accounting background is helpful—you understand financial statements and all of that—but I ended up doing day-to-day accounting there, and I wasn't totally happy with that. It felt like it was time for me to move on to something else. I found this company called Sprinklr, a growing tech startup. Here I can do FP&A. I looked at a lot of jobs that said, Oh, it's primarily financial planning and analysis and a little accounting, but after awhile I figured out that really meant 70 percent accounting, 30 percent financial planning and analysis, and that was what I had come from. I'm still fairly new to this, there's still so much for me to learn. I like it so far."
On having a twin sister: "Having a twin is wonderful because you have someone who understands you and your life very well. We have similar personalities and get along well. In high school, we could share clothing. We haven’t lived in the same city in 11 years, but things haven’t really changed. It’s funny because we are not identical, but people I know have recognized her without actually meeting her before while traveling internationally. It’s fun to introduce her to my friends that I met in college or after because they’ve never known me alongside my twin and we share similar mannerisms."
On going to a boarding school: "I decided to go to a boarding school, Blair Academy in northwest New Jersey, when I was 14. My sister and I chose the same school. It was one of the best decisions that I've made. My experience there allowed me to really grow and become the person I am today. It was a tight-knit community, and I really loved living in dorms with my friends and developing good relationships with faculty. Even though I was far from home, I talked to my parents every day and saw them once a month. Finding the right boarding school is similar to finding a suitable college—it’s all about the fit in terms of the community and academics. It’s definitely challenging at times because you have to learn time management since your days are very busy and the workload is heavy, and you are also a teenager, just trying to figure things out. We had classes on Saturdays, but once you're there, it becomes normal, and the breaks were generous to offset it."
On living in New York City: "One of my favorite parts of living in the city is exploring the performing-arts scene. I was never a performer, but I am fascinated by the creativity and beauty of the dance, opera, and music here. I try to go to the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre as often as I can, and I really enjoy seeing modern dance companies and Alvin Ailey. There is something so electrifying and romantic about going to see a performance because of the energy and expression. I haven’t been to the opera as much, but it is so intriguing and I hope to go more often this year."
On being drawn to nonprofits: "I like to volunteer because my job doesn’t involve meeting members of my community. It feels grounding to meet people that I may just pass on the street and would never meet otherwise. Getting up in the morning or going after work to serve others gives me energy and makes me feel like a part of my community, and I’ve met new friends while volunteering."
On not being so into social media: "I actually quit for a few years, from about 2011 to 2014. I only rejoined because my five-year college reunion was approaching, and I thought it would be easier to reconnect with people to see who was going. I'm begrudgingly on Facebook and Twitter now, but mostly because some of the groups I belong to use it to communicate! I have an Instagram but never use it, except at GlamourGals events because the kids helped me do it. I am on LinkedIn probably the most of all methods. Sometimes I will post something for a business or idea that I think is really great, or if I am using it to share a photo. [Social media] has definitely been useful at times, but I just think it's too time-consuming to sift through all the updates and ads. Time is so precious, and I would rather spend it in person, on Facetime, or on the phone with people I care about. It is also monotonous to see photos of the same travel, dining, partying, etc."
On her whirlwind month of travel before starting her new job: "The first thing I did was head to Iowa. My parents grew up in Iowa, and my mother's mom, my grandmother, passed away at the end of 2015. It was really cold at the time, and my mom wanted to plan a memorial service for her when it was warmer. I used to go there every summer for a week, but I haven't been there since I was in college. It was really nice. My grandmother was 89, so a lot of her friends are older, so it made more sense for them to come out when the weather is nice. After that I went to Japan. I've done a lot of traveling with my parents, they're big travelers. I always wanted to go to Japan and I found a pretty reasonable ticket. I was going to go by myself and my mom was like, 'Oh, I think I'll come.' She flew in the day after I did, so we were there about nine days total. We were in Tokyo and Kyoto. It's so much cleaner and orderly compared to New York. I'd really like to go back. Then I flew back to New York for about 36 hours so I could go to the Florence and the Machine concert in Brooklyn. Next, I went to L.A. to visit my friend out there and see a couple of other friends. We just relaxed, went to the beach. After that I was in Seattle visiting my old roommate and another friend, and then I was in San Francisco visiting friends, and then I basically got back to New York really late on a Sunday. I had Monday off and I went to the ballet that night, and then started this new job on a Tuesday. I felt like I had to do it because I don't know the next time I would be able do it. I have unlimited paid time off, but you can't really take a month. It was a good way to start the summer."
On her epic 30th birthday plans: "I've been to every continent since I was 19, except for Antarctica. So I've been waiting to go to the last one. I'm turning 30 this year, kind of not super excited about that. I'm just like, ugh. I wanted to go to Antarctica before I turn 30, and I started thinking about it last fall. My dad was like, 'You have to go this winter if you're going to do it,' since that's when most of the trips are. So we booked it. I'm going with my parents and my sister, who's also turning 30 this year. We're going in December."
On her signature winter accessory: "I wear a white mink hat from a shop in Montreal that I found while visiting a few years ago. It keeps me warm and is my constant companion during the winter. Both my father and my close friend have nicknamed it 'Mushroom' because it bears some resemblance. My other constant companion is my White + Warren cashmere travel wrap that serves as a blanket for plane rides and cold offices, and as an oversized scarf."
On the quirky lipstick she's loving: "My typical beauty look is bright red lipstick, although I’m currently a big fan of the Lipstick Queen Frog Prince lipstick. It’s green in the tube, but turns into a pretty rose-pink color on the lips."
Thank you so much, Mary, for being a part of the Real Gals series and for talking about your amazing month off this past June!
All photographs provided by Mary.