Just as Meredith Callanan ’89 began winding down her 25-year career at T. Rowe Price, a new opportunity opened up. But instead of pulling her back in, this opportunity became the perfect way to transition out of the company.
Callanan had served as the head of the investment firm’s corporate marketing and communications group, but now it was the T. Rowe Price Foundation that could use her bird’s-eye view on brand strategy to help tackle its next phase. So when she retired from the marketing group in December 2015, she became the foundation’s first chair and spent two years onboarding its new president before stepping back just a little more, this time into the role of past chair.
“It's actually been a great way to transition my career because I felt like so much of myself was at T. Rowe,” says Callanan. “I belonged there and I so appreciated the values and the culture of the company.”
Though this situation was ideal, Callanan did need to give herself and her former colleagues in marketing a little bit of space after her retirement. She moved her belongings into a distant office, stopping in only a couple times a week to work with the foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility staff.
“It was a nice way to be connected and still be able to contribute, but not be in the way,” recalls Callanan.
Not that she was ever “in the way.” As the head of marketing, Callanan established a universal brand that everyone at T. Rowe Price could understand and articulate – a first for the company.
“We had an extremely strong culture, but we did not have a well-defined brand,” she explains. “For the most part, ‘brand’ was a bad word.” Callanan launched an internal process to help everyone understand and appreciate that T. Rowe Price was one brand. Then, on the eve of the financial downturn, the company was well positioned to make its marque more externally focused.
“Because I'd been there for so long and had relationships across the whole firm, I was able to bring different people to the table to help our brand become clearer,” says Callanan, adding that she honed this open approach while at Kellogg. “That ability to work with a broad set of people and stakeholders who have differing opinions, I learned a lot of that at Kellogg. I want really diverse views – I value that. It’s not always smooth or well received, but that [desire for] debate came from Kellogg. That ability to say, ‘Let's work together. Let's hash it out and be better for it collectively.’”
Though retired now and stepping back from T. Rowe Price to let a new generation lead the firm into the future, Callanan says her career is far from over. In fact, next up is a Harvard Fellowship and an opportunity to work with the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative.
“I'm figuring out what big problem I'm going to go solve next,” muses Callanan. “There’s so much you can do if you’re willing to design your own career path.”