There’s no set or established path for an entrepreneur, only a guiding principle that leads the way—the drive to continually improve. That drive has been the compass Susan Brill McDonald, ’84, has used to navigate her unique professional journey over the last three decades.
Beginning her career in Prudential Insurance’s National Call Center as a new grad hire very soon after earning a marketing degree from La Salle, McDonald didn’t take a traditional route to get to her current role as the Vice President of Human Capital Management Consulting at CCI Consulting, in Blue Bell, Pa.
On the road to becoming a business leader, McDonald explored several different career paths—operations management and consulting at Prudential, entrepreneurship as a professional wall muralist, sole proprietor of her own executive search firm, and a customized role within her current company that draws upon her many areas of expertise.
“You can’t be willing to settle for mediocrity or the path of least resistance. You can’t look for the blueprint—you have to create your own.” —Susan Brill McDonald, ’84
While her job title has changed many times, the entrepreneurial mindset McDonald has brought to each role has remained the same: “How can we do this better?”
“Regardless of which career path you choose, whether you want to go corporate, non-profit, or the self-starter route, you can still have an entrepreneurial way of thinking,” she said. “You can’t be willing to settle for mediocrity or the path of least resistance. You can’t look for the blueprint—you have to create your own.”
After a successful 14-year career at Prudential, she stepped out of her corporate career to focus on raising her four young children. Having painted murals for her children’s nurseries and bedrooms, McDonald saw an opportunity to generate income and thus, her first entrepreneurial venture was born. The business took off during her 10 years as a stay-at-home mother and McDonald’s custom mural art found a home on the walls of many pediatric practices, swim clubs, high-end nurseries, and children’s rooms.
When her youngest child entered school full time, she re-entered the workforce as an executive recruiter for a small executive search firm. Within one month, McDonald landed her first large account. Within nine months, she launched her own executive search firm, Castlerea Consulting LLC. Over the next two years, she built an impressive list of clients in financial services and health care with Castlerea.
McDonald connected with CCI Consulting after running into a former Prudential executive who had ties to the firm. A strategic partnership between Castlerea Consulting and CCI was quickly established, and McDonald was recruited to join the firm as a member of CCI’s senior leadership team just six months later. They saw her as a business athlete—someone whose strength and peak performance they could count on in a variety of arenas.
In her eight years at the company, McDonald has charted quite a diverse career path, with roles that have encompassed executive search, executive career coaching, branding and marketing, business development, and relationship management. Today, she works with senior executives from Fortune 500, private equity, and venture capital firms and portfolio companies, helping them find the right fit within CCI’s wide range of talent management solutions.
“Because of my entrepreneurial experience, I haven’t been afraid to think outside the box, to find solutions; to envision new opportunities, to go for what I want,” McDonald said. “Entrepreneurial thinking can take you on some exciting career pathways that other wise never would have existed.”