When Kathryn Bernazzani ’14 started her job as a mechanical engineer at Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center, she was hired as part of the aviation team. The voice inside her head immediately questioned if she was “smart enough, good enough or would succeed” in this new role, she recalls.

“I had no aviation experience going into it, so I was questioning why was I even hired? Was I hired just because I was the only new female on the team or was there something else?” 

To quell these concerns, Bernazzani joined the formal mentoring program at Volpe. “We were able to talk through and work through what my strengths and weaknesses are and what I wanted to work on. That really helped me.”

Bernazzani shared this experience during the “Breaking the Mold” virtual event on March 15th. Part of the annual Alumnae Summit, the panel discussion explored women working in male-dominated fields.

In addition to Bernazzani, panelists included Erin Kelly '13, manager of member engagement at the Boston Celtics; Maribeth Kiley '84, former special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice; and Rochelle Ryan '18, chief of police at Stonehill. The event was hosted by Susan Jezierny, ED ’87, former manager of human resources at Dynisco.

We share four takeaways from the discussion that covered everything from imposter syndrome and mentorship to the power of networking and living a balanced life.  

Persistence and Networking

Sports management can be a challenging field to enter. “Be persistent. Whether you are male or female, it can be very hard to break into the sports world,” says Kelly, who is in her ninth year with the Celtics. 

And don’t underestimate the power of networking. “Any time you can get face-to-face with people in the sports industry is extremely helpful,” she notes. But networking goes both ways. Kelly also tries to help others who are navigating their career in the field. “It's beneficial to talk to like-minded people who are striving for the same thing or who have been in your shoes.”

Take Care of Yourself

With more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement before her retirement, Kiley encourages those who want to enter the field to do their research and narrow down their interest. She also notes that a balanced life is key to career longevity.

“I'd encourage anybody who goes into law enforcement to make sure they live a balanced life and that they take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” says Kiley.

“You can have the best days and you're going to have some really horrible days,” she says. “You have to have a balance throughout. You can't just go 24/7 with law enforcement.”

Delayed but Not Denied

Balancing motherhood, schooling and the Police Academy, Ryan shared the starts and stops of her career journey. “I made a decision to put [my career] on hold for a while, so the only thing I kept saying to myself was delayed, but not denied,” she recalls. 

Through the uplifting support that Ryan received from her family and church, she was able to continue her education, work full time and pursue her goal of becoming a police officer while also raising her three children. 

Do What You Love

Reinforcing the importance of networking and a strong work ethic, Jezierny closed out the event by offering a piece of advice: “Do what you love. You're going to be doing it for a long time so make sure that you really like what you're doing.”


The annual Alumnae Summit is a month-long series, with five virtual events and an in-person keynote event on April 2. The goal of the Alumnae Summit is to bring together women graduates and allies to connect and find inspiration in the community and jump-start their personal and professional happiness through empowerment.