Meet the Member: Sabrina McTopy

Welcome to our latest installment in our “Meet the Member” series, where we will feature a WFE member. This quarter meet Sabrina McTopy!

Read on to learn more about Sabrina:

How did you get involved with WFE and how long have you been a member?

I joined at Margaret Ceconi’s suggestion. I think it was 1996.

What is your favorite thing about WFE?

I love the feeling of community I experience in WFE.  And I always love the fashion show.

10 Quick Questions:

1. What was your first job?

Working in a snowball stand at 13 with my best friend, whose Dad owned the stand. I was paid mostly in snowballs.

2. What do you like most about your current job?

The freedom it offers in terms of which clients and lawyers I work with at the firm.  I have always felt stifled by a lot of hard and fast rules.

3. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Save your money in the early part of your career so you can spend it in the later part.

4. Who is your role model?

My grandmother who raised me. She was a teller at a community bank three blocks from her house for over 20 years and thoroughly loved seeing her customers. She knew their families, visited them when they were sick as well as cooked and baked for them. And they in turn loved her; many days I opened the back door to find a bushel of some vegetable left on the porch in thanksgiving, with no note. Though she often had reasons not to be joyful, she suffused my life with hope, understanding of what community means and how we must take care of each other.

When she learned a new male co-worker she was training began with a higher salary than hers after 20 years, she asked her new boss for a raise and was instead fired.  I’ll never forget living through her heartache as she applied for jobs at other banks in the area and realized she had been blackballed throughout the parish. Seeing her treated so unfairly lit a fire in me.  I got a job processing claims at the unemployment office, where I worked for the next 5 years, handing most of my paycheck to my grandmother. And promised her that one day, money would no longer be a worry.

In 2000, we bought her the house of her dreams. We enjoyed 13 more wonderful years with her in which we did the things she had always dreamed of.  Her 90th birthday party started at noon, involved a parade and ended around 1 am.  I think of her and the blessing she was in my life every day.  I can still hear the sound of her laughing and saying che dolce (sweet), che bella (beautiful), luce dei miei occhi (light of my eyes).

5. If you weren’t working at Jackson Walker, what would you be doing?

Doing (or trying to do) some kind of competitive dancing. I took ballet and jazz for 9 years and was on dance team all during high school and college.

Taking continuing studies courses – preferably in person – at Rice’s Glassock School of Continuing Studies.

Going to Italy for a month each year.

6. Do you have any pets?

Yes, our yorkie Maggie May. I must always have at least one pet. There is no other way in life to experience such unconditional love.

7. What are you currently reading?

The Beautiful Fall, about the professional rivalry of the fashion houses of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves St. Laurent in the 1970’s and beyond

Gods & Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for the France’s Greatest Treasure

The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed Work

How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life, Frank Lipman, MD

8. How do you handle stress?

Since I tend to have insomnia, I have a panoply of coping behaviors, particularly of late: 

getting some sunlight exposure in the morning each day to keep my circadian rhythm on track, exercising 4 x a week – both cardio and weights –  going to bed and rising at about the same time every day, bubble baths with Epsom salts, time in the Zero Gravity massage chair, stretching on the Spry gym mat, using the Normatec compression Pulse 2.0 recovery boots, using the Vielight 810 infrared light therapy device intranasal device that delivers energy to blood vessels in your head, and using the Hypervolt for muscle soreness.

Before the pandemic, I did only 3-4 of these things on a consistent basis – and never the morning sunlight exposure – but now do most of them each day.

9. What do you make time for no matter what?

No matter how much Veuve Rose has been enjoyed: my nighttime ritual of serums and creams and daily physical block sunscreen.

10. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I grew up with 5 generations of women.

Bonus Question!
11. What “lesson from mom” do you still live by today?

From my grandmother:  Giving is loving.

Navigating a Multi-Generational Workforce

Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

Julia Kramer, Executive Vice President and Chief Organizational Performance Officer at BXS Insurance, was the guest speaker at WFE’s last luncheon of the year on October 18th at the Briar Club. 

Julia’s presentation on Navigating a Multi-Generational Workforce began by defining and outlining the key characteristics of the Fabulous Four – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Although Generation Z currently has no significant work presence, Julia provided some great facts about this new generation that outnumbers Millennials. Next, Julia outlined ways to improve communication and team building based on generational differences.  As Julia quoted in her presentation: “It’s nature’s way that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.” 

The group had the opportunity to ask questions and share their observations on generational impacts at home and in the workplace.  

Meet the Members: Laura and Ellen Freudenberger

Welcome to our latest installment in our “Meet the Member” series, where we will feature a WFE member. This quarter we are featuring our favorite mother-daughter duo, Laura and Ellen Freudenberger. Both ladies are active WFE members, we thought it would be fun to do a joint interview with them!

Read on to learn more about Laura and Ellen:

How did you get involved with WFE and how long have you been a member?

Ellen: My mom would make me come down from College Station to attend the duck hunt, I have been a member for 4 years

Laura: I think around 15 years

What is your favorite thing about WFE?

Ellen: The relationships that are formed and the support we have for one another

Laura: The awesome ladies

10 Quick Questions:

1. What was your first job?
Ellen: Pre-college, my first job was a lifeguard at the Houston Jewish Community Center; Post-college, my first job was an audit staff at Deloitte in Houston

Laura: Pre-college, my first job was working in a Jewish deli in Cleavland, Ohio; Post-college, my first job was a staff auditor for a national CPA firm

2. What do you like most about your current job?
Ellen: Currently moving to being a recruiter, so get back to me in a few weeks

Laura: I love my clients. There is something new everyday that I am learning, ALWAYS. It is always interested and full of change.

3. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Ellen: Perception is reality

Laura: First impressions stay with you forever

4. Who is your role model?
Ellen: My mom (Laura rolls her eyes) – I mean, you’ve met her, she’s amazing

Laura: My husband and to some degree my daughter, too

Ellen: Thanks mom!

5. If you weren’t [a recruiter for Ellen and Audit Shareholder for Laura] what would you be doing?
Ellen: I just switched from being an auditor, to a recruiter, so I am doing that! Fun wise, I would love to be a personal shopper.

Laura: Something in art, I have always been interested in art.

6. Do you have any pets?
Ellen: Two dogs – Bailey, a Chocolate Lab/Australian Shepherd mix and Jackson, a German Shepherd mix

Laura: Leon – a White Lab mix

7. What are you currently reading?
Ellen: Crazy Rich Asians

Laura: The Outlander Series

8. How do you handle stress?
Ellen: Eat – Want to go to lunch?

Laura: Try and work harder

9. What do you make time for no matter what?
Ellen and Laura: Sleep and Family

10. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Ellen: I used to Ice Skate

Laura: I have an identical twin – that is not an accountant

Bonus Question!
11. What “lesson from mom” do you still live by today?
Ellen: “I love you no matter what”

Laura: “You are responsible for your own happiness”

Meet the Member: Rebekah Bezerra

Welcome to our latest installment in our “Meet the Member” series, where we will feature a WFE member. This quarter meet Rebekah Bezerra!

Read on to learn more about Rebekah:

How did you get involved with WFE and how long have you been a member?

I first heard of WFE from Laurie-Leigh, but it took me a little over a year to finally attend a WFE luncheon with my boss, Carmen Eggleston. I have been a WFE member for 2 years.

What is your favorite thing about WFE?

Meeting and networking with other professional women. It is really uplifting to meet and be encouraged by other women who are going through or have been through the journey.

10 Quick Questions:

1. What was your first job?
Summer Intern at Project Grad Houston, a Houston based non-profit that helps students in low-income communities achieve their college goals. I was a Project Grad Scholar myself.

2. What do you like most about your current job?
The range and diversity of cases – every case has its own unique set of facts and challenges.

3. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Who is your role model?
My mom – she left everything she knew behind to move to this country with my dad so that her children could have all the opportunities that she wasn’t afforded in her home country. Despite not having a formal education or understanding the English language, my mom made sure we received the best education possible within her power and reach. She made sure that we never took for granted the opportunities we are blessed to have in this country.

5. If you weren’t [Senior Associate – Litigation Consulting] what would you be doing?
Teaching

6. Do you have any pets?
I have two dogs – a miniature schnauzer and a bichon. I would own more dogs, but we have a rule in our family that the number of dogs cannot exceed the number of humans in the house.

7. What are you currently reading?
No Ego by Cy Wakeman

8. How do you handle stress?
I go for a run or drive down to Galveston and paddle board.

9. What do you make time for no matter what?
Family, friends, church, and the beach.

10. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I was a marksman and was on a precision rifle team throughout high school.

Bonus Question!
11. What “lesson from mom” do you still live by today?
Always do your best. My mom sewed a lot of my dresses growing up and I loved watching her cut and sew the fabric, but if anything was off in the process, she would take the dress apart and start again until it was perfect. The same translated to my homework, after school activities, and work. My mom is a perfectionist at heart and passed down the trait.

Investment Strategies

Venita Zavidny, Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager with Mercer Advisors, spoke to the WFE on March 15th at the Briar Club to provide guidance on personal financial planning

Venita started by giving advice on how to maintain awareness of your total net worth, all by focusing on paying yourself first. She outlined a way to deploy a disciplined or automatic approach to achieving this and illustrated a manner to keep track of where you are. Next, Venita talked to the group about ordinary people with extraordinary wealth to give examples of what healthy savings attitudes and practices can help you achieve.  Attitude is EVERYTHING!

When it comes to investing, Venita gave the group guidance on ignoring hyperboles, being patient, and diversifying risk.  Following those rules, the odds will tend to be in your favor over the long run.

The group asked a lot of great questions to which Venita answered with great examples and advice!