A column by Christine Beckwith
Originally published in Morgtage Women Magazine, February, 2019
I have the distinct privilege to unearth the stories of incredible men who silently and without fanfare opened history-making doors for women who would later rise to incredible heights within the mortgage banking industry. As the movement around empowering women continues to mature, we hope to shine a light on the men who were brave enough to empower women before it was “cool.”
In this inaugural feature of Meet the MENtors, we are featuring Daniel “Dan” Driscoll, The mentor of the incomparable Marcia Davies, Chief Operating Officer of the Mortgage Bankers Association and founder of mPower, the leading banking women organization community. I sat down on the set of ‘Power Women with Class,’ Mortgage News Network’s new show featuring the most powerful women in the industry, at the MBA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., and when Marcia was asked who had opened doors for her at the start of her career, Dan’s name came up. Marcia gave us a deeper overview for this special Mortgage Women Magazine feature and this is what she had to say:
COO of MBA and mPower Founder
“Dan Driscoll is a charismatic, natural leader. People are drawn to him and his energy. At work, he’s the guy you seek out for advice and guidance and hopefully, in the process, you get to hear one of his stories. He’s the one you want to be around. He is an amazing storyteller and the most incredible motivational speaker. Ask those at Freddie Mac who were fortunate to hear one of his legendary pre-convention speeches. It was like being with Lombardi in the locker room.
Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work with Dan and then, as my career progressed, I was fortunate enough to work for him. You learned something new every day. He wasn’t afraid to take a risk and he never let you see him sweat. A man with integrity, empathy and a wicked sense of humor. He changed the course of my career when he saw something in me that I was too young to see for myself. It was a bold move and a big risk, and I am forever grateful.”
Powerful words written by a powerful lady.
Dan’s professional start was actually not in banking, something many of us can relate to I’m sure. It turns out that Dan had a past life as a crime reporter for the New York Daily News in the late 1960’s. He was the reporter to break the story on the Amityville Horror massacre in Long Island. Dan moved on from his very famous reporting career to work for a Congressman he had covered as a reporter. He remained on Capitol Hill as a press guy and later Administrative Assistant and Chief of Staff. Dan also spent time as Director of Communications for a national labor organization. He married, had two kids and realized with these responsibilities he needed to move to a more stable (and safer) work world, Corporate America.
He joked in our interview that his resume made him look like a Bolshevik Bomb Thrower to my muse. He felt he had a career to that date as a Pathological Troublemaker, newspaper reporter, a Congressional Chief of Staff, and an organized labor guy.
Despite the sentiments about his resume, he eventually worked for Freddie Mac for 11 years as the Director of Communications and was promoted to Vice President. He loved the job and most of the people he worked with. He worked at Arnold Communications Agency as Executive Vice President of Account Management.
That is not where the story ends for Dan. Most people would be exhausted with the famous career he amassed. Not Dan. In 2008 he decided this was a great time to go back and get his master’s and PhD from the University of Virginia. He is hailed as one of the oldest students in his graduating class, spoken in jest as he recalls the time. He settled after grad school as the teacher of the same master’s program and eventually worked his way up to the Director position. He was the Director of the master’s program for another 11 years! An incredible contributor to so many vital professions.
During our conversation, Dan was amusing, passionate, and motivated. I easily understood why Marcia had remembered so many years later this man who was clearly a stand out in the world. I proceeded to ask him about Marcia.
In the early 1990’s when they both worked at Freddie Mac, he told a young Marcia Davies, “I want you to run public relations.”
She’ll say in the ‘Power Women’ interview that she was not experienced enough for that role, but he saw a leader in her then and told her he would teach her the rest. He convinced her to accept over a lunch and the rest is history. A beautiful start to an epic story. Here’s our interview Q & A:
Christine: How do you feel being named the featured mentor who helped establish one of the highest-ranking women in banking? What did Marcia do to earn your support?
Dan: It, of course, is very gratifying and much appreciated, but perhaps not for a reason most might assume. My partnership with Marcia in her growth and development has made it possible for me to share inferentially in her exceptional achievements and career successes.
Simply put, Marcia earned my support by being my most valued, most dedicated, most productive staff member; the informal leader among peers and subordinates, respected across-the-board by my fellow executives. She earned her unswerving commitment to the mission, her obsession with fairness, decency and integrity, her willingness to accept risk and assume responsibility for results.
Marcia won my support for the reason embedded in your question…she earned it.
Christine: Clearly you are a genuine leader of high integrity for Marcia to publicly name you for having seen her someone worthy of supporting. Was leadership a passion you had and at what age did you know you had the character to lead other people?
Dan: I never set out to be a leader. It’s a term that feels presumptuous to me, somewhat akin to deciding you’re going to be brilliant. Being a leader, being brilliant, are consequences that result from other actions and behaviors. I think others must decide if we represent the qualities they identify with being a leader or bring brilliant.
From an early age I tried to emulate the attributes I admired in others — teachers, coaches, friends, co-workers, bosses. I sought to become, in part or in whole, those I respected, to embody those qualities I found the cause of my admiration of those people. Those diverse qualities accumulated over time and became deeply ingrained personal norms that defined a code of conduct for me in matters personal and professional.
Others can decide for themselves if all of that in practice constitutes leadership.
Christine: As a leader with experience, what traits do you feel organizations should look for in professionals?
Dan: Individuals who embrace [he points out the following traits as key]:
- Genuine commitment to the organization’s mission
- Performance excellence for its own rewards, rather than simply a paycheck
- Constant personal growth in ability, knowledge, experience
- Being a good, helpful, fun co-worker, colleague, person
- Unswerving respect for decency, integrity, and honesty.
Christine: What is your advice today for young adults entering this dynamic, somewhat volatile time in our industry? Specifically, to female professionals, what would you add?
- Develop a strategic sense of the organization’s purpose, of the greater common good being served. Work near-term, think long-term. That is not an easy or even natural state of mind. It takes thought and effort, and it develops gradually. It puts what one does every day in a higher purpose.
- Don’t become discouraged by disappointments and setbacks. They are every bit as much a part of life as successes and triumphs. We learn more from our failures than from our victories. Failures, once studied, analyzed, and understood become growth opportunities.
- For female professionals, your time has come, your time is now. Everyone is on your side. Men and women are eager for you to succeed, to contribute to our collective well-being. Those who don’t want you to succeed are the ones threatened by you. They’re afraid of you. Ignore them. They don’t count, and their days are numbered. You are riding the long arc of history’s trajectory toward greater equality and opportunity. Ride that wave to glory. This is your time.
Christine: Any final words for the readers?
Dan: Find joy in every work day, in your colleagues and co-workers. The job ideally should be a reason to get up in the morning. If it’s not, find another one that will be.
I will end by declaring that Dan Driscoll was a man who knew long before it was popular to elevate a woman, a woman we now hold and revere in our industry as a game changing icon. Clearly a man of high integrity and foresight.
He ended our interview with these words: “Keep pushing, movements do not happen overnight, leadership is part science and part art. Just keep pushing!”
A man and a mentor of women, Daniel Driscoll. We thank you for giving us Marcia Davies!