Barbara Desoer—cited by Forbes as one of the most powerful women alive—calls herself a math nerd. After graduating from Mount Holyoke, she dreamed of working in a cubicle, building mathematical models, and interacting with people as little as possible. In the 30 years since, her dream has grown.
In 2009, Forbes named her one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. As the retired president of Bank of America Home Loans, Desoer says there are still too few women working at the top of the profession.
While Desoer’s career has made her both a success story and a public figure, fame is not her focus. It is important, she said, speaking at UC–Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, to have “confidence without attitude,” to build solid relationships rather than merely “making connections,” and to show gratitude for and appreciation of the people who help you along your path.
Desoer no longer believes her destiny resides in a cubicle among mathematical models. She enjoys the challenges of teamwork as well as its triumphs. She believes in setting goals and referring to them often. She believes that the measure of a person’s success is that person’s happiness. Desoer is happier outside of a cubicle. She’s still a math nerd, though, and always will be.