Perhaps it was the overdose on Lucky Charms.  Or maybe it was the step dancing lessons.  It could have been the four years I spent at Notre Dame.  Whatever the cause of reinforcement, the Irish Catholic values that were instilled in me as a child have not faded.  The values of faith, family, and ambition remain as important to me today as they did when I was younger.  Since then, they may have changed in order of importance, and some may have taken hiatuses at times, but they continue to be the basis of my identity. 


Keeping the Faith

My parents and extended family wasted little time teaching me that my Catholic faith mattered every day of the week, not just on Sundays.  They showed me how to live and express my faith in each activity that I undertook.  From their lessons and from my own actions, I learned the importance of integrity, respect, and compassion.  I have relied on my faith, often on these offshoots my faith, when making almost every decision in my life, including my decision to work for the Department of Justice.


Not only did my faith guide me to the Justice Department, but it was upheld by the nature of my work in Washington, D.C.  No need for alarm here—I do not mean to say that the separation of church and state is no more in our nation’s capital (those were holiday parties, not Christmas parties).  The mission of the Department includes a commitment “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”[1]  Further, employees of the Department are charged with ensuring the integrity and honesty of public offices and corporate institutions.[2]  Contrary to public opinion often held about public servants, I took this commitment seriously, relying on my Catholic conscience when forced to make difficult judgments regarding sensitive information. 


I was privileged to work with others who also understood the significance of this commitment.  I worked with attorneys who were challenged every day to make difficult decisions that had a direct impact on individuals and businesses around the globe.  Among them was Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett, who often said “the way I sleep well at night—and I do sleep well at night—is I look at the facts…and I try to make a decision that is right under the law.”[3]  Away from reporters, Tom advised me to always listen to my conscience because it would never lead me astray.  Going forward in my career, I hope to continue to work for institutions that have strong ethical beliefs and support the beliefs of its members.


Family Ties

As a child, I was actively involved in extra-curricular sports and activities.  There were many days when I went from a tennis match to a softball game to a ballet lesson.  Regardless of the activity, there was one thing that was constant at nearly every event—the presence of my father.  In all of the years that I participated in sports, my father rarely missed one of my games or those of my three brothers.


As I move forward in my career, I hope to be a similar cheerleader for my family.  While working at the Justice Department, miles away from my extended family and years away from starting a family of my own, I was happy working late into the evening and early in the morning.  However, I anticipate that when I do begin my family, I want to be in a professional environment that recognizes that there is more to life than just work.  I want to be able to say goodnight to my family at the end of the day and I want to be there when milestones occur. 


Brunette Ambition

When I was little girl, I was determined to compete with my older, taller, wiser brothers.  Whether it was in a whiffle ball game, a round of Trivial Pursuit, or a battle for control of the remote, I wanted to contend.  After many last place finishes, I learned that in order to succeed, I needed to shift the game to highlight my competitive advantages.  As a motivated 10 year old, I started proposing contests in games such as Uno, games that utilized my mathematical skill set instead their muscle.   Soon I started to win my own string of “Francis Family Championships”.  As my brothers and I are now in our twenties and thirties, our playing field has leveled, but the determination and focus that I exhibited in our home has continued with me into my adulthood.  


In my professional life, I continue to challenge myself as much as I did as a child.  After serving one year as a paralegal for the Justice Department, I realized that my skill set was reaching a plateau.  I sought out a new opportunity within the Department, one that required me to start from scratch as a press assistant.  I willingly took on any task that was presented to me, even if I knew little to nothing about the topic, or worse, if what I did know bored me.[4]  To complete such tasks, I relied on what my grandmother called my ‘fighting Irish spirit’, my committed, indomitable attitude.[5]  I forced myself to work hard, finding new ways to solve problems, raising my personal standards, and enhancing my abilities.


As I begin to search for future employers, I will seek out companies similar to GE—companies that develop and motivate employees to do their best work and to accept new challenges.[6] 


Time and Computer Tested, Mother Approved

Just as corporate core values are timeless and unable to be compromised,[7] so, too, are the values that I live everyday.  After beginning the process of formally analyzing my core values, I was required by Career Strategies to complete a self-assessment program designed to guide MBA students as they ponder future career moves.  The computer test generated a list of three characteristics that are my dominant professional motivators, three motivators that bear striking resemblance to the values discussed above: altruism, intellectual challenge, and lifestyle (see Exhibit 1).   As time and computer tests have shown, my core values are embedded in my identity and will continue to guide my future.  Although I am now beyond the reach of my parents, I think my mother takes pride that the values that she taught me as a young girl continue to be the values that I stand for as an adult.  I know that they are the same values that I intend to pass on to my children.







Exhibit 1[8]





[1] Mission Statement of the U.S. Department of Justice (2006).  [Online] Available at:  (Accessed: 21 Sept 2006). 

[2] Gonzalez, A. (2006)  Transcript of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s One-Year Anniversary Speech.  15 Feb [Online]  Available at:  (Accessed: 21 Sept 2006). 

[3] Kirchgaessner, S. (2006) ‘Merging Companies Should Make ‘Case for Efficiencies’’, Financial Times Online.  20 Jun.  Available at: (Accessed 21 Sept 2006). 

[4] Whitman, M.  (2005) “The Best Advice I Ever Got”, Fortune, 21 Mar, p. 99.

[5] McAleese, M. (2006) Commencement Address to the University of Notre Dame Class of 2006. 25 May [Online]  Available at:  (Accessed: 21 Sept 2006).

[6] Colvin, G (2006)  “What Makes GE Great?”  Fortune, 6 March, p. 96. 

[7] Lencioni, P. (2002) “Make Your Values Mean Something”, Harvard Business Review, Reprint R0207J, p.6.  

[8] CareerLeader(2006)  Available at:  (Accessed: 21 Sept)