Hire Callings

Leaving a finance career doesn't necessarily mean leaving finance.

Travel the World

Christine Mead got the travel bug early. By the time she
was 25 she had lived in three countries, including Zambia. So
it wasn’t a total surprise 11 months ago when she left her CFO
post at Seattle-based Safeco to bicycle around the world.

“With Safeco financially secure and a strong finance
team in place, the option was too exciting to ignore,” says the
51-year-old Mead, who was brought in to help turn around the
property-and-casualty insurer in 2002 by then-CEO Mike
McGavick. (McGavick also left the company this year, to run
for the U.S. Senate; Mead declined to be a candidate for CEO.)

Currently, Mead is exploring Tibet with three other
women who have also taken time out from their careers for the
18-month trek. “The first phase took us from London through
southern England, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania,” she says. To get to the Asian leg, they had to take
a train to Istanbul and fly over Iran and Pakistan. “But the beauty of traveling [mostly] by bicycle is that I see and experience
so much more than by car, bus, or train,” explains Mead, who is also an avid hiker, skier, and climber. “Whenever
we stop, we’re immediately joined by a crowd fascinated by our gear, panniers, GPS system, and maps.”

In addition to managing the group’s expenses, which are funded by personal savings, her other business skills
are also apparent. “My adaptability, teamwork,
and problem-solving skills all come
into play,” says Mead, who was previously
a divisional CFO at Travelers.

For example, Mead, who took
both first-aid and self-defense courses
before embarking on the trip, makes sure
she doesn’t travel after dark and keeps a
low profile in tense situations. That’s particularly
important, since “some countries
that we visit are in the midst of
political transition,” she says. Ditto for
many companies.

So far the trip has supplied both
unique opportunities and inspirational
encounters. In Nepal, for example, Mead
met three sisters who developed a
trekking company that strives to empower
women by training female guides and
porters. “It was fascinating to learn about
their experiences building the company,”
she notes, adding that she also “enjoyed
encouraging them in their groundbreaking
roles.”

As CFO went to press, Mead was
in Tibet, on her way to China. Upon her
return to the United States, she has no
set plans beyond possibly reconnecting
with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra,
where she served as a member of the
board before this trip. “It’s 10 months
away, so I have an open mind at this
point,” she says. — L.D.

Write the Great American Novel

There may not seem to be much common ground between serving in Vietnam
and serving as a CFO. But don’t tell that to Christopher Joyce, a retired divisional
CFO at AT&T Corp. and a marine veteran, who weaves both experiences
into the plot of his first mystery novel, Last Effects.

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