When Dina Dublon was first launching her career, she was among 18 women hired in a group of 20 trainees for Chemical Bank, an obvious attempt to diversify what had been a boys’ club.
They didn’t fit in both because of their gender and their education; at the time, it was a rarity to see people with graduate degrees working a trading floor.
“The [company’s] attitude was swim or sink. It’s your problem,” Dublon told Tepper School students in a lecture given as part of the W.L. Mellon Speaker Series. “Homogenous groups tend to create a closed culture. To open it required active intervention on the part of more than a few odd ducks.”
Within three years, only two people from that group of 20 remained: Dublon and the lone white male.
“It was an expensive failure — hiring, training, and losing [the recruits] year after year,” Dublon recalled. But it taught her an important lesson: That success within a large organization is a delicate balance between fitting in and standing out.
Eventually, Dublon (MSIA '79) was able to master that lesson well enough to become Chemical Bank’s corporate treasurer and head of corporate planning. She was instrumental in the negotiation and merger of Chemical Bank with Manufacturers Hanover, Chase, JPMorgan, and Bank One, and retired in September 2004 as executive vice president and chief financial officer for JPMorgan Chase.
She urged students to take advantage of training and development opportunities, which are more plentiful now than when she was hired in 1981.
“Owning your development has a lot to do with being able to look back six months, 12 months, and ask: What is the shape of the learning curve? Is it still steep or not?” Dublon said.
Likewise, she urged students to become involved in issues larger than themselves. In addition to serving on the board of directors for several major corporations, Dublon also serves on the boards for the Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children.
“The ultimate responsibility for driving change is ours, as individuals and as professionals,” she said.
Dublon touched on the need for ethical behavior in explaining what she felt were some of the underlying reasons for the current financial crisis, saying, “It is not ethical to lend on the assumption that you will sell the loan and not bear the risk of default or the pain of foreclosure.”
She said she believes the CEO of the future will not be measured solely by his or her ability to deliver return on capital, which she referred to as “yesterday’s meter,” but rather by the ability to regain the public trust.
“Leadership, from my perspective, is a matter of choice, not chance. You must believe that you can make a difference. You must act. You can’t just be a passive observer on what’s not working,” Dublon said. “Change in industry practice, in how we all behave, is tough. It takes courageous leadership, and it will invite a lot of opposition.”