The path less traveled

November 10, 2015 //

Photo Alumni Angela Costello

Angela Costello, BBA ’01, an executive with global financial services company UBS, followed a career route she never anticipated taking.

Like many college students, Angela Costello was unsure of where she’d end up after graduation.

But for someone who comes from a big, tight-knit family based in the Philadelphia area, she never thought she’d advance her career with stops in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. And working her way up the ladder at UBS Financial Services once seemed equally improbable, for someone who admittedly considered the world of finance “boring” and had a “more-glamorous” job offer in the fashion industry coming out of Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

“Back in college,” she admitted, “I didn’t think I’d be doing any of what I’m doing in my career.”

In many ways, though, it was Costello’s four years at Temple that allowed her to excel at a big global financial services company like UBS, where she currently serves as the Executive Director of Project Management, Reporting, and Analysis. In fact, her experience at UBS almost mirrors her time at Temple, where she found her niche and honed her interpersonal skills in the Fox Honors Program and while working in Dean M. Moshe Porat’s office at Fox.

“I think that experience, being a part-time student-worker and having that opportunity with Virginia (Roth, the Dean’s executive assistant), especially, taught me a lot about operating in a professional environment and executing on different projects,” said Costello, who graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Economics and Marketing. “I think those two communities – the Dean’s Office and Fox Honors– helped shape the soft skills needed in my career.

“The one thing about Temple that surprised me is that it felt like I went to a small school even though it’s a large school. And that’s just because the people there are really top-notch and make you feel like you’re a part of a community.”

One of those people who made Costello feel right at home was Michael Leeds, who served as the Director of the Fox Honors Program during Costello’s undergraduate days. Leeds helped Costello get settled upon her arrival to Temple and Fox, offering the kind of personal touch meant a lot to Costello. Leeds said he remembers her for not possessing the same kind of “swagger” as other honors students.

“I think there was a lot of self-doubt in her,” said Leeds, Professor of Economics at Temple’s College of Liberal Arts. “(Rhetorically, she’d wonder,) ‘Should I be in the honors program? Am I good enough to do this? Do I belong here?’ And I think that by the time she graduated she realized that she not only was a legitimate member of the honors program, she was a leading light in the honors program. I don’t think she ever quite had that swagger. But I think she had a stronger sense of self-confidence and a sense that she could go out and work with and be a peer with people from anywhere.”

Leeds called Costello “one of the most delightful people that I have met at Temple” –high praise from someone who’s worked at the university since 1982. And since graduating from the Fox School, Costello has certainly utilized those people skills in the often-cutthroat business world.

At UBS, for instance, she oversees a team of seven people and tries her best to help them find challenge and a sense of accomplishment in their work, and to maintain a healthy balance between work and their personal lives.

“You want to make sure they have a positive experience so that they’re also positive and happy and bring that good energy home,” Costello said. “That’s how I view it. It’s a personal thing, not anything I was taught. It’s just something that’s really important to me.”

Costello’s assistant, Trinity Martinez, has witnessed this characteristic firsthand. Martinez, who works at UBS while also pursuing her PhD in art history, has a unique vantage point into the flexibility and support Costello affords her colleagues. It’s one of the reasons why Martinez has been at the company for five years.

“I think, honestly, it’s hard to find in this business,” Martinez said. “Out of all the people I’ve known, (Costello) really does try to promote her people the most. And that’s very important. That’s a rare asset.”

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Costello is a team-oriented person. After all, she was essentially part of a team while growing up as one of eight siblings (two of whom also graduated from Temple), finding her way in a big house just as she has in a big company, and learning from a young age “leadership, organizational and communication skills,” she said.

Despite being so close to her family, she said she knew the best career move for her was to leave the comforts of Philadelphia and move to the Washington suburbs just two weeks after graduation to join General Electric’s financial management program. From there, she returned to the Philadelphia area for a couple of years to work for GE Water Technologies, before heading to New York as a finance manager for NBCUniversal, which at the time was under GE’s auspices.

While in New York, she moved to UBS in 2006, and she’s remained with the company ever since. But that’s not to say she found much geographical stability in the early stages of her career. The Philadelphia native worked out of offices in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles from 2008-2012, as the Director of Finance for UBS Wealth Management, Western Division.

Still, even though she missed Philly, Costello quickly realized that the chance to met new people around the country made the finance field more exciting than she initially thought. And her communication skills led to another discovery: that she was “pretty good at it.”

“I’ll always think of Philadelphia as my home and, hopefully, one day, I’ll end up back there again,” she said. “But I just viewed going to different places as exciting and challenging. There were risks in moving far from my family and friends and everyone who I knew. I was basically moving to San Francisco sight unseen. I had never been there before, so I think it was a challenge both professionally and personally, but it was a calculated risk that ultimately helped me move forward in my career.”

After such a whirlwind few years, Costello is more settled in her current role. Based in Weehawken, N.J., She recently bought a home in New Jersey and, in October, she married. Sometimes, after a full day of meetings and first checking her email at 5 p.m., she admits that she needs some friendly encouragement from her husband, Paulius Mikalainis, to come home. But she’s almost always able to practice what she preaches to her team members about balancing her personal life with work because she knows “my family is most important,” even as her career ambitions remain as fierce as they’ve ever been.

For that, she’s thankful for everyone who had imparted those lessons, from her parents to her professors at the Fox School, to her bosses at GE, to her colleagues at UBS, where she can see herself remaining for years to come.

“I’ve stayed so long for two reasons: I’ve had a lot of opportunity here and the people here are just wonderful,” she said. “It’s a very collaborative environment. Everyone wants to work together to do the right things for our clients. It’s a great place to work.”