Leslie Peyton came to Carolina without set plans for the future — and then she met Economics! She’s now a senior partner in Korn Ferry’s New York City office, and specializes in senior-level and board searches for the investment banking and capital markets community.
Her Economics experiences put her on this path. In her words, “I have many little memories of positive experiences in Gardner Hall. I remember my statistics class sophomore year (with Dr. Waldman) – a light bulb went off for me in this course – I really liked the course and content and I realized that I kind of had a “knack” for it. That course was an important reason I became an Economics major.” She did well in her studies, and in her senior year wrote a challenging senior thesis on the impact of International Monetary Fund conditionality in Brazil. That statistics training served her well: “I did an Econometric analysis in my thesis, which was somewhat daunting initially, but ended up working out well for me.”
Senior year arrived, there were no more classes to take — but the economics degree kept on giving. As she put it: “I got my first job through UNC campus recruiting. I feel sure my Economics degree was a factor in differentiating my resume. I also think the degree has helped me throughout my career path – it is a part of a narrative that I built upon, helping me to secure admission to a strong MBA program, further enhancing my career prospects. In the early days of my career, my Honors thesis was a topic of discussion in interviews. It gave me academic credibility that was very helpful in my job search.”
Prior to joining Korn Ferry in 1996, Leslie was a senior vice president with The Whitney Group, a search firm concentrating on the financial services sector. Before beginning her executive recruiting career, she was with Bankers Trust Company/BT Securities Corporation, where she worked in the acquisition finance, private placements and high yield capital markets groups.
Leslie now divides her time between Washington DC and New York City with her husband and 16-year-old daughter. While those two places offer a great number of comforts, there’s one she misses from Chapel Hill: Time-Out Restaurant! “I used to go there by myself to have a swiss cheese and green pepper omelette before a tough exam. It was a good luck charm.”
When she is asked by young women (and men) for advice about the Economics major, she is very positive. “I personally think an Economics degree is a great undergraduate major. It provides training and evidence of practical knowledge/skills for a business career, but at the same time allows for significant liberal arts coursework to create a well-rounded college education experience. I was able to spend my junior year in Paris and still graduate on time with my class. Economics as a major leaves you with unlimited career options. I chose to go to graduate school to refine my business education, and majoring in Economics was a natural first step on that path.”
Given that response, you might think that she regrets not having taken more economics courses. Not so…her one regret from her days at Carolina, “I wish I had taken golf for my PE requirement. I don’t play golf now, and college would have been a really good time to start to learn the game. While I have not really needed golf professionally, it certainly could not have hurt to use golf as an opportunity to develop and nurture client relationships.”