ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: CHRISTINE ROVELLI, ‘04
Christine Rovelli’s career has spanned some of the most defining moments of the past several decades, from the dot-com bubble, the September 11 attacks, the Great Recession, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. She started her career in investment banking, quickly deciding to focus on the transportation industry, being drawn to its global and cyclical nature and the opportunity to work with a broad client base across the world.
Christine is currently Senior Vice President at Finnair, the largest airline in Finland. In her present role, she is responsible for Finnair’s treasury and fleet management, which includes both the physical and financial management of aircraft and related investments.
Working in the one of the industries that has been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, Christine noted how her Booth experience has helped her navigate these turbulent times, “Without a doubt, the ability to manage significant uncertainty, the comfort to say ‘I don’t know the answer,’ and the willingness to follow the data and pivot when it’s clear things are going a different direction than initially expected have been invaluable.” A powerful lesson she has learned from Booth is the importance of having the confidence and courage to make major decisions in the face of uncertainty and the ability to inspire others to have trust in such decision-making. Christine says, “I can explain how to think about the challenge and how to react to what we can’t predict, preserve options, and explain the tradeoffs, which is very powerful when we are in a situation like COVID-19.”
These lessons have proved useful in Christine’s current role, as she has had to address many challenges stemming from the uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Initially, we were planning for most of the impact to be in 2020, but clearly things didn’t turn out that way. We had a number of scenarios and the data kept landing on the most severe one, so we quickly realized that we would have to throw out the playbook and start from scratch in terms of planning the business and the recovery,” she explains. Christine notes that it was easy to simply fall back on relying upon existing models and analyses to provide an answer during these uncertain times, but the total lack of clarity brought on by the pandemic required people to adopt a different mindset and forgo the old approach of doing things. “That’s when hard skills and experience really make a difference—and the courage to accept that you will step in the wrong direction, but stepping forward is better than standing still, and owning that.”
Christine has many great memories from studying at Booth and living in Chicago, and has remained friends with many of her classmates. The opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in the field has made her a better leader today, and she offers some sage advice to new graduates: “Nothing is forever—not pandemics, not bull markets, not bear markets—and while we don’t know how long this current situation will last, we know it will end. The question is: what can you do, and what do you want to do now to position yourself to either go back to the path you had set or be open to something different. The real measure of leadership is accepting that two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time and that paradox is where the toughest, but most meaningful, strategic decisions both personally and professionally sit. Don’t try to make something true; accept what it is, accept that paradox, and manage within it.”
Author Lisa Fan, AB ’12, JD ’18, MBA ’18, works at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and serves on the UChicago Alumni Club of Chicago’s Board of Directors.