Michelle (Tadros) Eidson, ’99 and Gretchen Frary Seay, ’99
Interviewed by Martina Dimova-Martinez, '08
How do you become two of the most influential women in middle market M&A in an industry where only 14% of deal-makers are women? There’s no simple answer, but Chicago Booth Women’s Network interviewed Gretchen Frary Seay, ‘99 and Michelle (Tadros) Eidson, ‘99 and tried to gain a glimpse into their success.
Chicago Booth Women’s Network (CBWN): You have been friends long before becoming two of the most influential women in middle market M&A, long before attending Booth – how did you meet?
Gretchen & Michelle: We met in 1995, while we worked for Arthur Andersen in Egypt, on a privatization project. Cairo was a different world back then and an amazing place to work hard and play hard. We both had international studies background and really enjoyed the international assignment and realized we need to enhance our finance skills to be truly successful in our careers.
Michelle: I applied to go to Business School at Booth in ‘96 and decided to do a dual degree in International Relations.
Gretchen: I joined Michelle a year later at Booth and we became roommates!
CBWN: What was your vision for your careers after Booth?
Michelle: I was not set on my career after Booth – that’s why I did the dual program. The Master’s in International Politics was more familiar to me – I had done it in undergrad, but the Finance courses at Booth were new to me and therefore challenging! The dual degree program gave me a bit more time and the luxury of doing couple of internships and decided to start my career in investment banking.
Gretchen: I wanted to find an environment with the same pace as the Emerging Markets, but stay in the US - I found it in the tech M&A sector. After many years, my colleagues and I decided to launch our own start up - a startup technology investment bank. It's been 7 years now and a great run!
CBWN: How would you describe your experience at Booth?
Gretchen: A lot of work and very rewarding!
Michelle: Ditto! We also realized the value of the network we were gaining by being part of Booth. We have kept in touch with so many Booth alumni along the way and it has been extremely valuable personally and professionally.
Gretchen: Michelle is the connector – the person who knows everyone and keeps in touch with everyone and is always up to date on everyone – she has done an amazing job of keeping in touch with many fellow alumni. We take a ‘girls trip’ every other year with a few Booth women alumnae – we make it a point to stay in touch!
CBWN: What have been some of your most notable achievements since Booth?
Gretchen and Michelle: Multiple Moves, marriages, 6 kids, keeping up an incredible professional pace and being there for each other!
Michelle: I did Investment Banking in New York after Booth but did not want the life of an investment banker in New York. I moved to Denver without a job and relied heavily on the Booth network in Denver - I found a job through a fellow University of Chicago grad. I was looking for an up and coming city in banking with an adventurous side and many Booth friends and I got that!
Gretchen: Since business school I got married, had 3 kids, and started an investment bank. When no one knows your name, having Booth on your resume mattered! When we were starting Clearsight, my network was very helpful. The business grew and my family grew – I remarried and now we have 6 kids, relocated to Dallas and reconnected with folks I haven’t seen in years.
CBWN: How do you keep your friendship alive – it sounds like you don’t miss a beat even when you haven’t seen each other in a while?
Michelle and Gretchen: We have been very intentional to get together – every other year we go skiing or take a beach trip somewhere. Through the years, we have made a choice to make an effort. We NEED each other after a long day at work being a high paced professional, being a mom, being a busy person!
CBWN: Tell us about your experience as a woman at Booth?
Gretchen and Michelle: Our class didn’t have as many women and since it has become a big focus for Booth. We never saw ourselves as minority, we learned how to function successfully in our careers, industries, how to communicate successfully, how to capitalize on our strengths as women. It trained us for our worlds now!
CBWN: Why have you decided to stay in deal making?
Gretchen: We are good at this and we have figured out how to balance it all out. Kids are used to me taking conference calls on the way to school, they come to work with me. This is part of our family!
Michelle: You know the saying: ‘When you want something done, give it to someone that’s busy’ – we just get it done!
CBWN: Any last words of wisdom for fellow Booth alumnae?
Michelle and Gretchen: Cream rises to the top! We have persevered and worked hard and we were recognized for it. Stay true to what you know and what is right and the market will recognize that – it’s a very Chicago Concept and has helped us have great careers and lives!