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IAm Gayle Rudman

Blogs Gayle Rudman Nov 29, 2023

Several years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts when the guest on the show Dave Evans, a co-founder of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University, shared a perspective that has become my life motto: The question is not, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ but ‘What do you want to do next as you continue growing?’

I’ve worked in internal audit for the past six and a half years, but my path to the profession could be characterized as “taking the long way around.” I studied economics and French at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, while playing NCAA Division 1 college tennis. After graduation, I continued pursuing my love of the French language and literature to a master’s degree, and the early chapters of a dissertation in a PhD program. As I progressed through the academic world, I loved my work and my students, but I missed working with numbers. Seven years after leaving Davidson, I still wasn’t sure “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” but I knew the next stop on the journey needed a quantitative element. Because ChatGPT hadn’t been invented yet, I couldn’t leverage AI to cook up the next career move for a French-loving, tennis-playing, Economics major from Texas.  

While some have been puzzled at why (or how) a French PhD student would transition from corporate finance to public affairs, and then to internal audit, each one of those roles has challenged me, expanded my perspective, and allowed me to differentiate myself in the next phase of my journey. I regularly look back in amazement and appreciation. I am grateful for everyone who has taken a chance on me and helped open doors along my nontraditional career path. These opportunities and people have made all the difference.

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My extracurricular trajectory has followed a similarly unexpected yet fulfilling path. Music was a constant in my life throughout my years in school, but sports began occupying a more significant part of my schedule when I discovered tennis. I started playing tennis at age 12, which was late for competitive tennis. Most of the people I would compete against in college were already playing at the national level when I stepped on the court for my first local tournament.

Soon after starting on the middle school team, I committed myself to daily practice and workouts. After a session with a hitting partner or lesson with the local pro, I would practice alone by hitting baskets and baskets of serves, and repeatedly smacking groundstrokes against a backboard. My drive to excel at tennis and earn a college scholarship led me to move away from home and attend a college prep boarding school and tennis academy. College tennis was a wonderful complement to my academic experience, but once my college tennis career was over, I had to find another outlet for boundary-pushing competition and physical exertion.

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I began a long-distance running journey, which recently culminated in my 10th marathon and included two Boston Marathons. Tennis and running are still activities I enjoy and participate in regularly, but I derive great fulfillment from starting something new and finding new limits to explore.

Since moving to the Midwest, I’ve discovered other ways to develop different skills and challenge myself. These days, when I’m not at the office, I’m usually at the ice rink, either working on my next figure skating program or chasing a puck down the ice, or I’m on a platform tennis court. Each activity, professional or personal, brings with it the joy of learning new skills (often surprisingly transferrable), meeting new people, and building relationships with a new community of enthusiasts.

Gayle Rudman

Gayle Rudman is the director of audit and risk management at McMaster-Carr Supply Company, an e-commerce industrial supply distributor headquartered in the Chicago suburbs.