Bright, Young Business Leaders: ‘Stay Open, Stay Curious, Explore’

Three School of Business alumnae have been honored for 2023's Hartford Business Journal 40 Under Forty Awards.

The Hartford Business Journal is honoring three UConn School of Business Alumnae with the 2023 '40 Under Forty' award, recognizing their significant accomplishments. From left are: Robyn Gallagher, Anastasia Nicolella, and Jess Moran.

The Hartford Business Journal is honoring three UConn School of Business Alumnae with the 2023 '40 Under Forty' award, recognizing their significant accomplishments. From left are: Robyn Gallagher, Anastasia Nicolella, and Jess Moran.

Robyn Gallagher thought perhaps she was the wrong woman for the job.

As a law student, Gallagher was offered a summer internship in a prison legal services clinic, assisting with depositions and participating in mediation for prisoners whose rights had been violated while incarcerated.

“I was hesitant because I didn’t think I was a litigator,’’ she said. “I had seen myself in transactional or tax law. I didn’t think my background was well-suited for civil actions. I didn’t think I’d be any good at arguing in court.’’

“The experience gave me the confidence to participate in moot court in law school and I received the award for best oral argument!,’’ she said. “Working in the clinics completely changed my career path and it changed the way I saw myself. It helped me get a clerkship after law school and a job. I learned that every opportunity can set you up for success.’’

Gallagher, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting at UConn, went on to earn her juris doctorate at Western New England University. Now she is a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP in Hartford. She is also a member of the Coventry Town Council and treasurer of the PTO at her daughter’s school.

Three Business Alumnae Honored For Professional Success

Gallagher is one of three UConn alumnae to be honored with a ‘40 Under Forty’ award from the Hartford Business Journal, recognizing young professionals in the Greater Hartford area who have made significant professional contributions at a young age.

Alumnae Jess Moran, Senior Vice President at Bank of America, and Anastasia Nicolella, Advisory Senior Manager at Deloitte & Touche LLP, are also being honored. All three women said taking professional risks enhanced their careers.

Moran Displays Eternal Optimism: ‘I Never Give Up!’

Moran, a lifelong New Englander who earned her MBA at UConn in 2014, accepted a rotational position in Charlotte, N.C. after graduation. She had a bit of trepidation about whether she would enjoy living in the South. The experience broadened her perspective, and taking that risk boosted her confidence.

“Living outside New England was something I’d never considered before,’’ she said. “I think young people should be open to different opportunities and be flexible. Don’t think there is just one path or trajectory. It is really important to stay open, to be curious, and to explore at the beginning of your career.’’

Moran has worked at Bank of American for nine years, two of them in her current role. She specializes in banking for healthcare, education, and not-for-profit businesses.

“I love what I do. It is a joy to get to know people and to be part of their work. It is energizing and rewarding to help some truly amazing people achieve their missions,’’ she said. “When I put my head on the pillow at night, I feel accomplished.’’

She credits her UConn professors for her workforce preparation.

“The classes were really challenging. I felt very well prepared because of the rigor and the demanding academic environment,’’ she said. “UConn prepared me well for the banking world. Some of the issues we face in banking are very complex, and UConn gave me the foundation to be successful in the finance world.’’

One of the ways that Moran distinguishes herself in the workplace is by bringing a can-do attitude.

“My ‘brand’ is eternal optimism. Finance isn’t always easy. If you have an energetic optimism, it serves you well. You will be asked to be on projects, to be part of the recipe for success,’’ she said. “I also strive to persevere and push through, and I never give up!’’

In addition to her work responsibilities, Moran finds time to serve through the Junior League of Springfield, Mass., and is a longtime volunteer with Best Buddies. She also co-leads the Merrill Women’s Exchange Central Connecticut Chapter, supporting women in finance, and is a mentor at Bank of America and at the UConn School of Business. She is also a mom; Moran and her husband have a 4-year-old child.

Nicolella: UConn Taught Her to Take Risks

As an accounting major at UConn, Nicolella first developed the courage to take on a leadership role.

“I think that’s one of the things I learned at the School of Business—the ability to do hard things. I was a founding member of the business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. UConn taught me to change my thinking from ‘Why?’ to ‘Why not?’ It was a breakthrough. I realized I work hard, I’m capable, and I should take chances.’’

At Deloitte in Hartford, Nicolella works with public and private clients in a variety of industries, including energy, resources and industrials, and manufacturing. She is known for audit quality, project management, technical acumen, and team skills.

She recently had the opportunity to participate in a complex audit for her organization. It required long hours and travel, but ultimately the exposure, along with strong performance, led to a promotion. “With the mentorship of one of the principals I grew and expanded my skillset, my network, and my leadership abilities,’’ she said.

Nicolella strives to create a positive work environment for her team. “I try to set the tone for my teams by creating a fulfilling environment where they have a chance to grow and to see themselves succeed. We work long hours sometimes but we are there together as a team,’’ she said. “I want to build a team where others say, ‘I want to be on Anastasia’s projects!’ ’’

In her spare time, Nicolella and her husband revitalize and renovate abandoned or neglected apartment buildings to increase access to affordable housing. She is also committed to rescuing cats, particularly those with medical challenges, and has four cats of her own.

Despite the popularity of Boston and New York, all three of the honorees said that building their careers in Connecticut has provided them many advantages.

“I feel that being in Connecticut has allowed me to network more quickly than I may have been able to in a larger city. I also think it has provided more autonomy,’’ Nicolella said. “Being in a smaller office setting still offers great opportunities and I felt I got to participate in some key projects right from the very start.’’