Courtlandt Stretton is never bored. In her role as finance manager for ITS, Courtlandt and team, led by Mark Manton, support all areas of Central IT. The team is responsible for producing complex internal financial reporting and helping individual areas in ITS understand all aspects of their financials. Always interested in technology and finance, Courtlandt found the perfect match that combines both here at Yale.
We recently chatted with Courtlandt about everything from the challenges of working in IT and her advice for those starting in their careers to what she enjoys in her down-time.
How did you get into your line of work?
It took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I love moving around and experiencing new places, so I knew I wanted to find something that would allow me to do that. It wasn’t until I started taking accounting courses as part of the prerequisites for my MBA program that I found something that seemed to click. All those clean lines, tidy little boxes, and simple math problems that told you instantly if you were right or wrong…it was love at first spreadsheet. After spending a few years in accounting, I made the transition to a financial analyst role. In this role, I got to continue to work with my spreadsheets but also help the teams I supported make financial decisions. For me, this added extra meaning to my work as I could see tangible results of all those spreadsheets and meetings. It also meant that I was continually learning new things from the teams, which helped keep my wanderlust at bay.
What is your biggest challenge today of working in IT?
My biggest challenge is to try to stay current with all the things that we do. Given the sheer number of things the technical teams manage for the University and the speed at which things can change, I feel like it’s almost impossible to be truly current. I do my best to keep up. To be a true partner to the technical teams, I feel like I need to at least have a basic understanding of their areas. I also need this understanding so I can explain these areas to other people at the university who have less exposure to IT.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I have a lot of very vivid memories from when I was a little kid, but I have very few when it comes to what I would be when I grew up. I know I had my heart set on being a mermaid for a long time and was devastated when my parents finally broke it to me that it wasn’t possible. I remember my parents suggesting that I become a lawyer at one point, but to me that meant wearing nice suits and carrying a briefcase—seemed easy enough. When I actually figured out what the job was, it wasn’t as appealing. For a long time after that, I thought “a job is a job”. If it allows me to do what I want to do outside of work, how much does it really matter what I do?
Words of wisdom for people just starting in their careers?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. You will be so surprised at how generous many of the people you contact will be with their time and advice. Some won’t, and that’s ok, but most will. The people that are willing to invest time and energy into your career development are invaluable. They can help you make decisions based on years of experience, connect you to other people that you may have never been able to talk to, and possibly even give you that big break that allows you to advance faster than you thought possible. Sometimes you get lucky and these people come into your life by chance (they are your managers, coworkers, etc.), but you can also increase your odds of finding them by reaching out whenever the opportunity arises.
What is your idea of a great weekend?
One day of fun, being active outside with my family (going on a bike ride or hiking), and one day of getting ready for the week coming up (laundry, cleaning, planning for the week).
At work, I have my favorite work playlists that keep me focused and motivated with artists like Ratatat, LCD Soundsystem, and other random upbeat songs. At home, it’s much more relaxed, and we listen to artists like Courtney Barnett, David Byrne, and Mac DeMarco.
Ultimate vacation destination?
Very hard to pick just one. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how much I would like to visit Japan. I’ve been interested in many parts of the culture for a long time. I almost went to teach English in Japan for a year. This was happening right at the same time as I got my first real job after school, so I decided not to move forward with the process.
What are you currently reading?
My son and I are currently working our way through the Mo Willems catalog, including titles such as Happy Pig Day, Waiting Is Not Easy!, and The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! We are also big fans of Winnie the Pooh.
What New Haven restaurant would you recommend to a new employee?
This is more of a specific meal, but I think it qualifies: a plain tomato pie with parmesan and fresh garlic from Sally’s Apizza. I know New Haven pizza can be an easy answer, but it’s just the best. If you are not a New Haven native, don’t be scared by the line, surly wait staff, or lack of updated décor in the actual restaurant. Sally’s is amazing, and this pie in particular is the one to try at least once.