Woman of the Year: Olivia Montague, Kogod '15

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” –Robert Collier

Hailing from Marlton, New Jersey, Olivia made the trek to D.C. and immediately hit the ground running. From interning for two summers at Ernst & Young to starting her own fashion blog this past year, Olivia’s range of expertise demonstrates her profound ambition. As a finance major with a minor in international business, Olivia’s unwavering will to succeed continues to impress those around her. I had the pleasure to talk to Olivia about her multiple passions and how she embodies the characteristics of a powerful woman. 

Her Campus American: What made you want to come to AU?

Olivia Montague: I was accepted into the Washington Mentorship Program my freshman year which allowed me to have an internship for credit my first semester at American. Wanting to work in DC during my first semester of college and develop my professional skills is what made me decide to come to AU. 

HCAU: What activities are you currently involved in, on and off-campus?

OM: I am currently a Peer Consultant in the Kogod Center for Career Development. I help students with their resumes and cover letters as well as with the internship search process. I am also a law clerk at a boutique law firm located in downtown DC that focuses on criminal defense litigation. Additionally, I am a Brother of Alpha Kappa Psi: Professionally Business Fraternity as well as a Campus Ambassador for Ernst & Young. I also volunteer with the Washington DC Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

HCAU: What have you been involved with in the past?

OM:II have interned at AARP’s National Headquarters as a marketing and communications intern. I was an Emerging Leaders Intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and also an intern at the Department of the Treasury’s Office of International Affairs. I have also interned for the past 2 summers in Ernst & Young’s Financial Services Office in New York City, first as a Launch Intern and most recently as a Structured Finance Intern.

HCAU: Why is career development important to you?

OM: Career development is so important, for any student, because it will help to prepare them for life after college. Career development is key to having a successful transition into the work force or even higher education after college.  That is why I enjoy working in the Kogod Center for Career Development so much because I am able to help students with their professional development on a regular basis. Working in the KCCD has been extremely rewarding because I have been able to see first-hand the impact career development can have in student’s lives.

HCAU: Tell me about your positions and experience with Ernst & Young—what advice do you have for aspiring women business leaders? Why is it important for women to have roles in business?

OM: Working in Ernst & Young’s Financial Services Office for the past 2 summers has been an absolutely amazing experience. I had the chance to work on global projects for some of the world’s largest financial institutions, which not only helped to augment my knowledge of the financial industry but also gave me hands on experience working with professionals in the field. My advice for aspiring women business leaders would be to be confident in yourself and your abilities. Particularly in the finance industry there are not many women, but it is always important to remember that you are capable of anything you set out to do, as long as you are willing to work for it. I would also say don’t be afraid to pursue opportunities or to reach your full potential. I believe it is important for women to have roles in business because organizations need diverse teams and diversity of thought in general, in order to be successful.

HCAU: Why do you think it’s important to spread awareness of racial discrimination at AU and the greater DC community?

OM: I think especially at a place like AU, which has such a diverse and global student body, it is important to spread awareness of racial discrimination because raising awareness will help to understand cultures and perspectives that are not your own. This ultimately creates a more inclusive and productive environment for all students. Particularly in today’s world, being culturally sensitive and aware is extremely necessary no matter where you are. But that can only be done by raising awareness and educating people.  That is why organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation are so incredibly important because they focus not only on advocacy, but on education.

HCAU: What motivated you to start your own blog, Styled by Olivia? What opportunities has starting a blog presented to you?

OM: Fashion and styling have always been something that I have been passionate about. But what made me finally have enough courage to start my own blog was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Living abroad and having the opportunity to travel through Europe inspired me in so many ways and that is what ultimately gave me the confidence to follow my passion. Through my blog I have had the opportunity to go a lot of really cool events in the DC area and starting a blog has given me the opportunity to have a productive creative outlet. Most recently I actually got to met Nigel Barker at his DC signing for his newest book, ‘Models of Influence’.

HCAU: What advice do you have to other aspiring bloggers? How do you manage your blog? 

OM: Be yourself. I think especially when first starting out with a blog it’s really easy to compare yourself to others. But it is important to remember that being yourself and being authentic is the key to having an amazing blog that truly resonates with readers. At the beginning of each week I set out a schedule and write down which posts I want to work on or post. I make sure to keep a notebook with all of my ideas and thoughts. One of my favorite things to do other than picking out new outfits to showcase is working on my Fashion Role Model series. I wanted to create the series on Styled by Olivia for many reasons. First and foremost, there are so many intelligent, talented, and brilliant women in this world who aside from doing pretty amazing things, also know how to dress really well. Second, I wanted to showcase women who aren't just entertainers or models, which is sometimes all you see in the media these days (not that they aren't great too). I just know I like having role models who I can relate to professionally...and if they also have amazing fashion sense then that's just a win-win. And for me yes I enjoy fashion and styling, but I also really like finance, excel spreadsheets, and think derivatives (options, forwards, swaps, etc) are really cool too. I'm multi-faceted, just like the women I highlight in the series.

HCAU: What are you most passionate about?

OM: I am most passionate about wanting to inspire other women to feel confident, which is the driving force behind my blog. The purpose of Styled by Olivia is to create a place where anyone can find inspiration to look and feel amazing. Because I believe feeling confident, no matter what you're wearing, is the key to looking your best. I know what it’s like to be judged, to not feel beautiful, and to not be proud of who I am. I want every single person who has ever gone through the same experience to know that they are not alone. That they are beautiful and that they matter. My goal is to reach an entire generation of women and inspire them to pursue their wildest dreams, regardless of what they are wearing.

HCAU: What has been one of your proudest moments while at AU?

AU: One of the biggest things that I am proud of about my time at AU is that I have been able to intern so much in the DC area and have amazing professional experiences. That is definitely something that I am proud of because I know that I took complete advantage of being in Washington, DC during my time at AU.

HCAU: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” –Audre Lorde

OM: This is a quote that was recently shared with me at a time when I was really nervous about a situation and it had such a huge impact on me. Dare to be powerful. It is the best advice I have ever received and has helped me to lean into my discomfort and work toward accomplishing my goals.

HCAU: What makes you feel powerful?

OM: A great pair of heels.

HCAU: What women do you look up to and why?

I look up to my Mom, Susan Honesty Montague, so much. She’s an architect and works in New York City. I admire her motivation and drive. She is honestly the hardest working person that I know and hope that one day I can be half as amazing as she is. I also look up to my mentor Dr. Fanta Aw. She is always inspires me to reach higher and to follow my dreams. And on top of all that her passion for her students and incredibly impressive career are equally as inspiring.

HCAU: What advice would you give to women who want to empower other women?

OM:My advice would be become a mentor and give back in any way that you can. That is ultimately the most rewarding feeling, knowing that you are having a positive impact on the lives of other women. No amount of time or effort is too big or too small.

Photography: Kristie Chua