I was an engineer for five years. We did projects, design and build work, for heavy industry — power generating stations, chemical plants and refineries. At the time, I was in the [University of] Maryland dual-degree program and I loved the MBA part of it, the business piece, so much that I decided I wanted to quit my job and go fulltime into the business degree. What I wanted to do was have the business degree so that my career could progress into a management role with an engineering company or a manufacturer. I knew that I wanted my horizons to be broader than a design engineer and then I discovered I loved the business more than I loved the engineering.
I stopped the business component at Maryland and finished the engineering component. Then I stopped working and went to school at [University of] Chicago.
From there I went into consulting, at PriceWaterhouseCoopers first and then McKinsey. It was strategy consulting. When you’re in consulting and you’re in the early years, the clients, the industries swing wildly and then you generally settle down into a particular industry. Financial services was mine.
I came to know individuals from Chesapeake Bancorp. They would consistently ask me if I had any interest in working at the bank and that they were in the process of planning for the succession of their president and chief executive. Would I be interested? We had those conversations for about 18 months and then I said, yes, and made the leap. I wasn’t particularly interested when it was first mentioned but then your life goes on and the consulting lifestyle is very, very difficult. It saps your energy after a while.
Unlike consulting, the community aspect of working in one place became very strong for me. I go to the coffee shop now and I’ll see six people between the coffee shop and back and I’ll know the name of every single one of their dogs, or their children. It’s just really very comfortable.
I have acquaintances, informal personal connections with Severn. From what I understand of their side of the story, the topic of bringing someone in for their chief operating officer came up and some folks said “I’ve got a guy that you need to talk to.” It was a bit of coincidence, almost very similar to me coming to Chesapeake in that it was not necessarily a recruiting environment but more of a conversation that took on more momentum as it went along.
The way that Severn operates is very similar but on a larger scale. Annapolis as a market is the place I would choose to be in the world. It’s a beautiful place and where I think of as home. Here’s an opportunity to do something very interesting on a larger scale in the place I would choose to be so it’s perfect.
— Interview with Kathy Orton
Chief operating officer, Severn Savings Bank,
a community bank based in Annapolis.
Career highlights: CEO, president, director, Chesapeake Bancorp; consultant, McKinsey & Company; consultant, PriceWaterhouseCoopers; manager, Mid-Atlantic Technical Services
Education: MBA, University of Chicago; MA, systems engineering, BS, mechanical engineering, University of Maryland
Personal: Lives in Annapolis with wife, Kelly, and daughter, Isabelle.