Book Review: Full Circle

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Montella, Erin Callan. Full Circle: A memoir of leaning in too far and the journey back. Triple M Press, 2016.

Erin Callan made her career the center of her life and was named CFO of Lehman in 2007 at age 42, the highest ranking woman on Wall Street. Six months later, the market imploded and management threw Callan under the bus. Eight years later in Full Circle, Erin Callan (now) Montella tells the story of her dramatic rise and fall as a Wall Street rock star and she warns other ambitious young women not to “Lean In” too deeply.

In her self-published book, Montella writes candidly about her life and the choices she made. She graduates from Harvard and NYU Law School, begins her career as a corporate tax attorney at a large prestigious New York law firm. Five years later, attracted by the excitement on Wall Street, she moves to Lehman Brothers to work as an investment banker.

Montella explains that at Lehman she excels at working with clients and constructing profitable high profile deals, earning professional accolades. She is promoted quickly through 11 levels and eventually is tapped as CFO, where she is the first woman to be part of the Executive Committee in Lehman’s 150 year history.

But Montella also counsels that the Wall Street environment is incompatible with work-life balance. At Lehman she runs full throttle, devoted to her career, spending all her time and energy on work. She meets attractive people, but personal relationships dry up from lack of attention. She ends romantic relationships and her marriage for superficial reasons and has no personal friends. When her work life crumbles, she is devastated.

Full Circle is forthright and frankly told, but Montella fails to take personal responsibility for any part of the financial collapse. She was “swimming with the sharks” yet was one of the sharks herself. She calls herself a “rookie” after 15 years in the financial sector. Her complaints about money seem self-indulgent as she owns million dollar homes in the Hamptons, NY and on Sanibel Island, FL. Others who lost their homes in the financial crisis live in their cars. That said, Full Circle is a provocative story, recommended as an introspective memoir about life choices.

Two excellent books on the financial crisis include The Big Short by Michael Lewis and Too Big to Fail by Andrew Sorkin.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

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