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What I Learned When I Fell From "The Top"

What I Learned When I Fell From "The Top"

Madeleine was at the top of her career. Then she fell, and learned some invaluable lessons.

Madeleine McBride | Excelle

I’m going to write a weekly column focusing on personal finance and career advancement. I make no pretense of being an expert on either topic.

I do consider myself experienced in both. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy what I consider a robust and professionally rewarding career rise for over 20 years. I studied English Literature as an undergraduate. After graduating, I accepted a position at American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. as a secretary. The most compelling incentive for taking the job was ABC’s policy – at the time – on tuition remission for employees attending graduate school. As a direct result of that benefit and after four exhausting years of night school, I earned my MBA in Accounting from a top-ten business school.

While still earning my MBA, I was offered a promotion to a financial management position which involved auditing the production costs billed to ABC by the studios and production companies who provided programming to ABC. I determined whether or not the billings were in compliance with the contract. An internal promotion of such significance is virtually unheard of in today’s corporate philosophy. (This will surely be fodder for a future column.)

After several years, armed with professional experience, an MBA, and the nuggets of wisdom acquired through a veritable library of “How to Succeed in Business” books, I enjoyed consistent professional advancement, culminating in a position as vice president in television production finance at a major motion picture and television studio.

In this staff position, I made a good salary. As the sole earner in the household, I supported my husband and son in comfort. We took out a mortgage for a house in a Los Angeles suburb. We had two cars. We enrolled our son, 12 years old now, in the local public school. My husband, the stay-at-home parent, cared for our son while pursuing an intermittently encouraging career as a freelance screenwriter. We had health insurance, life insurance, a 401k, a SEP IRA for my husband, and nine months worth of living expenses saved in a CD. We took an annual vacation, participated fully in gift-giving holidays, and still had money enough to eat out far too often. By the standards of any reasonably well-educated, knowledgeable, and experienced professional individuals, we were enjoying the American Dream.

And then – although it took me a while to realize it – the sky began to fall.


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