‘Get out of your comfort zone’
By: Amber Stark
Holly Horn’s career path did not follow the expected route for someone with a bachelor’s degree in education. It has spanned over various businesses and organizations, including politics, education, health care, consulting and finance – and that is OK, she says.
“If someone asked me 30 some years ago what I was going to do with my life, it doesn’t look anything like it does today,” said Horn, a 1983 graduate of Bowling Green State University. “Everything you do in your career prepares you for the next step. Be a sponge; take that knowledge and go on to the next thing.”
“You have all worked very hard to get to this special moment. You have reached a milestone that many in this country will never achieve or will ever have the opportunity to achieve,” she said.
“Now, get out of your comfort zone. It has made all the difference for me in my life journey. Expose yourself to new people, new experiences, new ideas; take risks, push yourself to expand your consciousness."
“Some of you today may have a job lined up already and perhaps a well-planned career path. Many of you may still be exploring what to do and looking for employment. I say to those who are still trying to figure it out, don’t panic. Take it from a woman who has never really followed a 'straight’ path, neither professionally nor personally.”
As a senior and after graduation, Horn worked for Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) before returning to teaching. She says the opportunity to work with Kaptur was one of the moments she had to get out of her own comfort zone.
In 1988, she completed a Master of Health Administration degree from George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C., and pursued a career in health care. She then joined the national health care strategy and business development consulting practice of Ernst and Young, where she assisted hospital systems across the country in expanding their services and improving operations for patients.
Today, Horn works in the municipal finance industry in New York City for Assured Guaranty. In her role as chief surveillance officer of public finance she is responsible for monitoring a $360 billion insured portfolio and has represented the firm in several high-profile distressed credit negotiations. She says entering the field of finance was one of the biggest times she’s had to get out of her comfort zone.
Horn shared this career path with graduates and said that many people have no idea of the opportunities and the potential that lies ahead of them.
“Challenge yourself, learn, do something different,” she said. “Don’t hold yourself back. Even if you fail, you’ll learn so much. Most successful people will tell you that their greatest accomplishments came after their failures, because those failures helped them learn and motivated them in their next step. When you fall, fall forward, not backward, don’t quit, keep moving forward. Failure is one step closer to success.”
Horn closed her address by inspiring the graduates to help others.
“No matter how much you make or acquire in this life, you can’t take it with you. It’s about what you do with what you have while you here, whether it’s your money or your God-given talents,” she said. “Don’t forget to reach back and pull someone else up. Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.
“The chances that you take, the people that you meet, the people you love, the people you may lose along the way, the faith that you have, they are all going to define and enrich your lives. Go forth; enjoy your journey, and congratulations.”
Horn resides in New York City and Washington, D.C. with her partner of 25 years, Kathleen.