Michelle Comacho joined TIAA in the 1980s early in her career. She later worked at several financial services companies while putting herself through college and graduate school and starting a family. In 2006, she chose to return to TIAA because she knew TIAA would provide an environment where she could thrive as a single mother.
Over the past eleven years, Michelle has juggled the responsibilities of raising her two daughters on her own and caring for an elderly parent, while rising through the ranks at TIAA to become senior director of Institutional Client Services. Amazingly, at the same time she has become a published author of two books.
Michelle is known as a leader who goes out of her way to help others achieve their goals. Her colleagues say when she walks into a room, the energy changes and her positivity inspires and lifts everyone around her. Michelle has been chosen by TIAA to be honored by Working Mother Media as our 2017 Working Mother of the Year.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a working parent?
Having the opportunity to be a role model and an example to both of my daughters, Brianna and Taylor. I divorced their dad when they were young, so I was working fulltime, going to school for my master’s degree and also volunteering. My daughters have seen firsthand that you can do multiple things at once, and that perseverance and hard work pay off. They’ve also learned that it’s equally important to invest in yourself as well as others.
What advice would you give to other working parents?
You have to create your own work-life balance. Time does not stand still, nor can you get that time back, so you don’t want to lean too much in one direction at the risk of losing something on the other side.
What drew you back to TIAA?
I returned to TIAA because I wanted to work for a company that stands behind its values – everything at this company aligns to what is important to me. I also knew TIAA would offer the opportunities and flexibility I needed to balance my work and family life, and excel at both. TIAA has consistently allowed me to grow and to help my colleagues grow through initiatives like the company’s mentoring program, leadership training programs and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). The opportunities here are endless.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a working mother?
In life we are going to have trials and tribulations and triumphs. All these experiences are part of the journey. They strengthen us. My mother was young when I was born and unable to care for me, so she gave me up for adoption. My adoptive home was challenging, and I left at 16 and later put myself through college and then attended graduate school, while raising two kids. I’ve learned that nothing is given to us that we don’t have the ability to surpass.
Do you have a favorite saying or motto?
One of the quotes I recite a lot is from my book, Abandoned, Life Goes On, a memoir of my early years: “Never allow your circumstances to dictate your greatness or your destiny.”
As a working mother, what are you most proud of?
Looking at my two girls and seeing what phenomenal, well-rounded young women they are.