From Lebanon to New Haven, Connecticut: A Visionary’s Unplanned and Eclectic Career

From Lebanon to New Haven, Connecticut: A Visionary’s Unplanned and Eclectic Career

BY Helen Horwitz Posted: 17 May 2017

In the early 1990s, Rowena Track turned down a major promotion. Her employer wanted to make her a vice president, but she and her family would have had to move–which would have disrupted the children’s schooling.

A few years later, when the same employer offered her a second promotion to vice president–this one involving international travel–she took it. Track reasoned that since her husband was planning a career move that would give him more opportunities to spend time with their now-teenaged sons, she could be confident her children’s needs would be met.

Despite describing herself as a “trailing spouse” for the first 15 years of her career, today Track is known and respected across multiple industries as a visionary and innovative leader in applying the internet and digital technology to engage target audiences. Currently, she is Global Vice President of Digital, Channel and Partner Strategy and Marketing for Cigna Corporation, a Fortune 100 health and insurances services organization.

Her career path from a physics labs to the C-suite is now the subject of the newest volume in the award-winning IEEE Women Engineering (WIE) e-book series. From Physics to Wall Street: My Accidental, Unplanned and Eclectic Life and Career, by Rowena Track, is the 15th work in the series.

Except for the first book, which is an overview of STEM occupations, each WIE volume is a personally written account of how a notable woman technologist became interested in technology, obtained her education, and developed a successful and satisfying career.

This year marks the fourth year of the landmark e-book series, which has been praised by educators and women’s organizations. In 2016, it was honored with 20 publishing industry awards.

“Each author has a unique and inspiring story that will help to motivate the next generation of female technologists,” says Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA’s Publishing Manager, and Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS, adding that authors are selected for the practical, down-to-earth professional guidance they can share. “They represent a diverse cross-section of backgrounds,” she says, “and each has had distinctive, life-shaping experiences.”

Other authors in the series have discussed how they have dealt with the demands of both career and family, but Track is the most outspoken when she states, “My family comes first. My children are my world, and my relationship with my husband is never compromised…I am most successful when I know that my success at work has never come at the expense of a successful marriage.”

In her e-book, Track recalls growing up in a loving, but firmly managed, home in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. “Starting when each of us was very young, our parents made a conscious effort to focus our education on math and science,” she says. “My mother used to say, “Those who are good in math and the sciences are good in everything.” 

After receiving her B.S. in Physics from the American University in Beirut (AUB), Track and her then-fiancé, whom she had met at AUB, came to the United States to marry and for post-graduate studies. Living in New Haven, Connecticut, where her husband was pursuing his Ph.D. at Yale University, she soon became pregnant with their first son, and decided to study for a Master’s at the University of New Haven–instead of for a previously planned Ph.D.

Her first, and the only job that leveraged her physics education–at Yale’s J.W. Gibbs Laboratory–soon ended when the project grant expired. Next hired by the Yale University School of Medicine, Track worked on a major project for a human gene mapping library. The experience gave her not only what she calls “the equivalent of a first-year medical school education,” but also introduced her to leading scientists at medical institutions and universities around the world. She calls this “one of the most rewarding jobs of my entire career, shaping forever my professional trajectory.”

When the project was moved to Baltimore, Track couldn’t go because her husband’s work was in New Haven. She found new employment nearby with Bayer Pharmaceutical–and over the next 14 years held various positions, each with increasing responsibility, and requiring her to use technology and innovation to solve complex business problems. When she left in 2005, she was global vice president of eBusiness, a position in what was then Bayer Healthcare Global Strategic Marketing. 

Rowena Track believes that the only way to learn and grow is by taking what she describes as “stretch assignments–those jobs where you only know 70 percent of what needs to be done, and learn the other 30 percent on the job.”  Reflecting this thinking, her career moves span major corporate institutions in financial services, such as TIAA and Citibank, and health care with Cigna.

In a to-the-point, valuable chapter on the benefits of networking, Track acknowledges that participating in industry and cross-industry events helped her to become well-known. In turn, such participation has led to offers for new job opportunities, when she wasn’t even seeking a change.

“Present (a paper) at industry events, help at workshops, or offer to chair an event,” she advises. “Expand your horizon and make an effort to meet the organizers, tell them about what you do, and be willing to help and share. Contributing and participating will help to make others seek you out!”

From Physics to Wall Street: My Accidental, Unplanned and Eclectic Life and Career, by Rowena Track is available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org, at the IEEE member price of $7.99; non-members can purchase the volume for $9.99 each.

One more volume in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering series will be published in 2017.   The Women in Engineering series includes:

All the above titles are available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org/, and each title is priced at $7.99 for members and $9.99 for non-IEEE members.

 

 

 

 

 

Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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