The School of Business lecture was Roessner’s first time back to campus since graduation.
“There were no laptops and no cell phones in my day,” he told the students as he scanned the tech-equipped audience, “and never did I know that I would one day be heading up a company that at that time did not even exist."
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Siena. There is no place I would rather have started my career.”
After graduating from Siena, the soft-spoken Roessner went on to earn a law degree from St. John’s University, where he was a member of the law review. His father’s career as a homicide detective spurred him to pursue a career in law.
“I was one of those freaks of nature who knew exactly what I wanted to do after graduating college.”
He became a partner in corporate practice at Clifford Chance US, one of the world’s leading law firms, then signed on as general counsel of E*Trade, a pioneer in online brokerage. He became CEO in September 2016. Based in Manhattan, he oversees the vision and strategic direction of the online trading and banking firm with more than 3,400 employees and 30 branches across the country.
He encouraged the Siena students to work hard, stay focused and recognize that no task is beneath them as they make their way up the career ladder.
“I’ve had an interesting run, and things were not always perfect or even easy,” he said. “When you start your career, with every task you’re given, execute it as if it were the most important thing on the table and do it with a smile, because for the person who assigned you that task, it is the most important thing.”
When making your way in the world, Roessner told them to believe in themselves and not let self-doubt shake their confidence.
“Remember, if you get the interview, if you get the job, if you are in that room – you earned it,” he said. “So own it, move forward and do your best.”
His talk was geared perfectly toward dedicated students who are already thinking about how they are going to make their mark on the business world. Some of the topics he touched on:
Learning the Ropes
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ve learned from tons of people throughout my career. Be a sponge. The learning never ends. When I moved from working at a law firm to E*Trade, I had to figure things out all over again.”
He shared some advice from his son’s baseball coach: “Don’t be afraid to fail, just be ‘less wrong’ tomorrow.”
Working Your Way Up
Roessner earned money during his Siena days by digging ground for pools. Law school cash was earned by cleaning them.
“Don’t ever look down on another person’s job or career. People choose different paths in life and you can learn something from everyone, especially qualities like hard work and responsibility.”
The Pitfalls of Social Media
He had some stern words for a generation that perhaps shares too much information via social media.
“Be careful about what you put out on Facebook and Instagram. They can’t capture Snapchat yet, but I’m sure someone will find a way soon. When you put something out on social media, it is on the Internet forever, and I mean forever, and future employers can find it. I know, because I’ve looked up things on people I interviewed for jobs.”
His Days at Siena
When not studying for his business degree, Roessner practiced mixed martial arts at the intramural level and also participated in club sports.
“At Siena, I learned good study skills. The professors taught me to buckle down. I’m a major introvert by nature, and the faculty taught me how to express myself properly in business communications.”
He said the Franciscan culture at Siena taught him to “be accepting of the views of other people.”
Roessner was introduced by Guy Maddalone ‘89, creator of the College’s Entrepreneur Wall of Success. The two were roommates at Siena.
“As soon as I met this guy I knew he would be successful,” said Maddalone.
Roessner and Maddalone were joined at the lecture by a third roommate, Frank M. Collora '89, who manages the Long Island pool company where Roessner worked during his college days.
The Daily Gazette: E-Trade CEO tells Siena students to ‘run into’ problems