Michele Trolli, 2020 New York Women in Banking Winner

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Michele Trolli

Chief Technology and Operations Officer
M&T Bank

How did you get into this field? What keeps you motivated to stay?

I landed in the banking field by chance. My first job was working as a computer programmer writing assembler code for a PDP-11 minicomputer, which was a successful and innovative architecture in its day! After that, I spent several years in the Financial Systems Department at GE Lighting before being recruited to work for a regional bank in the early 90's. At the time, the hiring manager explained working in technology for a bank was different than working in technology for a manufacturer because “banks do not build physical products that allow for a margin of error, banks manage money and the supporting technology does not have a margin for error.” Pretty sure that still applies today. I enjoyed the significance of technology in the banking industry then—and still do today. I am motivated to stay because I love my job, the community I live in and the people I work with.

Have you had any great female mentors? What is the importance of mentoring and is this something that you focus on?

Although I have had many female colleagues that have helped me throughout my career, I have never had a female mentor. That said, I have had some terrific male mentors and sponsors. One that comes to mind is Andy S., who’s several years my senior but extremely progressive. As a woman in tech you can sometimes experience doubt or worry that you’re just not “good enough.” He encouraged me to be myself and to not think I needed to “fit in.” He often told me the best part about me was how ‘uniquely Michele’ I was. While I worked for Andy, I learned the importance of being authentic. He gave me the strength and courage I needed, and I credit him with much of my success. Now that's not to say a male mentor is better than a female one – it’s not. I believe to my core that it is my responsibility to pay it forward and be a mentor to as many women, and men, as possible. Mentorship has enormous benefits for women in tech specifically, because no one knows the landscape we face better than women who’ve navigated it themselves – often in even less enlightened times than we have now. That’s one of the reasons I sponsor M&T’s Women’s Interest Network, an employee-driven resource group that encourages the professional development of members. If I have one piece of advice for mentees, it is to be authentic and that their unique self is their greatest gift. Andy made all the difference in my career, and I hope one day people will say the same about me.

What is your favorite movie? Why?

Ha... I have been asked this before and think I should have a more inspiring answer, yet as someone that believes in being authentic (see answer above!) I must admit that I love sci-fi movies. I really am a geek at heart. I most enjoy when a show completely steals my attention, entertains me and yet makes me think a bit. My favorite movie is The Matrix, a sci-fi movie with humanity trapped in a simulation that is run by intelligent machines. There is action, drama, cinematography, suspense and conflict—humanity and technology intertwined. I won’t do it justice, so just watch it.

What do you consider your greatest success?

I can happily say I am living my greatest success right now. I have a husband, four children and two grandchildren all living here in Buffalo, where I work for a bank that is undergoing a transformation with technology in the epicenter. M&T is embracing a modern innovation ecosystem in which the best ideas gain support and flourish, and emphasizes the importance of diversity, inclusivity, transparency and flexibility. And this new ecosystem requires a place to convene—a modern workspace that inspires connection and collaboration—so we’re actively building one. When people think of tech hubs, they conjure images of Silicon Valley or major innovation centers in Seattle and Boston. But relative to major metros, Buffalo is an affordable, rising region where community members can make an impact. Success in this endeavor truly takes a village, and I believe Buffalo has the heart and culture to advance in this new economy. Helping make my family’s hometown a place where current and future generations of talent will find new and exciting career opportunities is a dream come true.