Elena Ayot, C’02
Elena Ayot

Senior Vice President & Senior Compliance Officer, Citi

New York, NY

Biology Major, Spanish Minor

I lead compliance for Lending Operations for the firm’s Services, Markets, and Banking & International businesses under our client franchise. No two days look exactly the same, but in a typical day I might collaborate and strategize with the business, collaborate with internal stakeholders and Risk, Legal, and Tech, and join meetings that involve outside stakeholders. Sometimes fires need to be put out, sometimes I’m involved in coming up with the best way to move forward strategically in our compliance coverage.

Sharing our authentic story and using it to light a path for others is a superpower we all have.

One of the most meaningful moments in my career came when I was just starting out. I told my mentor that I don’t like that people don’t realize I’m a lawyer when they meet me. His response has stayed with me to this day: He said, “Is that really what you want people to see when they meet you?” This led me to find my authentic story, to be comfortable walking in it and leading in it and to understand that yes, I am a lawyer, but I’m so much more. Sharing our authentic story and using it to light a path for others is a superpower we all have. Something that I’ve learned—which would’ve been great if I had learned earlier—is to see vulnerability as a strength and to use it to invite collaboration from others.

What sticks with me about my time at Penn is the reoccurring feeling I always got in the spring. The year was closing out, I was getting ready for final exams, I was thinking about what classes I might take next year. I would walk down Locust Walk and get this sense of renewal, of being able to start fresh, this feeling that I could take advantage of anything and even forge a new path if I wanted to. It was a reminder to continue to learn and grow, to not miss the opportunity literally right at my feet.

To current students and alumni, I would say, have the courage to step outside of what feels comfortable in your career—in all areas, really—because you are bound to make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are delicious. See them as learning opportunities. And it’s not about making a mistake or not making a mistake. It’s what you do after a mistake that marks the difference between regret and growth. — April 16, 2024 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons