I am the chief of staff and resident historian (that is, the head of the research and analysis unit) at Citi’s Center for Culture. The Center’s other two units are Heritage Services (the history archives) and Fine Arts. Although the roots of our company go back 200 years, to a small Wall Street bank, over the past two centuries, it has acquired and merged hundreds of other companies. Our job is to distill Citi’s story and culture and make that available to the Center’s clients. . . and all employees.
A short list of what we might do in a given week might include write histories, build timelines, mount exhibitions, provide images and art from our collections, give tours, research questions, conduct interviews, and hang art. One of the constant fascinations of the job is the variety of people we work with. Citi is one of the most diverse companies that there is—I have colleagues in over 100 countries, most of whom are native to their workplaces, and they work in almost every kind of financial and supporting services. We’ll get more into that over the course of the week.
My background is primarily in languages and literature, with a BA in Classics and a doctorate in Modern Greek literature. Before joining the bank, I taught at both a large university and a small seminary, then lived for a number of years in Geneva with my family before moving to New York. While I was networking in search of a job, I met a fellow Greek studies scholar who had gone to work in the corporate universe. He was then head of Citi’s corporate communications division and ended up offering me a job as editor, with peripheral responsibility for a large file room full of the company’s historical documents.
I didn’t start out as a history buff, but I have always liked a good story. Those files held many compelling ones, some of them first-person narratives by people who had been part of some major world events: crossfire during the 1917 Russian Revolution, the closing of Cuba to the U.S. in 1960, the Great Kantu Earthquake in Yokohama in 1923, and on and on. As time went on, the proportion of my job dedicated to history grew and editing moved into the background. I spent some semesters as a visiting scholar in a local history department and, over time, that file room grew into a proper archives. A few years later, it and a history function became part of the Center for Culture.
The week ahead looks like it should be a fairly typical one. That is, unlike the case for some “Week in the Life” bloggers, my team isn’t coming to the culmination of a large project, but will be faced with a number of projects in various stages of completion mixed with meetings about our larger strategy and daily business, leavened by at least one special event. I hope you’ll enjoy coming along for the ride!