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Alumna carried skills learned at WashU through career at AT&T, Citi

Over her 31-year career, Laura (Silguero) Tolic took problems and situations she faced and broke them down into small pieces to look at the best options and which direction to follow — skills she learned as a student in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Laura Silguero Tolic
Tony and Laura (Silguero) Tolic

Tolic applied those skills daily during her 27 years at AT&T Corp. and later, four years at Citigroup Inc., working in a range of jobs. But no matter the job, she could always bring it back to what she learned in her studies at Washington University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and applied mathematics in 1973.

"What WashU did was present the basics in their very simple form, then provided the opportunity through independent study programs to elaborate on those simple things in a whole variety of ways," she says. "I learned to look at something differently or from different perspectives. That's probably the very basic concept that, looking back, I find myself having utilized repeatedly."

Years later, when she earned an MBA from the University of Texas-Dallas, those same skills were reinforced from a business perspective.

When Tolic came to Washington University from San Antonio, she was the first member of her family to go to college. Her father constantly reinforced the importance of a college education to her and her five younger siblings. She came to Washington University on a full scholarship.

"My dad was so proud and excited," she recalls. "It was a dream come true for him."

Although Tolic had a full scholarship, she realized during her sophomore year that with upcoming tuition increases, it wouldn't cover all of her senior year. So she worked out how to get all of her credits in before the tuition costs rose.

"My adviser asked if I was sure I could take so many hours in one semester," she recalls. "I said, 'If it means having my diploma from this school, I'll make it work.' I had 19 hours one semester and 20 hours another, and I finished in three and a half years."

Tolic began her career with Southwestern Bell in St. Louis and in a few years was transferred back to Texas. She did everything from manage computer operations centers to working on DSL to jobs in finance and marketing, moving from Houston to Dallas to San Antonio.

"I focused my career on always being a part of the latest and greatest new endeavors that the company had," she says.

AT&T moved its headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas in 2008, and Tolic realized any future career moves would require a move back to Dallas. Not willing to make another move, she prepared to retire from AT&T. A friend of hers, who she had met through a networking event years before, told her about some positions available at Citigroup. About a month after she retired from AT&T, she began a new position at Citigroup as senior vice president of the Americas Operations, working in information security for the company's Global Identity Administration. Her Spanish language skills were a plus in managing centers in San Antonio and Mexico City.

"We implemented a lot of new policies, new procedures and new processes, and we were able to get out from under a lot of inefficiencies and business risk," she says. "I was very privileged to be in a position to see all of this come together and to implement some business structure.

"The most rewarding thing for me was mentoring the employees who were in their first jobs," she says. "I worked with them on how to do better, how to get through business, how to take their career to the next level, what kinds of things to consider and ways to improve their value in the company."

Now that she has recently retired, she plans to take time to catch up with her family and friends and spend time with her 2½-year-old granddaughter. She is also looking forward to returning to travel, reading, cooking and volunteer work.

"Ultimately, after four to six months I might sink my teeth into something new and different," she says.

One of her options is to continue mentoring through the National Society of Hispanic MBAs and possibly write a book based on her mentoring experiences. But one of the most important goals is to continue to give back to the School of Engineering & Applied Science as she has for the past 20 years.