Woman to Watch: Ellen Comisar

Woman to Watch: Ellen Comisar

Arlene Hisiger, December 27, 2013, herrochester.com


Ellen Comisar
Ellen Comisar is not one to leave matters to chance.

When it became apparent that her current employer, OppenheimerFunds Inc., was close to offering her a job, Comisar made her expectations clear. "If you give me that job," she said, "and expect me to be here 18 months from now, I'll be gone." She knew that the job, as originally described, wouldn't hold her interest for long, and she felt she owed it to her potential employer "to be clear about her own vision regarding what she wanted to do and could do."

Today, content in her role as senior editor and assistant vice president of OppenheimerFunds, Comisar writes and edits marketing materials for current and prospective shareholders of the Oppenheimer Rochester municipal bond funds, as well as a wide assortment of print and online literature.

A Rochester native, Comisar grew up in Brighton and returned home in 2001, after working many years as a journalist for prominent publications such as The Dallas Times HeraldChicago Sun-Times and The New York Times. Of those years Comisar said: "There was always the next 'big story,' it was easy to get caught up in the 'crisis of the day.' Ultimately, I've learned to look at the big picture, to keep any individual event, positive or negative, in perspective."

She's learned to not let work be everything, especially if you are single. "While it should be a key focus, don't let it expand so that you don't leave time for other things," Comisar said. "Ultimately, it's the other things that will keep you grounded and connect you to your community."

Self-advocacy and realistic assessment of one's limits are common themes expressed in Comisar's personal worldview.

"Don't sell yourself short," Comisar advises. "If someone is unhappy in their current job I'd tell that person 'put your resume out there, where people can see and recognize your strengths.' Even if you don't take another job, it's reassuring because it reminds you of your talents and gives you time to reflect carefully on what you are doing and what you'd like to do. And, don't be discouraged about the bad economy. When I got out of college, the economy was bad as well, but I was very purposeful about being employable in an area that I enjoyed and in which I had some talent."

While working as a senior communications specialist for McKinsey & Company, a leading international management consultancy, Comisar came to realize that everyone needs help, no matter how smart they are. But women in particular worry about asking for help. "Sometimes, you are shooting yourself in the foot by not asking for help," Comisar said. "It's a risk, it can be seen as vulnerability, but the 'I can do it all' mentality doesn't always help women.

"The notion of 'having it all' has led many career women to believe they should be 'doing it all,'" Comisar said. "There's a real temptation to volunteer for too many projects—I do it—and to attempt the impossible. If you strive toward being all things to all people, you will always feel as if you are coming up short. You should be willing to offer help but you need to consider the consequences of being over-committed."

Comisar chooses to contribute her talent in areas of interest such as being chair of the JCC's Lane Dworkin Jewish Book Festival and member of Temple Beth El's board of trustees and its scholarship committee.

Contact Arlene at 585-442-6108 or arlene@wordtailor.net 
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