While Colleen Ostrowski originally planned a career in marketing, it took just one class in finance to change her mind.“I discovered I was much more in tune with finance,” she explains. A summer internship working in the finance department at Pfizer sealed the deal. “I loved it,” Ostrowski says. “It became a passion.” After working at Pfizer in finance and treasury for 10 years, she joined ITT Corporation in 2010 as assistant treasurer, and was quickly promoted to vice president and treasurer later that year.
Good timing. Ostrowski became a key player in the $12 billion ITT demerger in 2011, when the company spun off its defense and water businesses. “Defense was only 60 percent of our business, but the entire company was being valued as a defense business,” Ostrowski says. “We decided to split the company into three balanced businesses in order to realize shareholder value.” In the end, each company ended up with an investment-grade rating, set up with credit lines, debt structures, commercial paper programs, credit revolvers—everything necessary to ensure success as a stand-alone company. “A demerger process usually takes three to five years,” Ostrowski says. “We did it in just 10 months for three companies!”
Not one to rest on her laurels, earlier this year Ostrowski took the lead on the Financial Planning and Analysis team and was named vice president, Corporate Finance and treasurer, her current position. “Basically, I do everything that deals with money,” she says. “People joke that I hold the purse strings, that I should loosen them up a little.” Most recently, she helped refine how the company prioritizes investments across its strategic plan, a move expected to drive profitable growth and create even more value for shareowners.
What is it like being a woman in a man’s world? “This is a highly engineered, rigid environment, and it doesn’t have to be,” Ostrowski says. “Women bring collaboration and compassion to the workplace, something I think men would like to be able to do more of. I believe the more successful my team is, the more successful I’ll be. I ask people, ‘What do you want to be doing?’ People who are doing what they want are happy and more productive.”
And what does Ostrowski want to be doing in the future? She’s quick to respond: “I want to continue to broaden my experience in treasury, and ultimately become a CFO.”