04/09/2013 01:53 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2013

From Trailer Park to Corporate Executive: One Woman's Path to Personal and Professional Success

Trinna Tressler grew up in a trailer park in Kirkville, New York in a working-class family with two parents who were both employed. Her dad had a job at GE and her mom took care of other people's kids. "My dad was very frugal," says Trinna, who learned early about hard work and self-discipline from her parents.

In school, Trinna loved science and decided to pursue a degree in this field when she went to State University of New York at Potsdam. Trinna was the first person in her family to go to college and graduated with honors. With a degree in biology and chemistry, she knew that she would likely end up in a laboratory, which she did not want to do. She decided to go to graduate school, to further educate herself and get a degree that would put her in a position to get a job in something that she wanted to do. Trinna was accepted in the biomedical engineering graduate program at University of Connecticut and worked as a dormitory director so that she could pay for her schooling. After a short time, she decided to switch her emphasis to an MBA in Finance, while leveraging the courses that she had taken in computer science.

After graduate school, Trinna was hired by DuPont where she worked for 4 years as a Systems Analyst and Financial Analyst. She left DuPont and took a job with Touche Ross in the consulting group, which later merged with Deloitte to become Deloitte Consulting. Trinna was with Deloitte for 25 years and became one of the senior partners. She was the only female consulting partner in the Cleveland office.

Today, Trinna serves as the chair of the board for Dress For Success, an organization that provides professional clothing at no cost for women who cannot afford to own a professional wardrobe, in addition to offering other professional services, such as coaching for interviewing, resume writing, and job-readiness training. She is also on the Board of the Colorado Women's College at Denver University. Her childhood in the trailer park taught her grit, persistence, follow-through, and ambition to be her best and do her best. She is a role model for women everywhere, especially those growing up in trailer parks without a family member who has gone to college.

Here are some noteworthy things about Trinna and her path:

  1. She had two parents, an uncommon event in many low income homes.
  2. Her father made very little money, but he was very frugal and showed her how to save and live within or beneath her means.
  3. As a young person growing up in the 50s, she was keenly interested in science, or STEM fields. Today, though women fill nearly half of the jobs in the U.S., they only hold 25 percent of jobs in the STEM fields. Chelsea Clinton explains in her recent Huffington Post article why this disparity poses an economic problem: "With the U.S. Department of Commerce expecting STEM jobs to grow 17 percent between 2008 to 2018 -- compared to just 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs -- excluding women from the pipeline hurts American companies in search of the best high-tech talent."
  4. Trinna was self-aware enough to know when to change course when we she thought she wanted to do was less than a good fit. In a New York Times article, the authors of the book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well divulge that in their research of highly successful people, the secret ingredient to success is not only the usual suspects -- talent, persistence, dedication, luck -- but the equally important and less attributed trait self-awareness.
  5. Trinna didn't stop at being a successful first-generation-to-college student. She pursued her Master's and had the confidence to switch gears from her original academic plan.
  6. Trinna delayed marriage and having children for her career and to create stability. She married at 38 years of age. In response to Princeton alumna Susan Patton's recent open letter encouraging female Princeton students to find a husband before graduation, sociology professor Kathleen Gersen shared in her CNN opinion piece that research over the last few decades shows "women who postpone marriage are less likely to divorce, more likely to attain economic stability for themselves and their children, and more likely to express satisfaction with their family and work commitments."
  7. Trinna became comfortable with trail blazing and didn't let anyone else's perceptions of her derail her ability to listen to her own instincts.

For many young women growing up in trailer parks or housing projects, Trinna is a model of what is possible. If there is a least one person who can be a role model, a value of learning and ambition can be cultivated and valued and a personal self-awareness can provide the compass for important life decisions.

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