At the University at Buffalo School of Management, Brooke (Mentkowski) Cianfichi, BS/MBA ’04, learned to be forever curious and work hard — even when there’s no clear roadmap.
Cianfichi arrived at UB planning to complete an undergraduate degree in physics and eventually earn a doctorate. She quickly discovered, however, that her passion was in analytics and sales and switched into the School of Management’s 3/2 program, earning a bachelor’s in business administration and an MBA in five years.
“At UB, I learned to be scrappy and resilient, to dig into problems with little direction and to overcome obstacles,” she says. “I never take the first ‘no’ as an answer, and I always try to find ways to solve problems when they seem impossible.”
As a student, Cianfichi was always on the go. During her last year on campus, she served as president of the Graduate Management Association, worked as a teaching assistant and lecturer in corporate finance, and interned with Rich Products Corp., all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
“I credit that willingness to take on a very challenging schedule as one reason I can boil down information very quickly to determine a course of action,” she says. “It makes me very effective in my job today.”
As she considered her next move, Lewis Mandell, professor emeritus of finance, gave her sound advice: Aim high and find the right fit for you. Shortly after commencement, Cianfichi entered the Management Development Program at M&T Bank — and she’s been there ever since.
“I have grown from a young lady sitting at the first cubicle in the office with a small portfolio of clients to manager of department operations in the New York City Commercial Real Estate Group, overseeing a portfolio of nearly $5 billion,” she says. “Bottom line: I found a fit for my personality that continues to deliver each year.”
Today, Cianfichi is based in midtown Manhattan and leads a full-service team of relationship managers, credit analysts, team leaders and portfolio managers to provide solutions to clients on their commercial real estate portfolios. She manages operations, meets with clients and builds talent within her staff.
“I have a very cool job that allows me to advise the top families and funds who own, operate and develop real estate throughout New York City,” she says. “But my favorite part of the job is developing the next group of leaders. I love seeing the moment when someone learns a new skill or has just crossed a great milestone in his or her development.”
So, what’s her advice for future leaders? Be resilient, and give more than you receive.
“Never ask, ‘What is in this for me?’ Instead ask, ‘What can I do for you?’ at work,” she says. “Pick yourself up quickly whenever you have a setback. Ask people for critical feedback, and do it often. Be grateful, and say ‘thank you’ entirely too much.”
Outside the office, Cianfichi and her husband, Gabriel, another UB alumnus, enjoy skiing, running and traveling the world. They recently returned from a trip to Spain with their 2-year-old daughter, Claudia Viviana, and are busy training for the New York City marathon this fall.
Written by Matthew Biddle