When Pat Callahan gives career talks, she advises people to focus on moving laterally. “It’s not a straight line up in a corporation anymore,” she says. “What you need to do is move around, so you gain new experiences, learn different businesses, and that gets you ready for the next promotion.” She should know: the 36-year Wells Fargo veteran worked in almost every area of the company before assuming her current role as senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
Growing up in East Boston, Callahan didn’t think she’d end up in banking. Five years of commuting on the subway to the Girls Latin School in Dorchester piqued her interest in urban planning and public transportation. She majored in Course II and then stayed at MIT to get her MBA. A job at a bank in New York the summer between her two years at Sloan convinced her that banking would be a good place to put her engineering background to work.
“I had an idealistic view that I could go into a bank where most of the workers were women, most of the managers were men, and I could help in some way,” she says.
After graduating, she worked at Crocker Bank in California, supervising women who performed clerical operations. In 1986 Crocker Bank was acquired by Wells Fargo. Over the years, she assumed management roles in operations, communications, finance, real estate, and human resources, prompting American Banker to ask in 2011, “Is there anything Patricia Callahan can’t do at Wells Fargo?” Last fall, the magazine ranked her number 13 among the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.”
In 2008, Callahan successfully led one of the most extensive, complex mergers in banking history, between Wells Fargo and Wachovia Bank. Currently, she manages 2,300 employees and oversees communications, social responsibility, enterprise marketing, government relations, and human resources.
When she isn’t working, Callahan and her husband, David Dee, spend a lot of time walking their very active two-year-old dog, Charlie. “When he’s on leash, you can’t walk him less than five or six miles,” she says with a laugh. The couple is making a major transition this year: they bought a house in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, to be closer to their two children and Callahan’s mother. She will continue to work at Wells Fargo, though, mostly remotely from Massachusetts, but they will also keep a condo in California. “I love this company,” she says.