TD's Caitlin Messick Uses Pen and Paper for Inspiration

Caitlin Messick on a camel in Morocco

July 22, 2020 - Diversity & Inclusion New Jersey, New York and PA

Learn more about this self-described 'nerd' who loves real-life adventures

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law 30 years ago on July 26, 1990, represents one of the most comprehensive federal civil rights statues protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

As the Unexpectedly Human bank, we recognize that our success depends on attracting and developing the very best talent and sustaining a culture that enables people of all abilities and backgrounds to thrive. That's why we focus on what people can do. We will be highlighting their stories throughout this week.

TD Bank's Caitlin Messick is a wiz with cutting-edge technology, but an important key to her success is using old-school techniques, coupled with an adventurous, inquisitive and always positive spirit.

Her work requires lots of critical thinking and technical conversations, but when it comes to the big picture, she uses a pen and a notebook to come up with her best ideas.

"Our lives are very much digital these days, which is great. But I find for me to stay organized, and the way that my thoughts flow the best is through pen to paper," she said. "I just start writing and then the ideas come. I go through a notebook about every three months."

Caitlin writing in her notebook

She joined TD three years ago, following her college graduation from Wake Forest University. Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, she was working with TD Bank executives as part of the Ignite executive development program. She was chosen for this assignment because of the leadership skills she displayed in her role as a Business Information Management Specialist for TD's Business Architecture & Insights team.

The goal of the leadership project, was to help demystify data transparency and privacy policies, often loaded with legal language, for customers so that they have a clearer understanding.

"It's also about learning the best ways to communicate as humans and give our customers advice and insights that really benefits them as an individual," said Caitlin, who frequently traveled between TD offices in Wilmington, Delaware and Mount Laurel, New Jersey before COVID-19 restrictions.

Riding a camel in Morocco

It's just not in the office that Caitlin defies expectations.

She's a self-described "nerd" who loves real-life adventures – particularly traveling around the world. Caitlin tries to plan a couple of major trips each year, with the most recent being her visit to Morocco last summer, where she got to ride a camel. Her love of travel does take extra planning as she uses a wheelchair for mobility.

"I show that you can travel the world, still be in a wheelchair and do it on a budget," she said. "When I had the opportunity to ride a camel, it's something I never thought I'd do, but I was so excited that I took the leap to try it. I do, however, think I'll mostly be sticking with my wheelchair moving forward."

This year with the COVID-19 restrictions, she had to cancel a planned trip to South America. While she's been working from home since March, she was able to venture out and take a "10-day couch surfing" trip visiting friends in Washington D.C. and Richmond, Virginia.

"It was good to look at a different set of four walls," she said.

What ADA means

Caitlin has never known life without the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) since she was born after its passing. ADA was signed into law 30 years ago on July 26, 1990. She considers it the initial step in our country for acknowledging the needs of people with different abilities or who require additional support to get through day-to-day life.

"It's the foundation, but there is still more work to do for everyone to be included," she said.

Growth comes from experiences that make you a 'little bit nervous'

Caitlin has applied her many skills beyond her professional role at TD with her participation in the Women in Leadership Council in her region, where she focuses on programs that help local community and as a member of the Individuals with Diverse Abilities (IwDA) council. On IwDA, she has helped with TD's' Project SEARCH High School Transition Program, which provides real-life work training for young adults with developmental or intellectual diverse abilities in Mount Laurel.

One of her focuses will be to connect the work across Business Resource Groups (BRGs), such as a Women in Leadership (WIL) event earlier this year that focused on women veterans.

"My passion is identifying intersections between TD's BRGs to tell the truly human story," she explained. "For example, how do we layer topics of diversity and inclusion into WIL, IwDA, etc. conversations and vice versa – everyone has a unique perspective, we're not just one group or identity."

Caitlin continues to seek out opportunities that help her expand her skills both professionally and personally. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she's been taking a class in Artificial Intelligence in Finance. She's a voracious learner who is always ready for the next big stretch assignment and looks forward to the possibilities ahead.

The only way to continue growing and expanding is by facing the things that make you "a bit nervous," she explained.

"The way I always look at really any challenge is how do I spin it into something positive," she said. "Clearly, I am in a wheelchair, but I don't see the chair as a hinderance but rather a tool for freedom. Most people when they talk to me don't necessarily see the chair. It's just one of those things. What really matters is how you bring yourself to the table and tell your story."


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