#40: Firefighter Christine O’Connor

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

As it happens, I’ve now interviewed three New Yorkers who made radical career changes after 9/11: Jane Viau left investment banking to become a high school math teacher; Hayes Slade co-founded an architectural firm with her husband; and Christine O’Connor (pictured here) decided to become a firefighter.

Of the roughly 10,000 firefighters in New York, only 28 are women. In this interview, Christine describes the moment she decided to take the FDNY’s entrance exam, the rigorous training involved, and what it takes to make it as one of the guys. Spoiler alert: a good sense of humor and a lot of time at the gym.

About Christine O’Connor: Christine O’Connor is a native New Yorker who worked as an administrative assistant for 12 years before applying to the Fire Department. At her FDNY graduation ceremony, she was the lone female among 274 newly-minted firefighters.

#39: Architect Hayes Slade

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

After 9/11, Hayes Slade and her husband James (both pictured here) took stock of their lives and, like fellow New Yorker Jane Viau, they were moved to make some changes. After years of working in parallel, in a range of disciplines and industries, they resolved to go into business together.

In 2002, they co-founded Slade Architecture and, ten years later, their diverse portfolio includes the Barbie store in Shanghai, Virgin Atlantic’s upper class lounge at JFK, and this award-winning dog house. In the interview, Slade describes her life as “all work and all play, at the same time.”

About Hayes Slade: Hayes Slade is a licensed architect in New York. She has a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Structural Engineering and a Master of Engineering from Cornell University as well as a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business. Prior to co-founding Slade Architecture, Slade worked at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Arup Consulting Engineers, Boston Consulting Group and Organic, Inc. (Web Design). In 2010, Slade was selected by the Architectural League of New York for their Emerging Voices program. Slade is also a mother of four.