I grew up in Milwaukee. My mother was an emergency room nurse, and my father was a physicist by training and an engineer by trade. So when my brother and I were kids, if we asked how something worked, we not only got an explanation, we usually also got a demonstration. I think my desire to always know "why" and "what" came from that early experience.

My brother and I, not surprisingly, both ended up in analytical professions. He's a police detective. We joke that we're both detectives in a way. He's always got different things that he's investigating, and in the markets, there is always something new for me to dig into. It satiates my inquisitive nature.

I was able to take a semester off from Trinity College, which is where I first encountered finance and investing as a possible profession. It was a way to do analytical work that was more exciting than being a scientist in a lab. While my friends were off traveling abroad, I came back to Milwaukee to do an internship at Baird. I've been here ever since. I applied and got a job here in 2000 as an auto stock analyst, which made a lot of sense for me because I got to learn about the engineering behind those companies.

One of the great things about Baird is that it's very supportive of continuing education. I was able to work full time while I got my CFA, then my MBA from the University of Chicago. Baird also provides mentoring opportunities. In 2005, my mentor, a senior executive who is no longer with Baird, said, "I don't see any reason why you couldn't be a managing director of the company one day." I thought, 'that's so far away,' but he had more knowledge and foresight than I did. He presented me with an opportunity to move into the private wealth management side of the business.

I wasn't looking for a change at that time. I took a leap of faith because if my mentor, whom I trusted implicitly, thought it was a good move for me, I figured it probably was. I've been on this side for nine years. I make a point to mentor other people now, particularly women executives in our industry. Having a mentor had such an impact on me, and I want to pay it forward.

Growing up, there was never any differentiation of expectations for my brother and me. I was a bagger, not a cashier, at the grocery store. I worked in the construction shop in school. It never occurred to me not to try something because I was a girl. I think that's why I've always ended up in male-dominated fields. My husband and I have two young daughters. One of our goals as parents is to have them not feel limited in any way. That's the same message I strive to pass on to the people I mentor.

As Told to Kris Frieswick