Mixed martial arts helps a finance executive leap to the top of her field
As president of MetLife Bank, Donna DeMaio is one of the most successful women in banking. And she credits some of that success to taking up mixed martial arts six years ago, when she was 42. She’d been watching her son practice for almost a year and, "struck by the discipline and purpose that these students had," she decided to speak to the sensei. "My personality type is if I do something, I’m going to want to do it all the way," she says. Her question for the instructor: would she be able, at her age, to earn a black belt? She did, training from 8 to 10 PM several nights a week, and another several hours on weekends. "It became cult like," she admits. "I had a husband, a job and two kids, but I wanted to be in studio all the time." At 46, DeMaio earned her black belt in the full-contact combat sport. She also moved from public accounting to banking, and in 2005 she was appointed president at MetLife Bank. "Martial arts really sharpened my ability to stay focused and get through a difficult task," she says. "It taught me that with perseverance and patience, you could get any job done. I came to MetLife as a CFO and when I was promoted to president, I asked myself, can I do this? And, I felt, yes, I can." DeMaio says that the confidence she gained from martial arts has allowed her to take "rational risks," moving the bank in a new direction. Marital arts has also made her a more patient mentor. "A huge part of martial-arts training is helping others who are coming through the ranks," she says. For DeMaio that has meant everything from showing more interest in lower-level employees to becoming involved in Habitat for Humanity and micro lending for women’s business ventures.