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Deborah Zawisza ’80, Robert B. Willumstad School of Business Executive in Residence

Technology leader Deborah Zawisza ’80 enjoyed being back on campus and bringing real-world expertise into the classroom.

Deborah Zawisza ’80 completed her year as the 2023–2024 executive in residence at ’s Robert B. Willumstad School of Business on a high note.

“I loved it,” she said. “The students were terrific—their engagement, their curiosity, their questions. They were always hanging around after my lectures, asking questions or seeking career advice. I offered my LinkedIn information, and many took me up on that. Several faculty members sat in, and they had questions, too. They said I promoted their thinking in a different way—that I was bringing the real world into the classroom.”

As executive in residence, Zawisza was a lecturer in the School’s Insights from Experts program, spoke in graduate and undergraduate classes, provided research advice to faculty, mentored students in career planning, and assisted with the Elizabeth and Allen Don Center for Innovative Technology and Decision Sciences.

Paying Adelphi Back for Her Career Growth and Success

“My education at Adelphi was instrumental in my career growth and success,” she said. “I really enjoyed giving back to the students and the Willumstad School of Business. Dean MaryAnne Hyland [PhD] has been very helpful. She strongly encouraged me to share my knowledge of data analytics, so I did a lecture series on how data analytics has reshaped business. I have also spoken about ethics, career planning, leadership and other topics.”

Following her graduation from Adelphi with a degree in management, Zawisza spent the first 18 years of her career on Aetna’s technology leadership team before moving to PwC Consulting. After two years at PwC, she transitioned back into the insurance field as senior vice president and chief information officer with The Phoenix Companies, then at The Travelers Indemnity Company, where she was senior vice president and chief information officer for its claims services division.

For the past four years, Zawisza has been a leadership team member at Datos Insights, where she currently serves as a senior principal for the firm’s insurance practice. At Datos, she advises insurance and technology C-suite executives on trends and opportunities.

A data-driven career seemed like a natural for Zawisza—her father was an accountant for the federal government, and her mother was a supervisor at an insurance company—but Adelphi offered more than academics to prepare her to be the confident business leader she is today.

Bonding and Connecting at Adelphi Built Self-Confidence

“I was a very shy person and terrified of speaking in public,” she said. “Adelphi was so inclusive that it broke down those barriers. Bonding with my professors and connecting with other students was very important to me. It built my self-confidence and helped me explore new areas, such as technology, where there were very few women at the time.”

The connections Zawisza made at Adelphi have remained strong throughout her career.

“I became president of the Adelphi chapter of Delta Mu Delta, the international business honor society, because the previous president (William Fuessler ’79) who was one year ahead of me, suggested that I succeed him. I never would have had that opportunity at a bigger school. Our paths crossed again during our careers, and today he is on Adelphi’s board of trustees.”

As she prepared to graduate from Adelphi, Zawisza was offered a job in finance, but in her last semester she had taken a programming class and really liked it. As a result, she took a job as a programmer at Aetna. Always a hard worker, she did well and kept doing well.

How Hard Work and Mentoring Paid Off

“I worked there for nine years before being given my first management role; from there on, my responsibilities grew,” she said. “Insurance then was still heavily male dominated. It’s very different now, although it’s still a struggle for women in STEM leadership—we’re not graduating at nearly the rate of our male counterparts.”

Zawisza said one of the most important lessons she has learned is strengthening teams with a shared vision.

“One of the leaders I worked for—and I think about this often—told me that I see things that other people don’t see,” she said. “That’s very good, but as a leader, you must think about what others don’t see so you can help them move in a certain direction. Understanding that has had a tremendous impact on my career, so I try to pass it along. Lessons liked that from the great people I have worked for have helped me grow and develop and become a better person and better leader myself.”

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