Abbie Ziegler

Degree: Master of Studies in Law, Class of 2019

Current position: Compliance Principal, Allianz Life

What does a typical day look like for you?
My primary area of focus is ethics and compliance communications and training. This includes working with our internal teams to design and build our eLearning courses and in-person training strategy. To complement our learning initiatives, I work with our internal communications team to write articles and conduct interviews for our intranet site. Our communication plan is designed to roll out timely communications to the business that focus on specific risk areas. I also help our chief ethics and compliance officer and ethics program manager publish the Ethics Blogs, and coordinate activities like Fraud Awareness Week and International Privacy Day.

Tell us about a meaningful experience you’ve had in your career.
A few years ago, I told my boss and my chief compliance officer (CCO) that I wanted to find a rotation to our parent company in Germany. It would mean packing up my family and moving overseas, but it was something I’d always wanted to do.

Without hesitation, my CCO started looking for opportunities and a few months later approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. We moved to Munich for three months, where I had the opportunity to work with the team that was writing the requirements for our ethics and compliance program in the U.S. It was a turning point in my career, and gave me the confidence to start charting my own path in the field.

What motivated you to pursue a degree in Organizational Ethics & Compliance (OEC)?
I was an accidental compliance professional. I came into the OEC world when I finished paralegal school. After a few years, I thought I would go to law school. It seemed like the most natural progression. My CCO at the time encouraged me to consider why I wanted to go to law school, because he knew that law wasn’t really my passion.

A few years later, he brought the St. Thomas program to my attention, and I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. The ethics and compliance landscape is ever changing and there are always new projects to keep me busy and engaged. I can honestly say that I’ve never been bored working in this field, so I decided to make it official and pursue the degree.

What skills do you feel are most important for someone in your position?
No matter what your role, you have to be able to communicate. Ethics and compliance professionals are often in the position of “selling” the program advantages or convincing the business that new process steps are actually in their best interest. If you can’t communicate effectively, you won’t get a seat at the table.

What I loved about my time at St. Thomas is that I could choose the courses that would challenge me in the areas where I needed the most work. And I could do that with courses in both the law school and the business school. I needed to work on my persuasion and negotiation skills, so I took those courses through the business school. I was about 8 years out of paralegal school, so I needed some refreshers on legal writing and reasoning, so I took those courses through the law school. With the wide variety of courses at St. Thomas, I had the ability to customize my degree program, which was exactly what I was looking for.

Did you have any concerns or hesitations prior to starting the program? Once you began taking classes did those concerns still exist?
There was a laundry list of concerns. When would I find the time? When would I see my kids? Who was going to drive everyone to soccer practice? How was I going to balance work and school and family? Was I smart enough? What if I failed?

I learned long ago that there will never be the perfect time for anything, and grad school was no exception. I wanted to go, I had the ability to go, and I had the drive to go, so I went. It was a struggle the first few months to find a new rhythm, but with the support of family and friends, we figured it out. I had a great support system at the school as well, with professors and fellow students who understood the needs of working students. Once I got into my first semester, the concerns went away.