Chief operating officer, Virginia529, Chesterfield County
Virginia529 helps families in the commonwealth afford higher education for children by participating in long-term, tax-advantaged saving programs. And as chief operations officer of the independent state agency, Carolyn Bishop helps oversee its $60 billion in assets distributed across more than 2.5 million accounts.
The job is about much more than just managing money, though. Bishop also manages human resources for all areas of the agency’s operations, including finance, IT and administration. “The best advice I ever got was to lead people first,” says Bishop, who adamantly supports the right of the 85 people on staff at Virginia529 to have “a holistic balance of life and work.”
She counts herself fortunate to work with strong women leaders at Virginia529. They not only know their stuff, she says, but they are warm and caring. Bishop has paid their helpful approach forward by creating a leadership academy and a mentorship program within the agency to help its employees rise to their potential. “Mentoring is my favorite thing,” she says.
A former administrator for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and Powhatan County, Bishop has spent her entire career in public finance. As a woman, she sometimes felt like a bit of an outlier. But she adopted the philosophy of believing in herself and in “the potential to lead from where you are. Leadership,” she says, “has been the foundation of everything I’ve wanted
to do in life.”