Navigating life after leaving Binghamton University can be difficult, but for Nathaalie Carey, ‘02, Master of Public Administration (MPA) ‘03, it was part of a journey that called her back.
Since graduating from BU in 2003, Carey has always viewed herself as a go-getter, never shying away from a challenge that presented itself. As an alumna, Carey has served as the first woman, first person of color and youngest person to be budget director of Broome County. Later, Carey accepted a position in the New York State Department of Labor. Currently, she works as senior vice president for industry affairs and social responsibility at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT).
Carey’s family came to the United States from Guyana in the 1980s, when she was 6 years old. Growing up, Carey drew inspiration from her mother, who was a teacher, and her father, who drove New York City trains.
“I’ve grown up around public service pretty much for my entire life,” Carey said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about [it] that way, but I’m certain that it fostered the appeal of the public sector to me.”
Drawn by BU’s in-state tuition, nearby but not-too-close location and closed campus, Carey enrolled in the University. Like some other students, her career ambitions shifted throughout her time in college. Carey initially planned to go to law school, studying English in her undergraduate years. An underlying interest in contributing to community would pursue Carey throughout her years, a theme she explored during her time at Delta Sigma Theta, where Carey also served as president.
“I cannot tell you how much that prepared me for the future,” Carey said. “I really think back to my days in Delta [Sigma Theta] and the leadership roles I took on in the organization and just how it prepared me — we call it the ‘real world’ but this is all the ‘real world’ — but it certainly prepared me for life after college.”
After finishing her bachelor’s, Carey decided to stay at the University for an extra year as she got her MPA. Carey attributed the decision to her ability to combine things she enjoyed within the program, including finance and leadership, while also being able to contribute to her community.
Soon after graduating, Carey took up work as a project manager in New Jersey. A year later, she got a call from a former peer in the MPA program, Patrick Brennan. He suggested Carey return to Binghamton and work in the budget department, as Brennan’s friend, Barbara Fiala, was recently elected Broome County Executive.
“I was at the time the deputy budget director, and my boss who was the budget director decided to retire after a year and he had pushed me forward to be promoted,” Carey said. “I was the first woman, the first woman of color and the youngest person to ever hold that position.”
Though Carey praised her experience as budget director, she said it was not without its pressures. Carey described having racial epithets written on her car, her boss harassed by those who opposed her holding the budget director position and attempts by the Republican legislature to make her position one that required legislative approval. Nonetheless, Carey lauded her local support.
“What I did have was a community that had my back,” Carey said. “I had tremendous support from my boss, I had tremendous support from a lot of different members of my community. We started a letter-writing campaign to the head of Republican legislature and basically told him to knock it off, like ‘Stop, you’re creating a divide where there doesn’t need to be any.’”
As opposition subsided, Carey focused on her work as budget director, and said she made significant changes to the county — often through use of technology, which many of her peers were not using at the time.
After serving in Broome County, Carey began working for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli at the NYS Comptroller’s office, serving as an assistant comptroller for all local governments and school districts in NY.
Carey then entered the New York State Department of Labor, serving as chief financial officer and deputy commissioner for administration, and was then promoted to executive deputy commissioner. Working through a global pandemic, Carey said one of her most pressing concerns was tackling the rising unemployment in New York state, and that the New York State Department of Labor had been tasked with pumping $80 billion into the New York state economy.
“It was a very rewarding and fulfilling time to be at the helm and there was a lot of different things that we were learning and opportunities we had to improve and we were riding that ship throughout the entire time,” Carey said.
Later, Carey was contacted about a new employment opportunity and eventually decided to venture out of familiar work, accepting an offer as senior vice president for industry affairs and social responsibility at the NAREIT.
“I said to myself, look I’ve been in public service for 16 years, starting in Broome County,” Carey said. “I have been able to do a lot of things, but this felt like it was the right opportunity for me to stretch myself, for me to go into the private sector and do something that was completely different than what I had done in the past.”
Though her position at NAREIT was different from roles she had held in the past, Carey described it as an important one.
“What we do is we represent and we have a trade association that represents all of the publicly listed [real estate investment trusts] in America, which is about 250 companies,” Carey said. “So it’s an incredible new role, it’s learning things that I have not been exposed to in the past, and it’s using that quantitative side of my brain and the qualitative side to really try to do some new things in a space that it hasn’t been done in before.”
Carey said BU students should be open to the opportunities available to them, even when those opportunities seem unusual at first.
“When I was graduating, everyone was leaving Binghamton and that was the thing, everyone left,” Carey said. “And I remember when I got the job offer to come back to Binghamton I talked to a number of my friends and they were like, ‘You’re going to go back to Binghamton, who would do that, who wants to live there?’ Had I listened to that, I would not have taken the trajectory that I took. I still believe that I would have been successful, but it would have been on a completely different path.”