STAMFORD, Conn. -- Valerie Cooper of Stamford decided to leave the security of a thriving career at financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs to pursue her passion in art and handed in her resignation on Sept. 10, 2001.
Despite the terror attacks on the next day, Cooper remained committed to striking out on her own.
"The next day it was so different, but I never looked back," she said.
That drive has served her well as her company, Picture That LLC, a fine art consulting company, has flourished. It serves as an art consultant for large companies and institutions such as hospitals.
She recently picked up an award from the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, as Supplier of the Year in Category 1, businesses with less than $1 million in revenue per year. The council is a nonprofit group that promotes relationships between minority-owned businesses.
That award came about through her work with St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.
She came into contact with the hospital as her business had moved into the health care field because the recession had seen many private companies cut back on spending on art.
"I realized there was one industry that was booming -- and that was health care," she said.
It was that foresight, resourcefulness and ability to move quickly that saw her go through the Stamford school system, on to college and eventually land a job with Goldman Sachs.
She plunged into a career as a computer programmer, initially with Travelers Insurance in Hartford.
“I excelled in math and sciences, but I never really enjoyed it,” Cooper said about her initial career as a computer programmer. She graduated from Columbia University with an MBA in 1987 and was hired by Goldman Sachs soon after.
During her nearly decade and a half at Goldman Sachs, she worked in a variety of functions, including compensation and, of course, technology due to her background.
Cooper also worked for the company in Europe and Asia, helping to diversify its workforce in the technology field.
However, art was always exerting its pull on her.
“Alongside this career was a hobby and the hobby was art. It was collecting art. It was buying art. It was visiting galleries and museums," she said.
"The majority of my free time was doing something in the art world because it was my passion and it allowed me to exercise the right side of my brain, the feel-good side of my brain, sort of the emotional side, really, that didn't get used at all when you are managing technology projects."
It was while she was leading the diversity push that she worked with the Goldman Sachs corporate art consultant on using art to reflect diversity. That struck her as an intriguing career that she never had before considered.
Cooper had been involved with private art shows throughout the 1990s, but that work experience opened her eyes to the corporate art world.
She has never looked back from her decision to strike out on her own.
"I don't have any regrets," she says with a smile.
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