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Career Transition With Jennifer Quent

Family Office, Marcum LLP

With over two decades of experience in artistic and business disciplines, Jennifer Quent’s professional ballet career began at the age of 17 when she joined American Ballet Theatre.

Jennifer has served as Chief of Staff for Guggenheim Partners’ Quantitative Investment Services group, a machine learning-based, quantitative investment manager, before joining Marcum’s Family Office division where she currently manages and provides a distinguished level of attention to the daily fiscal and lifestyle needs of HNW clients within a Multi-Family Office setting.

We asked Jennifer to reflect upon her career transition.

Despite your achievements in ballet, you decided to retire from the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) at only 22 years of age. Can you explain the build-up to your decision to leave?

Jennifer Quent: When I first joined American Ballet Theatre, it felt surreal. Looking back on that moment, I don’t think I fully grasped what I had achieved. Rather quickly, rehearsing at 890 Broadway, performing on the Met stage at Lincoln Center, and touring throughout the world became my routine. I became not only colleagues but also friends with numerous dancers I had only read about in magazines. A mere few years earlier, I was cutting these dancers’ images from publications and pasting them on my wall. Now they were beside me in the locker room, preparing for rehearsal.

Rather quickly, the glamor began to fade for me. While appreciative of an enormous reward for years of dedication to a craft, I began to grow weary of the very life I had thought I wanted. I had achieved my twelve-year-old aspirations and was left wondering what else might be out there to discover in the world. To perform at the highest level, you do have to keep your ballet blinders on. You eat, sleep, and dream ballet. You are constantly perfecting the same steps you began mastering at the age of five or six. I began to consistently catch my mind wandering while in rehearsals, desperately wanting to hold conversations on just about anything but ballet. I vividly recall one evening at the close of a performance during our Metropolitan Opera season. The curtain rose, and the audience cheered, but I was completely devoid of exhilaration. I knew, at that moment, it was time to seriously consider retiring. Not many individuals contemplate retiring at the age of 21. Then again, not many individuals have a full-time job and a New York City apartment before their peers have even graduated high school.

Photo from “The Ballet Book” by Nancy Ellison.

Had you always envisioned leaving the dance industry so early?

Jennifer: I didn’t foreshadow an early retirement when I first began dancing professionally. My body and soul knew nothing else. I had immersed myself within a craft that pushed me to physical and mental extremes, demanding nothing short of mastery and perfection, yet I still craved it. I suppose my personal maturation process began to kick in a couple of years after I joined ABT. Just as any adolescent would, I began to long for that which I hadn’t experienced. In my mind, there was much left to be discovered. I didn’t leave for injury or a traumatic experience, I simply left because I was intellectually weary and terribly curious to begin studying anything business-related.

Did you already have an inkling of a path that you wanted to pursue?

Jennifer: Throughout my childhood, my idea of fun was sitting in my room, creating new business ideas and implementing the corresponding marketing. The sticker company I created in third grade didn’t prove to be extremely fruitful with my fellow classmates, but my desire for business never diminished. By middle school, I had every intention of pursuing a professional ballet career, which I had the fortune of achieving. Fast-forwarding to my final season with ABT, my desire to pursue a career in business remained strong. I just didn’t know in which direction my studies should take me. I had a strong inclination to become involved with fashion. The merchandising aspect of fashion appealed to me more strongly than design. A short few weeks after I took my last bow on stage while on tour in California with ABT, I found myself walking the campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, excited to begin my next phase of life.

Looking back, how has your degree at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology helped you advance in your career?

Jennifer: Halfway through my studies at FIT, I switched my major from Fashion Merchandising to Home Product Development, which encompasses products found within your home: furniture to tabletop and everything in between. I was learning about entire worlds I didn’t realize existed from the top professionals within those industries. I took a selling course my sophomore year where I learned business principles I have carried with me throughout my career. However, by my junior year, I didn’t see myself working as a buyer in a showroom. Upon graduation, my life took a dramatic turn. Just as I was preparing to enter the workforce, I ended up having two children and chose to stay at home full time for the next six years.

From there, you progressed to Guggenheim Partners as Chief of Staff, and now, you manage clients at the multifamily practice, Marcum Family Office. What are the different facets of your role, and how do you think being a former ballet dancer has helped you excel in this field?

Jennifer: Throughout my studies at FIT, I worked part-time as an executive assistant for a real estate developer. Then, after early motherhood and my decision to rekindle a new career, I took on the role of executive personal assistant to the CEO of a European e-learning company, managing their US administrative needs. I next spent a number of years at Guggenheim Partners as Chief of Staff for the Quantitative Investment Strategies (QIS) group, a machine-learning-based quant group, before progressing to my current role as manager within the Family Office division at Marcum LLP.