Del Mar woman carves new path as mentor

By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

After immigrating here from Ireland as a young woman, Del Mar resident Michelle Finegan Saunders joined the American masses climbing the corporate latter. She spent the next 23 years making a name for herself in the pharmaceutical marketing industry, something that eventually earned her a nomination as a top mentor to women in the life sciences industry. No doubt, she’d finally reached the top of that corporate latter — but she wasn’t’ living her true American dream, she said.

Michelle Finegan Saunders

“Being recognized as a mentor really caused me to step back and take stock of my life,” Finegan Saunders said. “I realized that though I’d really enjoyed my work in the pharmaceutical industry, it wasn’t a fit for me any longer.”

Instead, she said she longed for something that let her use her natural mentoring skills to help others, while affording her a more flexible lifestyle so she could spend more time with her young daughter. Three years later, she has found a calling that fits the bill working as a certified executive and business coach.

“To anyone who wants to follow their heart and change careers I always like to use a quote I love: ‘Feel the fear, and do it anyway,” she said. “It is important in your next career, especially if you change industries or fields, that you stop comparing what you used to do to what you are doing now. You must forge forward and seize the opportunities ahead of you.

“If you hear a voice telling you something needs to change, listen, and go in the direction of your dream.”

Finegan Saunders said after going in the direction of her own dream, she now enjoys a better quality of life, and finally has that free time to devote to her 9-year-old daughter, who was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But perhaps the biggest payback is how highly rewarding her work is, she added. Using her many years of executive experience, she helps her clients get a clear sense of what they really want to achieve in the workplace, and how to best get there. She also arms them with the tools that they may lack to help them advance up that corporate latter, like the confidence to effectively negotiate that promotion, for example.

For more information about Finegan Saunders, please visit



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