Ceara Mahoney ’98

Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County, Massachusetts

What advice would you give to a girl graduating from Williston today?   

Find your own unique path and make education and career choices based on what excites you and not on what others are doing or expect of you. Try things outside of your comfort zone—you may stumble across something you love. On your way, visit new places and meet new people, but don’t forget the ones who knew you first—the friendships I made at Williston have guided, supported and celebrated me through my most important moments in life and without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Finally, form close connections with and support other women who you admire. Build each other up and celebrate each others’ successes. We have been trained to be competitive with one another, but you get back what you give and collaboration provides connections, opportunities and support.

Tell us about a woman who is your hero and why?

My hero is my mother. From the time we were in kindergarten, she prioritized her children’s education above all else. Without her endless support, efforts and sacrifices, I would not have been able to attend Williston and very likely would not be where I am today. She would drop everything to proofread my essays and school applications; always answered my stressed out phone calls during law school; and never criticized me when I failed. Instead, she simply encouraged me by saying could and would do better the next time. She has spent the better part of her life ensuring that her children had the educational opportunities that she did not, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

What do you think is next for women in your professional field?

My hope is for continued growth in the number of women in law who continue to seek longevity and advancement in their careers. While women have made huge strides in our field, for so long there were such significant barriers to women trying to succeed in such a demanding profession. I hope that we continue to find ways to work through the traditional stereotypes and barriers that still linger to ensure that women can have career longevity. I hope and believe that there will be continued support for the idea that women can have a work-life balance without sacrificing their careers and advancement, that their law careers are not over once they have children and that it is no longer a question of whether a woman can “have and do it all.” Instead, I hope the focus turns to finding new ways to support and encourage career longevity and continued advancement for women in the field of law.

What motivates you in your work and life?

It sounds awfully cheesy, and I think it may have been the subject of an assembly at Williston way back when, but I think what motivates me most, beyond my two children, is the goal of doing good well and I guess, in turn, “doing well by doing good.” My career choice is not particularly lucrative, and it can be demanding and stressful, but when someone takes the time to thank me for the work that I do or how I made even a small difference in their life, it makes the sacrifices worth it. It’s not often that we get those thanks, but even when we don’t, the thought that I might have made a small positive impact, keeps me motivated.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A teacher, coach and advisor I had while at Williston encouraged me to be at peace when I gave 100%, and while he always pushed me to strive for greatness, he stressed that I should not let my ideal of perfection get in the way of being content with what was good enough in that moment. He always reminded me that my fear of failure would prevent me from taking risks and that the risks that we take in life is what allows an individual to learn, grow, and live.