Blue Devil of the Week: Staying Within the Lines

DUMAC’s Jennifer Dimitri navigates financial regulations and rodeo barrels

Jennifer Dimitri at DUMAC office.
As the chief compliance officer for DUMAC Inc., Duke’s investment management company, Jennifer Dimitri has to pay close attention to the regulatory details of The Duke Endowment.

Name: Jennifer Dimitri

Position: Chief Compliance Officer, DUMAC Inc., Duke’s investment management company

Years at Duke: 4

What she does at Duke: Dimitri admits that compliance, the part of an investment operation that deals with the tangled thicket of financial regulations, isn’t one that many people gravitate toward. But after realizing her skillset is a good fit for the field, her career path led straight into the tedious – albeit crucial role – of leading the compliance unit of Duke Management Company (DUMAC Inc.).

DUMAC handles the investments of Duke University’s endowment, Duke Health System, Duke’s employee pension plan and The Duke Endowment, which was started by James Buchanan Duke and funds a wide range of causes. All told, DUMAC, which has around 60 employees, watches over approximately $19 billion in assets.

It’s Dimitri’s job to ensure that DUMAC’s investment decisions don’t run afoul of the many complicated government regulations and internal policies.

“I would call it a spider web,” Dimitri said. “But I really love it. Part of the reason I love it is because I view it as a puzzle, you have to figure out how pieces move around, how things fit together and to create solutions for our investment team so they can perform the activities they want to perform to get the university and their other constituents the best returns they can. I want to be a partner to them in that activity.”

What I love about Duke: DUMAC’s offices are in downtown Durham, just beyond the right field wall of Durham Bulls Athletic Park. But Dimitri said she always enjoys when her work takes her on to Duke University’s campus.

“When I do get the opportunity to go, I love the architecture and the beautiful campus,” Dimitri said. “I love being a part of that.”

A memorable day at work: In 2015, DUMAC recognized its 25th anniversary. While Dimitri was still somewhat new, seeing so much of the organization’s history gather for a celebration at the Washington Duke Inn was a meaningful glimpse of what she is a part of.

“That was a big deal around here,” Dimitri said. “There were a lot of former board members and investment managers that came. That was a really cool culmination to see all the people who have formed this place over time. It was a spectacular way to commemorate that.”

A special object/memorabilia in my workspace: Near Dimitri’s desk, there’s a small canvas with the word “Mom” pained on it. The “o” is in the shape of a heart.

It’s her favorite of the many pieces of art by her 11-year old daughter Lindsay that line her workspace.

“It’s really good to remind myself of my family while I’m here and of the work-life balance benefits that I get from being here,” Dimitri said.

First ever job: When she was 15, Dimitri worked in the copy center of a Staples in Garner. She helped customers with everything from ordering stamps to setting up high-volume color copy jobs for businesses.

She said she always had a solid work ethic, so getting a job so early wasn’t a surprise.

“It had been ingrained in me that you work for a living, so there was never a question of whether or not I’d go get a job in high school, it was just a matter of where,” Dimitri said.

Best advice received: She isn’t sure where she stumbled across it, but Dimitri has always found inspiration in a saying: “Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.”

“For me, it says to let your work speak for itself and be humble in your approach to things,” Dimitri said. “It’s not that you can’t self-promote – in some ways you need to– but do it in a way that’s genuine and humble.”

Jennifer Dimitri on a horse.Something most people don’t know about me: A few years ago, Dimitri’s daughter was taking lessons in english style horseback riding but finding it unsatisfying.

“It just was not enough adrenaline for her,” Dimitri said.

Dimitri’s daughter eventually found the sport of barrel racing, a rodeo discipline that requires riders and horses to complete a cloverleaf course around barrels.

Three months later, Dimitri gave it a shot and got hooked.

“It just looked like a lot of fun,” Dimitri said. “I figured this would be something I could do with my daughter.”

Now Dimitri and her daughter compete in races and spend plenty of quality time, guiding fast horses around barrels.

“I love it, I love everything about it,” Dimitri said. “I call it my therapy. When I do that, I don’t think about anything else. It’s about the only thing I can do where my mind doesn’t start wandering or I don’t start thinking about my to-do-list. It allows me to remove everything else from what I’m doing. It’s really intense when you’re running, but to me, everything about riding horses is relaxing in a way.” 

Is there a colleague at Duke who has an intriguing job or goes above and beyond to make a difference? Nominate that person for Blue Devil of the Week.