Sherrone Torres ’12, who works as an executive compensation and employee benefits attorney, talks about connecting with the world.
You studied English and religion at Bowdoin—how did those areas influence your direction into law, and are there ways you draw on them in your work?
My undergraduate major did not influence my decision to practice law. In fact, I choose those majors because I knew I planned to attend law school after undergrad. I thought it was important to study the things that interested me most and that I enjoyed before having to study and learn what all law students eventually must: the law. I love to read and have always loved to read, so English was an easy choice and a good opportunity to develop drafting skills, which I still use every day in my profession, while reading things I would have on my own any way. Religion was a choice that stemmed from my religious upbringing. When I was growing up in Baltimore’s inner city, my mother relied on the church as a community resource and to create the village that we didn’t really have anywhere else. I went to church three or four times a week as a child, and I hated it because I had no choice in the matter. When I was hundreds of miles from home and missing my family, I found myself drawn to the courses that I thought would help me understand my mother's insistence that I attend church. I ended up really enjoying the stories and was fascinated by how dedicated people could be to something that had always been so foreign to me, despite being steeped in it my whole life. Now I work with clients and colleagues of all religious backgrounds. I think my background in religion gives me an awareness of the differences in cultural and religious practices.
Can you explain a little about your role as an associate in the firm where you’re practicing?
I am an executive compensation and employee benefits lawyer at a white-shoe law firm based in New York City. As an associate, I work on transactions across industries, specifically examining how the transaction will impact the benefits provided to employees (e.g., whether someone’s medical coverage be interrupted) and the executive compensation plans and programs in place (e.g., whether there be huge windfalls that may create retention issues for my client). It is a specialized transactional practice that has me uniquely positioned to be in high demand and of value. My area of expertise is always needed when any company is sold or bought and there are employees, but it is so niche and does not get as much press as the more popular transactional areas of law, such as mergers and acquisitions or finance.
Among your many accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
I am, hands down, most proud of my son, Lincoln. He’s three years old and challenges me every day to be a better person and to work to leave the world a better place for him. Lincoln is also stubborn, boisterous, funny, and impulsive like me. We are so alike that sometimes we really have a clash of wills and at other times we can look at each other and understand why we both felt the need to get up, do a silly dance, or spin around and sing. He reminds me that you are never too old to be carefree and care for your inner child. He has also given me an opportunity to experience a truly joyful childhood, and I thank him for being able to experience it with him.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
When I left Bowdoin, I moved home to Baltimore, and I really struggled with getting used to “civilian” life. I no longer had the resources of the College at my fingertips, and I went through a sort of withdrawal when I realized that the summer of 2012 would not conclude and start with a new semester. I was depressed. I was not surrounded by my friends. I did not have a never-ending list of clubs, activities, and hobbies to indulge in—and I felt empty. I used that summer to sort out what it was about college that made me happy to wake up and begin my day. I realized it was the transition from a very busy schedule packed full with social, academic, and familial events to a measurably less full day that left me wanting for something to motivate me. So, I started doing just that. I started looking for a daily adventure opportunity. Going on a friend date, planning a trip with old college classmates, asking a coworker I did not know that well out to lunch, and before I knew it, my daily list of activities was full. I realized that, just because I had graduated, the exciting and assuming nature of my college experience did not have to go away. So, I wake up every morning expecting a day of adventure and looking forward to meeting someone or learning something that I had not expected. This motivates me and keeps daily life exciting. My friends always ask me where I find the energy, and for me it’s a form of self-care. I need to know there may be something unexpected.
What makes you feel most alive?
Traveling makes me feel most alive. The excitement and anticipation of a new destination gets my blood pumping and really motivates me to work as hard as I do. The world is so vast, and I spend so much time reading and studying the people and literature of the world, or interacting with clients and colleagues all around the globe, but I have always been someone who loves to learn by doing and experiencing. I feel most connection to the world and its people when I get to explore and experience it.
Who is your hero and why?
Michelle Obama. At first, this started because we share a birthday, January 17, the birthday of some of the most dynamic Capricorns. I was honored to share a birthday with her (and many other (in)famous folks). Then, I read Becoming and I felt seen. I felt she understood intimately my struggle as a Black woman at two prestigious predominantly white institutions where I had come from a nontraditional background. I understood her unhappiness in “big law” and how you can feel like a cog in a wheel sometimes instead of feeling like you are working on your passions. I understood her desire to fall in love and raise a family without sacrificing her professional career, and I understood how she advocated for childhood obesity in a way that was also very personal to me. Her story reminds me that there is no standard path to success and that often our journeys throw surprises that land us exactly where we are supposed to be!
Is there something you believe few people know about you that they may find surprising?
Since graduating, I have cut my body weight in half, losing more than 250 pounds over the ten years since I left the Bowdoin bubble. This has led to some body dysmorphia, where, in short, the person I see in the mirror does not line up with how I am seen by others in real life. It has been a very interesting battle struggling to accept who I am physically, and I did not expect that such an accomplishment could lead to the greatest challenge to my understanding of myself. It is hard to post photos and videos of myself because I am so critical of what I see, and the age of social media proliferation has only challenged this internal struggle. I think it is something that many people struggle with. There is so much pressure to take “Instragrammable” or social-media-ready photos. For me, I feel every comment complimenting me for my physical transformation is an indictment of how unacceptable or undesirable I was when I weighed significantly more. It is something that I brush off because it is awkward to talk about, but I think people would be surprised to find just how much time I spend thinking about and trying to reconcile my current self with who I was for the first two decades of my life. I think social media has led to more people struggling with disorders like body dysmorphia, and too often they do so privately. I hope that people understand they are not alone in this struggle. I understand and empathize.
What pursuits do you enjoy in your spare time?
I regularly take hikes on one of the dozens of nature trails near my home in Atlanta. It is a year-round activity that my husband and I started during quarantine to encourage Lincoln, our three-year-old, to release his energy. It is now an integral part of our week and is almost a daily practice. I hope to take up bird watching and have purchased a nature trail guide for Lincoln so that we can expand our knowledge of Georgia’s natural habitat together. Taking up this hobby with him is something that makes it my favorite pastime and the one that is most special to me. It’s intimate, new, and a cool way to engage with the natural world, so we both are enjoying the journey.
I am also an avid consumer of television and movies, with a special affinity for reality television! My favorite pastime is watching 90 Day Fiancé (including the many spin-offs) and laughing until my belly aches at the sheer awkwardness and drama that the process of obtaining a K-1 spousal visa entails for the people on the show. It is something that makes me happy instantly and scratches my itch to see the world portrayed in real life because the show journeys to places all over the globe to film couples as they meet, get to know, and marry each other. It has even inspired an upcoming vacation to Ecuador!
You’ve been an active volunteer for Bowdoin and have been instrumental in creating alumni connections and mentorships—why is that important to you and what do you find gratifying/satisfying about it?
I struggled as a Black student at Bowdoin, and that struggle was compounded by my socioeconomic class and my utter lack of familiarity with undergraduate life as a first-generation college student. Most of my friends at Bowdoin had the same experiences. I then went on to NYU Law, where my identity had not changed much from who I was at Bowdoin, but the resources and how they were made available and leveraged by students and alumni alike transformed my academic experience. At that time, a few classmates from Bowdoin who were living in NYC were forming a multicultural alumni network to forge connections between alumni of color and create a resource and social network beyond the bubble. My very different experiences at these two institutions and my deep, deep love of Bowdoin for the path it set me on in life have really inspired my passion for building a network and mentoring—and being mentored by—fellow Bowdoin alumni.
This story first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Bowdoin Magazine. Manage your subscription and see other stories from the magazine on the Bowdoin Magazine website.