President & CEO
Darren is well known throughout the Financial Services and Executive Search industries as one of the top consultants for Advisor Recruiting, Advisor Compensation, Competitive Analysis, Firm Infrastructure, and Firm Recruiting Strategies for the Independent, Career, Banking and Wirehouse channels. Darren’s Advisor Recruiting systems are the benchmark for what most Financial Services organizations use today.
Darren Varano started his career with Grayling Associates in 1992 as an Account Manager and has spent over 30 years developing his expertise.
Director of Operations
Megan started with Grayling in 2002 as the Office Manager, supporting the firm and its owners in a variety of ways. In 2019, she was promoted to the role of Director of Operations.
Meg has created processes, brought in new technology and ideas to help the firm grow and run smoothly. As the Director of Operations, it is her job to help clients navigate their accounts, support staff with day to day operations, and promote the company’s well- being in partnership with the management team.
Prior to Grayling, Megan worked for Key Tech, LLC, and most recently Touchstone Advisors, where she was the Office Manager. She is a 1999 graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a B.S. in Human Services.
Megan is the proud mom of 3 amazing kids, which are always her top priority! When not spectating and helping out with one of the kids activities, you can find her working in her gardens, and enjoying time with family and friends.
Prior to joining Grayling, Michelle worked in the Executive Search field for several years, holding a variety of senior level positions. Her areas of specialty include: healthcare, human resources and financial services. Michelle has had a wide range of responsibilities including: performing and completing searches, managing administrative activities related to searches, managing candidate development, marketing services, maintaining client relationships, and servicing clients in relation to search, recruitment and placement.
Prior to moving to the Executive Search field, Michelle served as Vice President, Consulting Group of CRAssociates Inc, a healthcare consulting company based in Newington, Virginia. She was involved in marketing services and in developing business opportunities within the private sector.
Prior to joining the executive healthcare team at CRAssociates, Michelle was an Associate Vice President at PHP Healthcare Corporation (NYSE) and held various positions with increasing responsibilities within the company. She joined PHP as an Administrator of a Navcare Health Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia that handled over 120,000 patient care visits a year. She was responsible for the daily operation, personnel management of 80 staff members, and marketing and budgeting for the Center. Michelle was then promoted to Regional Project Administrator of all the Navcare Centers on the East Coast. She was able to reorganize the troubled Centers by improving efficiency, profitability, staff morale, and client satisfaction.
Before joining PHP Healthcare, Michelle held various clinical, managerial, academic, and administrative positions in various healthcare systems. Michelle holds a Master of Science in Nursing Administration. She served in the United States Army Nurse Corps.
Darius originally was born and raised just West of Philadelphia, PA. He received his degree from Elizabethtown College in Business Administration with a Minor in Accounting. Darius has worked with Grayling over the last 15 years as a recruiter in both the main office located in Bloomfield, CT and also remotely based back in the Philadelphia area. His areas of focus have been both Agent and Management recruiting as well as overseeing client accounts. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, hiking, kayaking and spending time with family.
John has been in the recruiting field for 25+ years. He has experience in corporate and private executive search. He worked in corporate Talent Acquisition for Travelers and Phoenix Wealth Management. At Travelers John ran the Lunch & Learn program, was a volunteer tutor for Dwight Belizzi Academy and volunteered on an ongoing basis at the Travelers PGA tour golf tournament. While at Phoenix he was a trained facilitator for Community Conversation-a focused discussion on race and diversity, and he was appointed by the CEO to serve on the Corporate Planning Council at Central Connecticut State University.
John graduated from CCSU with a degree in English; was an Editor for the Central Recorder newspaper, and a live-in Child Care Worker at Klingberg Family Center in New Britain CT.
Before he entered the recruiting field, he was an 8th grade English Teacher. He was co-captain of his high school golf team at Enfield (CT) High School. John spent several years as an Actor in community theater with Theatre Newington. He enjoys exercising daily. His favorite cities for travel are New Orleans and Miami FL. He also enjoys cooking, photography, and writing.
Lori began her career in corporate human resources and worked at various Manufacturing and Financial Institutions, including A.T. Cross Pen Company, First Data Investor Services and CVS Corporation. She has over 15 years of HR experience including recruiting, employee benefits and compensation analysis. She also has several years of working in a non-profit organization, recruiting and managing volunteers and fundraising. Lori earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Rhode Island.
Lori is a valuable team member at Grayling Associates because she has extraordinary attention to detail. She works closely with her clients to determine their recruiting needs and delivers effective results. Lori has a natural way of connecting with people and assists her candidates every step of the way, advocating for them throughout the recruiting process.
In addition to her work for Grayling Associates, Lori is an active member in her local community and regularly volunteers at her children’s school. Her two teenage sons are very accomplished musicians and she supports them as Co-President of the Band Booster Committee. She assists with organizing volunteers and raising funds to support activities for the high school band and jazz band programs.
Lori enjoys many types of exercise including tennis, cardio dance, kickboxing and yoga and she is a certified Zumba instructor. She also has a passion for photography and one of her favorite pastimes is going for long walks on the beach and collecting sea glass.
Dan, by joining Grayling Associates in January 2021, is transitioning from broadcasting to financial services recruiting where his strong communication skills are best leveraged. A real people-person, Dan takes a deep interest in helping people find their full value in the job market.
Dan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Prior to working in recruiting, Dan was a television reporter and producer, most recently with NBC Sports. When previously working for a midsize newsroom, he focused on human interest stories and stories about finance and banking. Dan is a very active person when outside of the office — whether he is playing a pick-up game of basketball, a round of golf, umpiring a school ball game, or out on the ski slopes.
Nicki joined Grayling Associates in early 2021. She has several years of experience working as both an executive recruiter as well as an account manager. Nicki has a BA in Psychology from California University of Pennsylvania and she lives just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.
When Nicki isn’t working, she’s usually spending time with family, friends, and her dog! She enjoys reading, journaling, camping, and going on long motorcycle rides with her fiancé.
Melissa is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. Once receiving her degree, she began to work in the financial institutions where she utilized her customer service, organizational, and customer service skills to build strong relationships with her customers.
Melissa has strong family values and utilizes those values in all aspects of her life, including professionally. Spending time with her growing family is her favorite thing to do. Bowling competitively is one of her passions and she competes frequently in tournaments and leagues.
Having over 40 years of award-winning experience in high-dollar, high-profile Executive Leadership in the Financial Services Industry, Paula’s unique advantage is her ability to attract Top Talent that can effectively work in the Upscale Market and go Toe-to-Toe with High-end clients. This, along with her intense focus on the customer’s experience has been the cornerstone of her Leadership strategy and the key to her success.
In her spare time, Paula, and her husband Don of 40 years, enjoy singing in their church choir, playing the piano, cooking, volunteering in the community and hanging out with dear friends.
Patti was born in Washington DC and raised in the DC Metropolitan area. After high school she then moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she went to college and then began a career in Law Enforcement and later entered the world of all things real estate. Throughout her career in real estate she managed and brokered large offices, including her own brokerage where she mentored and coached hundreds of agents.
She now lives in Houston, Texas, with her amazing husband, and visits Maryland frequently to visit with her three grown children and two grandchildren who mean the world to her. Spending time with her family is the most important thing to Patti and when she is not with them, she likes to read and even write about her life experiences.
Patti holds a B.S. Degree in Criminal Justice from Wilmington University and over the years many certifications and held multiple licenses in both Maryland and Delaware.
Jessica began her career as an Account Manager at Travelers, supporting financial advisors in Annuity Services. She has spent the last 20 years in education, teaching writing at the University of Hartford and later teaching upper elementary at a public Montessori school in a socio-economically diverse setting. In her role as an educator, she served on the school’s Racial Equity Committee and facilitated its Gender Sexuality Alliance. Advocating for diversity and inclusion is important to her. She brings strong communication skills and a desire to help others as she pivots out of teaching into a new career.
Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Eastern Connecticut State University and a Master’s degree from the University of Hartford in Education. She enjoys helping others with her writing and editing skills and often edits articles for friends and colleagues.
In her free time, she can be found refinishing furniture or cheering for her sons at their games and meets. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, and reading self-help books. She also teaches paint classes at wineries.
Naomi Gilmore was born and raised in Washougal, WA, and moved to Lacey, WA for college. She graduated from Saint Martin’s University with a bachelor’s degree in English. Afterwards, she worked as an administrative and inventory assistant at several businesses before moving to Connecticut. She was drawn to a career as an executive assistant because she wants to help others and support them so that they can flourish in their roles, and because she loves details and organization.
Outside of work, Naomi enjoys reading, choral singing, hiking and canoeing with her husband, and identifying and cataloging wildflowers.
Lindsey Sieffert was born and raised in Western PA. She graduated from BC3 with an associate degree in Office Administration in 2014. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in Technical Management with a focus on sales and marketing in 2021 from DeVry University. Lindsey is actively continuing her education through Keller Graduate School of Management to obtain her MBA with a focus on Human Resources.
Lindsey joined us after working for the cable industry in the sales and retention department for 10 years. Her main focus is to assist others in achieving their goals and growing into the role they desire. She is passionate about helping others in their life journey.
Outside of work she is always keeping busy with DIY projects, enjoys making homemade gifts, and loves spending time with her husband, family, and friends.