As my Facebook feed fills up with graduation photos this year, I’ve become a bit nostalgic for my own graduations roughly 22 and 26 years ago. (Eeek!) Chalk it up to getting older, but even my somewhat angst-ridden, John Hughes high school years are starting to look a little rosier in the rearview mirror. And so y’all can re-live those magic, AquaNet years with me, I dug up a little video footage from my 1989 high school graduation.
Yes, that’s really me. And no, I didn’t know a damn thing.
I’ve been doing a lot of publicity for my book Women of The Street, and interviewers almost inevitably ask the question: “What advice do you have for women starting out in investing today?” And as I struggle to offer some morsel of wisdom, I have to wonder, knowing what I know now, what advice would I offer that big-haired girl in the blue cap & gown?
My best piece of advice to my young self is this: “Own what you know.” I don’t know everything. I’m painfully aware that that there are literally billions of people on the planet that know things I do not know and likely will never know. But as I embarked on my career in finance, and even well into my second decade in the industry, I was hesitant to be confident in what I did know and the skills I did have. I worried about being “found out.” I thought about puking into the potted palms onstage at every speaking engagement. I did not accept that maybe I knew a few things, too. Looking back, I would definitely give my younger self a dose of confidence, along with some better hair products.
Being a researcher, I decided to pose the same question to a group of women in investments in order to get more good advice for the future women of finance. I figured these money managers, marketers, service providers, investors and other industry insiders could definitely shed additional light on the topic. Their advice broadly fell into the following categories: Investigate, Take Risks, Communicate, & Advocate.
For those women now embarking on a career in finance, or for anyone looking for good investment industry career guidance, I encourage you to embrace their advice.
“Trust, but verify. Always evaluate with a skeptical eye. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.” - Money Manager, Anonymous
"While I believe my liberal arts has served me well, I wish I had swapped out at least one post modern literary theory course for one on portfolio construction. My learning curve has been steep. Although there are many roles in the industry that don't involve investing, that first hand investment knowledge will open more doors." - Industry Advocate, Anonymous
“I think it’s extremely important to understand the nuances between different roles and to understand what skills and strengths contribute to success for each path, and of course, where each path can take you.” - Fund Marketer, Anonymous
“I wish I knew what types of jobs were available in investment management and what the difference was between brokers, investment bankers, RIAs and private funds. It took a long time to figure this out. If I knew investment management was filled with smart, creative, fun, quirky people I would have headed here first instead of spending 5 years on Capitol Hill thinking I would be the first woman president!” - Jody Foster, President, Symphony Consulting
"It is sometimes as important what is not said as what is said." Nancy Davis, Founder and Portfolio Manager, Quadratic Capital
“Look for opportunities to learn in every situation and assignment, no matter how mundane the task appears.” - Fund Manager, Anonymous
“Start with large companies to get great training and then think about working for yourself or at a smaller shop.” - Kelly Chesney, Co-Founder, Pluscios Management
“No matter what anyone says, risk-aversion is not a positive. We are money managers. We are meant to manage risk not avoid it. Risk management and risk aversion are not equal. You cannot make dollars with out risking dollars; this is an undeniable tenet of investing. Manage, intelligently, the risk that you take but do not fail to take it.” - Katherine Chan, Partner, Anandar Capital Management
“When you want a promotion or see the requirements for a new job, don’t wait until you can check off every last requirement to throw your hat in the ring.” - Marta Cotton, Principal, Matarin Capital Management
“I would advise someone that spending time connecting with others (call it networking or getting to know a broader base of industry folk), even at a young age, is a personally and professionally rewarding endeavor.” - Nadine Terman, Managing Member, Solstein Capital LLC
“Consider where others are coming from and what motivates them to behave the way they do. Human behavior is fascinating.” - Money Manager, Anonymous
“Keep your eye out for a mentor whom you trust and build that relationship, and build a broad and deep network.” - Donna Holmes, Business Development, Lizard Investors
“It’s also about WHO you know, not just what you know. If I had to do it over, I spend more time cultivating the right friends and less time reading.” - Lisa Sergi, Partner, Deloitte
“You have to advocate for yourself. I used to think that good work would automatically be recognized, but learned that you need to remind people of how you've contributed.” - Jalak Jobanputra, Founding Partner, Future/Perfect Ventures
“Always aim high and believe in your own abilities. There will always be others to tell you what you can’t do, so you have to tell yourself that you can.” - Heather Brilliant, CEO, Morningstar Australasia
“Lead with your brain. The unfortunate stereotype when you are young and female in this industry sometimes goes like this: cute young girl in marketing = just another pretty face = empty between the ears. Don’t let them ascribe you to that role. Wow them with your smarts. It’s the equivalent of walking up to a basketball court full of guys, grabbing that damn ball, and draining threes on their heads. Earn respect - then you can be as cute and sassy as you want because everyone will know behind all that ‘girl’ is one bad-ass brain.” - Stacy Havener, Founder, Havener Capital Partners
“Tell your boss how much you expect to earn. If a guy doing the same job as you is making more money than you are, it’s no one’s fault but your own. You are the only person who will watch out for you.” - Valerie Malter, Co-Founder, Matarin Capital Management
“Stand up for yourself and help others in the industry, your generosity will be returned to you in spades.” - Holmes
“Know that it is sometimes a very powerful and confident thing to say ‘I don’t know’.” - Outsourced CIO, Anonymous
“Don’t worry about making money. If you’re passionate about what you do and it is consistent with your skills and abilities, someone will pay you well to do it.” – Malter
“On a more humorous note, I would reiterate the two pieces of advice given to me on my first day at Goldman Sachs-Sales & Trading. (#1) Nobody likes a whiner. (#2) Don’t get your meat where you get your bread. Those two rules still are valid 20 years later.” - Fund Manager, Anonymous
“Make sure you pick a supportive life partner” – Holmes or as Malter said: “If you want to have a career and a family, then deciding on the person that you marry will be the single most important decision you will ever make.”
“Don't co-mingle your money when you marry. Keep all monies separate and divide up expenses rather than combine income.” - April Rudin, Founder, The Rudin Group
"Your father will love you whatever you decide to do." - Consultant, Anonymous
“Be nice to the assistants of the people you are trying to call on.” - Cotton
“A career path is not a straight line - seek to grow with every move.” – Chesney
“Don’t sweat that you didn’t go to the ‘right’ school or that you don’t have the ‘right’ degree. I’m an English major from Western Connecticut State University. Today, that makes me incredibly proud to say. In my early days in the industry, as peers said Harvard, Yale, Finance, Economics, I felt like I was at the wrong party. Turns out that writing and story-telling are kind of important in marketing. Also turns out that hard work and grit really do pay off. To that younger self I would say, ‘Get off the wall, flower, and dance.’” - Havener
Dance, I said. Dance!
Good luck to all graduates, and all of us still enrolled in the School of Life!