Freddie. Career Milestones

posted July 2nd, 2009 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

Freddie says one of the big milestones for her at the securities firm she had joined was meeting a man who would become her mentor. And she thinks her experience with him illustrates that when you have an advocate, a sponsor, someone that believes in you, irrespective of who they are or their gender, it makes the world of difference. She says: “This man probably believed in me more than I believed in myself and as a consequence he put a bunch of opportunities in front of me over the years. Ironically every time he’d put an opportunity in front of me, I would say, no, I can’t do that, I can’t do that.” And he would say: “What do you mean you can’t do that?” And Freddie would respond: “I can’t do that, I’m not equipped, I don’t know that stuff.” And this champion would say: “Freddie, you can do it”. She says he was always pushing and she says she always had something she describes as a very female inclination to say “I can’t do that, I do not have the experience, or whatever.”

As a result of his pushing (and her performance), she held a number of different positions and ultimately became co-head of the fixed income and money market area and for a brief period of time foreign exchange. She says it was a lot of fun. She believes it is always fun when you feel like you’re contributing and you are appreciated and again she reiterates her favourite mantra “success is a vitamin”.

Freddie says the big change in her career at that point was that she had a child and she thinks if she hadn’t had a child she probably wouldn’t have continued to be successful in her career. She says what she means by that is that here she was, a young, successful person who worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but she probably wasn’t a very good people person. She says she ended up doing a lot of things on her own and at her own pace and she didn’t have a high regard for anyone that did not travel at her speed or very much tolerance for people that weren’t smart and she says “not to say that I’m super smart” but if they didn’t get it that was it. She says that becoming a mother, at that point, kind of rounded her out.

She thinks she became a much nicer person once she had a child in her life and she thinks one of the reasons is that her life no longer revolved completely around her work. Becoming a mother meant she could no longer focus solely on work and as a consequence, having a child helped her gain perspective. Her life became a lot more balanced and she believes it is probably what ultimately led to her leaving the securities firm. She believes that in her current position where she is responsible for managing people the same way she was at the securities firm, she is a much better manager because of becoming a mother.

She told me as an aside that in the “man’s world” she worked in at the securities firm, when she went and told her boss/mentor/supporter that she was pregnant, the response she got was “what were you thinking?” And she said: “Gosh, what are you talking about? How could you say that? And it was like, well, have you really thought about this? You know what it’s going to do to your life, your career and I said, listen, I’m not coming to ask for your advice. I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a child. I said don’t worry, I’ll be back at work and I’ll work from home, you don’t have anything to worry about and that’s when I understood that when you tell anyone you’re pregnant, always make sure you translate what it means for them. Forget about you, it’s good news for you, but that’s it.” She says when she advised her boss of her pregnancy, she had not appreciated that this news would by received by him as “ok, so you’re pregnant, how are we going to fill your role?” She wished he would have responded with: “nice to hear, congratulations!” For Freddie, she learned “life is always about me” how does what you are saying impact the individual receiving the news. As a result of her experience, she says she has coached numerous women on how to announce their pregnancies to their bosses, specifically “I am pregnant, this is my due date, I will be off for x months and I am DEFINITELY coming back to work”. The other thing she coaches women on is to take their maternity leave… having had only one maternity leave, she regrets to this day having worked throughout her 2.5 month maternity leave, in her words, “silly me”.

She thinks she decided not too long after having the baby that it was time for her to make a career move. Her mentor had left the firm and it was no longer a fun place to work and so she took a few months off and asked herself what she was going to do with her life. One thing she took great pride and joy in during this time off was being a mother. Because she hadn’t had much of a maternity leave and her time off represented her first chance to be a mother “full time”, she truly enjoyed having some real time with her son.

Based on this experience and the dramatic change in her life being a mother represented, she says she used the time off to really assess what she wanted to do. She concluded she wanted to take a break from the “rat race”, to travel less, be more in control of her destiny, her time away etc.

Freddie knew she wanted to be in a position where she could have control over her hours, control over her compensation and continue to be good at what she did. She thought one of the things she had always been good at was recruiting.

So, she basically went through the yellow pages looking for executive recruitment firms and ripped out the relevant pages. She consulted with several people to narrow the list of firms she might target. She then began calling on the managing partners of each of the five or six firms she had identified as prospective employers. She introduced herself, told them that she had worked in financial services and had developed a knack for recruiting and was interested in it and asked whether they might be interested in someone with her background. She says: “Well, lo and behold, I think I probably was on to something because I ended up getting interviews at all of the firms and it was really kind of fun. All of a sudden, I felt appreciated again and I was just having the time of my life. I narrowed my search down to two firms and ended up going to work for one of them and it was fantastic. I loved every minute of it. It was a good transition for me to leave a trading room environment and go to… I don’t know what to call it… an HR strategic consulting environment because there I discovered that [a] I could sell. (funnily enough, I didn’t think I could sell at this point) and [b] I also discovered that I had a pretty good strategic sense. So if someone had a recruiting need I pursued it enthusiastically. I really enjoyed doing this and I was very good at putting the search strategy together in terms of the industry that they would go to, and even putting the research plan together, and then I was also… I just really loved the candidate interaction and my favourite part, of course, became closing the search. You know, bring in the candidate and make sure that they wouldn’t renege at the last minute and just having the thing coming to closure.”

Freddie says for her it was a great experience from a learning perspective, learning about herself and broadening her business acumen which ultimately led her to her current role. She shared another anecdote which she says she has had some fun with, in her words: “I was actually the recruiter for my current position and it’s kind of an awkward thing. It’s a position that I tried to recruit a candidate for over an 18 month period, so talk about a lack of success, although I did put several good candidates forward, some went to the eleventh hour, some went to the offer stage, but it was one of those things that I could never close for a variety of reasons. Throughout this 18 month search for a candidate, my client, an asset management firm, approached me three times to come and work for them in the position I was recruiting to fill. The third time was during the Asian crisis and most of my finance/investment banking mandates were being put on hold which meant I would have to diversify my recruitment practice away from financial services into other industries and all of a sudden I realized that my passion for recruiting was not as strong as my passion for the investment business. So when my client approached me the last time and asked me to take the position I had been unable to fill, it seemed like the right time and the right place. It was really kind of interesting because I basically came into this firm as a relationship manager, so almost like what I used to be, an institutional sales person. I was attracted to a role where I could simply be a relationship manager. I wanted nothing to do with the management of people. I just wanted the firm to tell me what they wanted me to do, who I needed to get to know, what success would look like and how they were going to pay me. I said just give me a desk and off I’ll go. So I opened the Canadian office of this US investment management organization in my basement with a telephone and a Canadian pension plan directory. From my home, we moved to executive office space and finally into our own space where we are today. And when my boss retired three or four years ago, I was asked to co-head all of our North American institutional business and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” And she said: “So, I think I answered your question way longer than I should have”. And I say, not at all!!!

What Strikes Me?

Having a mentor/sponsor/supporter/champion makes a world of difference to life at work

Take your maternity leave, spend time with your baby, you will never get it back

Work is a lot more fun when you feel like you are contributing and your contribution is appreciated

Having a child makes a woman more compassionate and empathetic

Different work experiences in different industries adds to our business acumen and repertoire

What Strikes You?

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