Interview with Edward. Advice to Women

posted August 31st, 2012 by Janet Graham - 2 Comments

I asked Edward if he were giving advice to a woman in the corporate world, particularly a young woman, what the advice would be. He says: “I’d probably start by giving the same advice I’d give to a young man which is that you obviously need to learn your craft but the extent to which you ultimately succeed, if you mean going up the organization, it’s all about people skills, it’s all about people management skills.  Find out very early whether or not that turns you on and if it does, even a little bit, focus more attention on developing that stuff than the hard skills which tend to develop themselves. In that sense, I would urge them to gain people management experience no matter what their discipline is and to try to get to a level where they manage managers, because I find that’s where most people don’t make it.  They can manage a bunch of people who are doers but they can’t manage managers in remote locations.  I encourage young people, including young women, to uproot themselves.  I mean that in the most general way, move somewhere else whether it’s geographic or otherwise, try new things because that’s the way you get stretched and that’s the way you grow and so on.


“With a young woman I would over-emphasize the advice I would give to both the man and the woman to cultivate networks.  I used to be such a skeptic and cynic about that but it is so important.  I’m sitting here today because when my wife and I decided to come back to Canada I could phone up the leader of this organization and the reason I could phone him up was because I kept in touch with him while I was away.  It was a simple thing.  If I hadn’t stayed in touch, I don’t know if he would have taken my call.  It is just so important.  It also means that when something bad happens you have a capital cushion inside the organization. You’ve got people who will actually support you, and my observation is that women do less of that than men do.  Women might do it amongst women but they’re not as strategic in thinking it through. It’s obvious you should only form networks with people you respect in terms of their integrity and that you like enough to spend time with…but hopefully in the total solution set there’s some you can find that are men.  I would say cultivate that, put notes in your diary with their names and have them come up every month and even if it’s just a call or an e-mail, cultivate it, keep it current, and keep doing it throughout your entire career.  I didn’t do enough of that, I should have done more.”


If you were advising a young woman in the securities industries, a bond trader, research analyst or investment banker whose work is very skills driven at the beginning and may become more relationship driven later, what would your advice be? Edward says: “Remember the first thing I said was, you have to first think through whether people management turns you on, and for a lot of these people it doesn’t, or at least they don’t know whether it does or not.  The first decision to be made is whether it does and if not that’s a different thing.  I would still argue, though, and think back to the traders and bond desk people you’ve known, the ones that got fired, I would argue that there were just as many that got fired because they were jerks as there were because they made bad trades.  And that’s increasingly the case.  Twenty years ago, they would tolerate a lot more than we tolerate today but when I hear about somebody who got fired, it’s just as often because they weren’t paying attention to their interpersonal relationships as it was the actual work they were doing.  I say you ignore that stuff at your peril.  Presumably you’re smart enough to execute your craft without blowing up the organization or doing really stupid things on the risk side but the personal relationship stuff is worth nurturing and most people underestimate it.


“A lot of those traders or fixed income folks, only do the job for eight, ten, twelve years and then they realize they need to change career paths and they actually have fewer choices because of their lack of experience managing people. They need to show that they can run people and get along with people and so on, in order to make a change.”


Would you advise a young woman to establish alliances with other women, at their own firm and elsewhere? Edward says: “For sure, just not at the expense of men.  It’s a choice, but if 70% of the executives in your organization are men you exclude them from your network at your peril. Establish alliances with other women for sure.  The women executives I know have a handful of relationships with women they truly trust which are unbelievably important to them in a whole bunch of respects, whether it’s providing moral support or sharing issues or asking advice or helping them to be motivated about something.  I don’t know much about it but I sense from the women I know really well who talk to me about this stuff that these relationships have been really important to many of them.  I would say absolutely develop these types of relationships with women.”


I asked Edward whether his advice to a young man would be different than his advice to a young woman. He says: “It wouldn’t be because the important pieces of advice I’d have for someone, and this might seem trite, but I actually believe that hard work is hugely under-rated and explains a lot about why people move forward etc.  Advice like that would apply to both.  If I were talking to a young woman and trying to think about what things I should say to her uniquely because she’s a woman, I’d probably talk about how she’d handle it the first time she comes across sexist behaviour.  This week I was in the US and was with two reasonably junior but real up and coming superstar women who told me that they had clients who were sexist. We had a conversation about how they handle it and it became immediately apparent to me that they didn’t really know how and that they could make mistakes in this area. I would talk to a young woman about that because it occurred to me as I listened to these two bright young women that we’re not doing enough to help them with those situations.  We have probably just assumed that they can handle it.  The difficult ones aren’t the ones where somebody touches them or says something overtly sexist.  It’s the more subtle ones where their instinct is to tell the guy to go to hell or to hang up the phone or to leave the meeting but because it’s not so overt they stay and arguably condone the behavior. It’s all that stuff that men don’t have to deal with.  I never had to deal with stuff like that.  I would say make sure you are alert to those things potentially happening to you and you aren’t too tough on yourself and you go and ask somebody for help when they happen and get some advice because it’s new to you.


“One of them said to me, so when he said this, was I  wrong to think maybe he meant…and I’m just going, no are you kidding, no question he was being sexist.  The very fact that she was uncertain about this means she’s second-guessing and potentially feeling guilty and it’s, like, my God!


What Strikes Me?

The first thing to do in any career is to learn your craft


In terms of climbing the corporate ladder, it’s all about people management skills


Find out early in your career whether people management turns you on and if it does, focus more attention on developing those skills than the hard skills which tend to develop themselves


Gain people management experience no matter what your discipline and try to get to a level where you manage managers in remote locations; this is where the rubber meets the road


Uproot yourself.  Move somewhere else whether it’s geographic or otherwise, try new things because that’s the way you get stretched and that’s the way you grow and so on


Cultivate networks


Build a capital cushion inside your organization, so if something bad happens you have people who are willing to support you


Think strategically about building your network; it’s something women tend to do less of than men


Presumably you’re smart enough to execute your craft without blowing up the organization or doing really stupid things on the risk side but the personal relationship stuff is worth nurturing and most people underestimate it


You have fewer career choices when you lack experience managing people


If 70% of the people in your organization are men, you exclude them from your network at your peril


Hard work is hugely under-rated and explains a lot about why people move forward


What Strikes You?


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2 Responses to “Interview with Edward. Advice to Women”

Comment from Sarah
Time September 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I really liked this article. One of the points that I found interesting was the discussion over excluding males from your network. I am just starting my MBA and I have already noticed that most of the women in the class seem to just be sticking with other women. I think that women need to be reminded that most of the people you work with/for will be males, so it is important to invest in those relationships as well. I know personally I had a male manager who was also a close mentor of mine. By the end of my time working there, it had become one of the best work relationships that I had had up to that time. I think women tend to feel more comfortable with other women, but by staying in that comfort zone you really do risk losing out on those other connections.
Also, I really liked the advice about “uprooting yourself”. I think this important for all business people. I think when you engage in the kinds of activities that really do stretch yourself, you end up with experiences that really do change you. Or maybe to be more accurate, open you up to being who you really are. Personally, I think that is a very important piece of advice for women. I think females tend to be more willing to change themselves, and be “flexible” in order to make things work. But I think this can end up leaving women not being able to really be whom they are meant to be. I think figuring out what makes you happy and what you are passionate about is the most important thing.

Comment from Amada
Time September 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I am at a point in my career where I am managing managers now, and reading this blog has made me realize that I need to shift the way I have been managing them. Inadvertently, I was still using my old ways of managing staff. I miss being close to the technical side yet realize that I also welcome the ability to participate in making strategic decisions and policies for our organization.

What strikes me is that even the quality of my networks is shifting. I find that it is difficult for others who are not managing managers to understand where I am coming from, when I am looking for suggestions or ideas for how to approach things with my managers. I also find the types of problems I face are different from when I was managing staff or project leads because of the greater need for ensuring accountability.

I am in a “non-Bay street” non-corporate world yet find the information here very applicable to my work.

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