June 20th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Career Breaks: the good, the bad and the ugly

iStock_000004107649XSmallBy Nneka Orji

Do you dream of hitting the pause button on your career? You don’t necessarily want to hit stop but you want just enough time to pause and reflect without the day-to-day pressures of a demanding career. But how many of us are willing to take a career break and at what cost?

About 90,000 people take career breaks in the UK every year, 60% of whom are women. Recent surveys have found that while the reasons for career breaks are similar across both genders, the imbalance has a clear reflection on the current and future talent pipeline. According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 58% of women take career breaks to care for children or elderly family members and 9% use career breaks as an opportunity to travel. This contrasts with the reasons men cited; 11% opt to pause their careers for family and 29% for travel.

If more women take career breaks, is it right to assume that we look forward to them? According to the results of a recent survey by London Business School, the simple answer is no. Of the over 2000 female survey participants, 70% stated that they felt anxious about taking a career break. It turns out that the bad and the ugly aspects of career breaks can lead women to opt out altogether.

Embracing the Good
Taking a step back from our careers means that we are able to see challenges and opportunities from a different perspective, which indirectly drives innovation. The skills we develop while on career breaks – learning a new language, working in a different culture, raising another human being – all contribute to our wider personal development, making us more rounded and experienced employees when we return.

Organisations that offer career break programmes realise direct benefits, including talent retention and increased productivity. According to the Great Places to Work Institute, 34 of the “100 Best Workplaces in Europe” in 2007 offered sabbaticals. Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2012 found that almost 25% of the companies offered fully paid sabbaticals. Formal career programmes, such as that recently introduced by Morgan Stanley, clearly contribute to an organisation’s attractiveness rating and companies benefit by attracting top talent.

In the US, 24% of small businesses and 14% of large businesses allowed their employees to take career breaks of 6 months or more (paid or unpaid). However, the 2014 National Study of Employers indicates that since 2008, organisations in the US have reduced the number of provisions in place for enabling extended time away from work; down from 64% to 52%.

If there are net benefits to the employee and employer, why are we seeing this downward trend?

The truth of the matter is that career breaks are still seen as “interruptions” rather than continuums of self-development. This misperception is directly shaping the global workforce.

Dealing with the Bad
McKinsey’s 2007 Women Matter report stated that today’s model “presupposes a linear career path, with no space for career breaks” when in fact 58% of the survey participants stated their careers would not be linear. Company leaders need to recognise this in the way they shape their workforce initiatives.

45% of the women reported in the survey cited “need more time for the children” as the reason for their career break. Despite wanting to return after the break, only 74% successfully got jobs and only 40% found full time work. Sylvia-Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce found that 5% of mothers wanted to return to their previous employers, however barriers such as perception mean that they are not always successful which in turn leads to reduced retention.

Views such as that expressed by a UK politician earlier this year – that women who take time out of work to have children are “worth less” to their employers than their male colleagues – are clearly barriers for returning mothers.

Eliminating the Ugly
The ugly reality of career breaks, mainly the manifestation of “the bad”, is that there can be a direct impact on earning power and career progression.

A 2004 study found that “for each year of interruptions to employment for childcare and family care work, hourly wages decrease by 1% (again, in addition to missing out on the 3% gain for each year of full-time employment)”. Despite picking up new skills and demonstrating the ability to work with multiple demands, returning mothers are recognised as financially less valuable than their peers who have chosen not to take family-related career breaks. Another study, based on work by Waldfogel, found that the “family penalty”, a 10-15% reduction in income for women with families compared to those without (and therefore fewer “interrupted work histories”), exists for women but the opposite – a “marriage premium” – exists for men.

These consequences of career breaks have a direct impact on the talent pipeline and need to be addressed by company leaders and policy makers. While policy changes such as maternity (and more recently paternity) leave entitlement in the UK, have provided more options for returning mothers, there is much more to be done to improve gender representation at executive level.

We need a shift in attitudes towards career breaks; rather than seeing them as interruptions, they should be seen as an opportunity to shift focus and develop addition skills which build our careers.

Employers: This is not just a nice to have so don’t get left behind. The 2013 “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” required applicants offer at least one fully paid week of leave to new mothers. In many cases it can be an enabler to a firm’s strategy; for example SAP, the global software company, launched a formal Social Sabbatical Programme in 2012 which provides employees with global opportunities but also enables SAP to meet its emerging markets strategy. Not only do such programmes provide structure, they drive a change in culture and perceptions across genders.

Employees: Some of you will see a career break as an inevitable part of the professional and personal growth, so planning ahead for the break is critical. It is important to clearly articulate the case to your employer (what skills will you be gaining during your time away), identify a mentor and also identify those who will make up part of your support network during your break.

Encouraging career breaks is a long term strategy; to think differently and become more innovative we need a change of scenery. As Albert Einstein famously stated: Insanity: doing the same thing over & over again & expecting different results.” Why then would we not encourage our people to do things differently?

June 19th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Mentoring: 6 Ways to Help Your Mentee Think Strategically

mentorBy Robin Madell

If you’re a mentor, you have a lot of responsibility. Your mentee relies on you for valuable guidance, input, and advice on successful career navigation. But of all the lessons you might choose to impart or doors you might open for your protégé, how do you ensure that you are giving the right advice?

One of the primary goals of mentorship is for mentors to assist others in career advancement, preparing often more junior employees for that next promotion or opportunity. Yet research shows that a mentoring relationship doesn’t always result in promotions for women, especially compared to men. A report from Catalyst found that while having a mentor did help decrease the career advancement gender gap, it didn’t eliminate it. The study showed that men were promoted more often than women even when taking into account factors like prior work experience, starting level, and amount of time in their current role, as well as industry and region.

Strategic Thinking Linked to Effective Leadership
By examining this research, it’s clear that one area where mentors can focus their efforts is in helping mentees think more strategically. Strategic thinking can help people at all levels improve their chances for advancement by working smarter and not harder. What’s more, according to Robert Kabacoff in Harvard Business Review, strategic thinkers have been shown in many studies to rank among the most effective leaders within organizations.

For example, a 2013 global study by Management Research Group (MRG) of 60,000 managers in more than 140 countries and 26 industries discovered that taking a strategic approach to leadership was around 10 times more important to how effective a leader was perceived to be. Strategic thinking was found to be twice as important as communication and nearly 50 times more important than tactical, hands-on leadership behaviors.

This speaks volumes about the importance of mentors teaching mentees how to master taking a long-range approach to decision-making and problem-solving. Kabacoff notes that being mentored by someone with the “ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions” is a very effective way for mentees to develop their own strategic skills. He also suggests that strategic thinking is “as much of a mindset as a set of techniques.”

How can you as a mentor encourage your mentee to excel at strategic thinking?

Keep reading »

June 18th, 2014 | 6:00 am

How to Deal with Objections like a Boss: Your Four Step Plan to Rock Your Next Presentation

Businesswoman Giving a PresentationGuest Contribution by Bushra Azhar

Let’s pretend you are presenting a management solution to a group and you’ve done everything right; you’ve laid out a water-tight case, supported by a robust value proposition, strong arguments and an even stronger voice.

You didn’t mumble or stumble or skip over your slides.

You did everything by the book. Heck, you even mastered Fantastic First Impressions Cheat Sheet.

And then, just as you are about to wrap-up, expecting a resounding applause or even a standing ovation, one of the attendees announces that although he is intrigued by your solution, he feels that your solution at the given price would not be able to achieve the required objectives.

He uses words that can slice steel hearts…words like, “impressive presentation” (implying that it doesn’t have any meat, only fluff) or “leaves something to be desired” (translation: It was just a load of crap) or my personal nemesis “having said that” (which essentially means… brace yourself, things are going to get real nasty here)

You feel deflated after your moment of glory and you cannot just stomp your feet and walk out like you used to when you were five.

So what to do instead?

Below is a four step process to deal with valid objections; objections that are not just mud-slinging fests but where the person is genuinely trying to understand something or raising a valid point. It is hard, because it is a battle against the objection as much as it is against your own rationality.

But who said, winning’s easy?

Step One: Welcome the Objections
Valid objections are caused by a person’s old brain. They are triggered by the fear of making a wrong decision and are typically the last step in the decision-making process. You should therefore welcome objections as a sign that the old brain is getting ready to make a decision and all it needs is some reassurance that the decision is the right one to make. This is the exact same technique but that I recommend when faced with the statement “you are too expensive”.

Objections are also a sign that the person is actually considering the viability of your solution and getting his cognitive resources involved. This is great news…never underestimate the importance of getting his mind engaged because this means they are open to any suggestions that come as part of the rebuttal.

Keep reading »

June 17th, 2014 | 6:00 am

The Introverted Boss: How to Make Your Personality Work to Your Advantage

iStock_000016639682XSmallBy Nikole Grimes

Can introverts successfully lead in business?

After the publication in 2012 of Sara Cain’s New York Times bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, there has been a rallying cry for introverts everywhere. Cain’s TED talk in February 2012 is lauded by introverts who feel validated and uplifted by her message.

In her TED talk, Cain expounds on the value of introverts to creativity and innovation, but do these qualities translate to effective leadership?

Examples of Successful Introverts
In a 2013 article in Forbes, Victor Lipman, a management communications coach and retired insurance company executive, reflected on his career and the hundreds of executives he worked with. He writes, “…there are just a handful who come to mind as universally admired and respected. Oddly enough, they were all quiet individuals who could all easily be considered introverts – and all shared the same constellation of characteristics.”

Lipman notes that these introverted leaders were universally measured in their responses, highly analytical, good listeners, naturally risk averse, and the frequently the voice of reason. He continued, “Their voice was not the loudest but was often the most listened to.”

Bestselling author, chairman of Avon Products, and former CEO and President of Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, writes in a 2011 article that he scores high on the introversion scale. He says, “In meetings, introverts can often be perceived as aloof, disinterested, shy or retiring. … When viewed from the outside, it may seem that I’m not openly contributing as much as I could or should, but that’s just because I’m busy listening and thinking.”

If you are an introvert, know that you can be perceived this way, but remember, too, that listening deeply and thoroughly can give you an advantage when you provide well thought out input after you have processed all of the information presented to you.

A recent article in Entrepreneur indicated the benefits of listening and the importance of honing this soft skill as a business leader. “Typically, we choose leaders for their skill at conveying messages clearly and powerfully. But it is listening that distinguishes the best leaders from the rest. That’s because the better you are at listening, the more likely people will talk to you.”

When leaders listen, they are more likely to actually hear an employee who shares the next big, industry-changing idea. Employees who possess leadership traits have the potential to really thrive when they feel like their ideas are being heard. If you are naturally introverted, you can use your ability to listen and make others feel heard to your advantage.

Mike Jones writes in the Entrepreneur article, “The business world has never been altogether friendly to introverts. Yet roughly four in 10 top executives — including Larry Page, co-founder and now CEO of Google, identify as one. What’s more, their success may not come despite their natural introversion, but because of it, an idea backed up by new research suggesting introverts foster a better team environment than their more outgoing peers.”

The Research
A 2011 study concluded that while extraverts are more likely to be perceived as leaders, their leadership does not always lead to increased group performance. The study by Adam Grant (University of Pennsylvania), Francesa Gino (Harvard University) and David Hofmann (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), concluded “…when employees were not proactive, extraverted leadership was associated with higher group performance. However, when employees were proactive, this pattern reversed, so that extraverted leadership was associated with lower group performance.”

Keep reading »

June 16th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Yas Banifatemi, Partner, Shearman & Sterling

yas_banifatemi_shearmanBy Michelle Hendelman

Every day is a new day for Yas Banifatemi, a partner at Shearman & Sterling in Paris. An internationally acclaimed leader in international arbitration and public international law, Banifatemi works in an area of law that is very fluid and where clients regularly confront highly complex – and often emerging – issues.

“What I love about arbitration is that this is a field where you can truly be creative,” she says. “The law is in the making, so you can be a pioneer of the law.”

In many ways, Banifatemi has already been a pioneer. When she joined Shearman & Sterling 17 years ago, the arbitration field was clearly male-dominated. Today, not only is she the head of the firm’s Public International Law practice, but she was instrumental in the development of the firm’s investment arbitration practice and also acts as deputy managing partner of the firm’s Paris office. In her different capacities, she has seen more and more women in senior corporate and government roles and at her firm.

Beginning Her Career in Arbitration
Banifatemi joined Shearman & Sterling’s arbitration practice in 1997 after earning her doctorate in International Law from Panthéon-Assas University in Paris and her Masters of Law from Harvard. “It was quite a hectic year for me as I was juggling between my studies at Harvard and completing my PhD and writing my dissertation,” she says.

Before joining the firm, Banifatemi had considered a career in academia, but after studying under Arthur van Mehren at Harvard, a leading figure in arbitration in the US, she decided to practice law. “I wanted to be engaged in the process and be an agent of change – to make a difference instead of staying behind the scenes and merely reflecting on matters,” Banifatemi says. “Given how few firms practiced arbitration back then and how few positions existed in the field, joining Shearman’s arbitration practice and having the opportunity to work with Emmanuel Gaillard, one of the world’s leading figures in arbitration, felt like a miracle.”

Although a practitioner first and foremost, Banifatemi has been fortunate enough to indulge her academic interests, conducting seminars in Paris and all over the world and being a co-founder of the Arbitration Academy, an international institution providing for advanced courses in the field.

Overcoming the Odds
Many naysayers told Banifatemi that it was practically impossible to become a practitioner in public international law, which governs the rights and obligations of states and international organizations. International arbitration seemed like the safer bet, and Banifatemi initially focused her efforts on this area of law instead. However, she persisted in her quest to become a specialist in public international law, and as fate would have it, she worked on a matter that would change her career path.

“Three months after I started,” she recalls, “Shearman & Sterling landed a major treaty arbitration case for Slovakia. We were one of the first firms to work on treaty arbitration. I worked specifically on the international law aspects of the case and have been engaged in treaty arbitration and public international law issues ever since.”

Keep reading »

June 13th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Intrepid Women: Reshma Saujani, CEO and Founder, Girls Who Code

imageBy Jarod Cerf

When Reshma Saujani was introduced at an event recently, the CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code, former Deputy Public Advocate of New York City, and 2010 candidate for U.S. Congress, was given the mantle of a “poster child for persistence.”

Saujani, however, credits that diligence and desire to serve the public to the courage of her parents, who departed from Idi Amin’s reign in Uganda, and to the insistence of the politicians who advocated for the refugees’ asylum. “I always wanted to be a lawyer,” she reflected. “Even when I was ten, I had that as a goal on our fridge door: that I would go to Yale Law School, and only Yale Law.”

“I think, toward the end, that my family began to wonder if I was too dedicated to that dream. But I spoke to the dean directly—after two prior rejections and taking the train and walking straight up to his office—and he said, ‘if you go elsewhere for a year and make the top 10% of your class, you can come here’.”

Seeing the Need for Change
During her 2010 campaign, though, Saujani became starkly aware of the disparities between the various public schools and the degree to which the students received skill-based training. “It was over a couple days of meetings,” Saujani remarked, “that I saw how little the girls in our schools were engaged with technology as a means of building toward their future careers.”

“And I knew then,” she continued, “that Girls Who Code would have to exist; that we needed to give these young women and potential industry leaders the right access to the right people, to the role models and thought leaders who were contributing to the rise of New York as the next Silicon Valley.”

While the tech industry and supporting regions themselves have flourished, the number of women who receive a Bachelor’s degree in computer science has declined from 29.6% in 1991 to 18.2% as of 2013 (master’s degrees, by contrast, have remained fairly static, with doctorates showing a 7.9% increase over the same period).

One of the most immediate causes, according to Saujani, is the absence of sufficiently positive role models and detailed career paths, as well a lack of industry focus on the issues that women want to address. “We need film and television companies like Disney,” she explained, “to think about the images they put on the screen; we need technology companies to be educators and advocates, to encourage the application of computer science skills in the classroom.”

“This is the literacy of the future,” Saujani affirmed, “and the ability to create something using science, to engineer solutions, to innovate ideas through new and emerging technologies, is what keeps you in the workforce and relevant.”

Making Your Vision a Reality
Though Saujani admitted that the initial summer immersion class in 2012 was “a bit bootstrapped,” with friends and business contacts providing workrooms, computers, and fresh lunches for the twenty young women who attended, she noticed a marked increase in both their technical skills and the confidence they expressed midway through the program.

By August 2012, when Saujani was invited to speak at the United Nation’s 11th Youth Assembly, the newly minted alumni were receiving requests from local and community leaders to build websites, applications, and databases for their businesses.

The most important quality Saujani demonstrates to her students and her team is the willingness to embrace uncertainty, risk, and rejection and to understand the lessons they can teach. “Sure, I lost my Public Advocate race with only 82,000 votes,” she said. “But those were still 82,000 people I’d never met before the campaign, who believed enough in me to say I should be the first South Asian woman elected in the entire city or state of New York, and that I should represent what they need.”

“Too often,” Saujani continued, “women tend to think that they have to ‘do’ the job before they can get it. The good news is, when you teach these girls how to design an app to confront obesity, poverty or the bullying that they witness at school, they’ll invite three or four of their friends to learn along with them and work together with other girls—sometimes from incredibly diverse backgrounds—to create solutions for the world they want.”

Speaking proudly, she stated: “We started in 2012 and we’ll train 3,000 girls this year, and I’m confident that by 2020, we’ll reach a million.”

June 12th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Daphne Karydas, Director, Senior Equity Analyst, The Boston Company Asset Management LLC

Daphne Karydas, The Boston CompanyBy Michelle Hendelman

Early on in her career, Daphne Karydas learned that a key component of success is to match your skills and talents with your interests and passions. After studying chemical engineering at MIT, Karydas entered the pharmaceutical industry where she worked in research and development at Merck for about 3 years.

Seeking a different career path, she decided to earn her MBA from Harvard Business School and proceeded to work as an Investment Banker in the Healthcare sector at Goldman Sachs for 4 years.

“I was not able to leverage my entire skill set in investment banking,” explained Karydas, “and it was important for me to find a role that fully utilized my skill set and professional interests.”

Career in Asset Management
It wasn’t until Karydas transitioned into Asset Management as a healthcare analyst that she felt truly fulfilled by her career path. “The nature of the industry gives me the opportunity to utilize my scientific background and financial markets training while still being able achieve a healthy work-life balance,” she said.

Now, as a Director and Senior Equity Analyst at The Boston Company, Karydas says one of the exciting aspects of her job is moving away from traditional models and incorporating more alternative strategies to maximize the portfolio performance. “It is challenging but interesting work trying to determine new ways to add value for clients,” Karydas noted.

Women in Asset Management: Mentoring is Key
According to Karydas, there is a still a wide leadership gap in asset management, but she is encouraged by the increasing number of women she sees emerging in the industry. As more female asset managers are coming on to the scene, Karydas emphasized just how important mentoring and sponsorship will be in developing the next generation.

“The cycle of mentoring is critical,” Karydas noted, “and when you have influential leaders taking the time to identify young talent and help them navigate their careers, there can be a big impact..”

Finding a mentor and developing that relationship is important to career advancement, but Karydas also stresses the value of hard work and dedication. “Performance matters in Asset Management so you have to work hard and be proactive about your career,” she advised.

Keep reading »

June 11th, 2014 | 6:00 am

How Being an Athlete Can Help Women Advance in Business

John Keyser (1)Guest Contribution by John Keyser

I read with great interest Hadley Catalano’s article “What Do Sports Teach Women in Business” in the recent issue of Glass Hammer. It’s an important perspective, certainly helpful to a great many women, and men should listen up as well! As Hadley states, where prowess in athletics and competitive sports can give us an advantage, so can our emotional intelligence skills. Here’s where women can have an advantage in business leadership. Business is about relationships, how we influence others, how we make others feel about themselves. Women generally have higher emotional intelligence skills than men, and that matters, greatly!

Being athletic gives many of us a sense of inner-confidence, which is so important in business leadership. Yet, to keep egos in check, inner-confidence is best balanced by humility. Certainly, sports keep us humble. Let’s face it, a good batter gets a hit three out of every ten times to the plate, a good free throw shooter may make seven or eight of ten tries at the basket, and certainly a golfer is used to a number of poor shots in every round.

I had the privilege of serving on the board of the Women’s Sports Foundation for a number of years. The foundation was established in 1974 by Billie Jean King and has remained a force ever since. In fact, the foundation is considered the guardian angel of Title IX, standing up for equity for women in sports, business, academia – in life!

Many of the people I know through the work of the Women’s Sports Foundation are simply amazing people, outstanding athletes in soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, diving, sailing, softball, running, gymnastics and other sports. I am talking Olympic caliber, the very best in the world. Yet, they are humble and truly interested in others, helping others succeed.

Are all athletes secure and successful in business? No, certainly not, and here’s a lesson. I cannot take credit for this lesson; credit goes to Mariah Burton Nelson, whom I met through the Women’s Sports Foundation. Mariah was a competitive swimmer and a star center on Stanford’s basketball team. She is now an author and motivational speaker.

Keep reading »

June 10th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Mind Your Career: Why Mindfulness is at the Core of a Successful Career

iStock_000002493020XSmallBy Nneka Orji

Being aware of our surroundings, showing sensitivity in certain situations, putting ourselves in others’ shoes – these all seem obvious things to do both in our professional and personal lives. But what is not so obvious is how being mindful – “being in the zone” – can help our careers.

According to Ellen Langer of the Langer Mindfulness Institute (and first female Professor to gain tenure at Harvard University’s Psychology Department), mindfulness is “the process of actively noticing new things”. By challenging ourselves to ignore the multiple distractions we experience each day, and instead fully absorb ourselves in the task at hand, Langer argues that we can reduce stress levels, improve our ability to think creatively, and improve our performance. In a recent interview with Harvard Business Review, she shared the benefits of mindfulness; “It’s easier to pay attention. You remember more of what you’ve done. You’re more creative. You’re able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. You avert the danger not yet arisen. You like people better, and people like you better, because you’re less evaluative. You’re more charismatic.”

All positive, but can we realistically apply these concepts to business?

Although the concept of mindfulness can be traced back to Buddhism, it was pioneered in America by Jon Kabat-Zinn through his work in the medical field during the 1980s and then with a number of other groups including sports, CEOs and judges. The benefits of mindfulness have been demonstrated throughout society and it is now gaining traction in the professional field – as of 2012, the Financial Times reported that 25% of large US companies had launched ‘stress-reduction’ initiatives .

In 2007 Google successfully introduced Search Inside Yourself (SIY), a mindfulness based programme which provides Googlers with the tools and opportunity to be mindful at work.

With the stream of research providing evidence to support the benefits of mindfulness at work, it is easy to see why this is the case. A recent research article from INSEAD and Wharton showed that mindfulness could lead to better decision making around investments by helping to reduce “sunk-cost-bias” – the tendency to progress an investment despite negative results in order to compensate or justify for earlier investments. An online course on mindfulness developed by Oxford University and Mental Health Foundation claims that participants who have completed the course have experienced “58% reduction in anxiety, 57% in depression and 40% in stress”. There are also examples of mindfulness programmes being effectively incorporated in the legal profession and in the military.

The benefits are clear and apply to both genders; Langer’s HBR interview cited some research during which she asked 2 groups of women to give persuasive speeches; one group using masculine traits and the other group presenting as they would normally. “Then half of each group was instructed to give their speech mindfully, and we found that audiences preferred the mindful speakers, regardless of what gender role they were playing out.” Irrespective of gender, the way we perceive our situations and the way others perceive us can be influenced by the degree to which we apply mindfulness throughout our lives.

With today’s continuous distractions and technology – phones, emails, apps (including those to help with mindfulness) – some of the sceptics among you might think that it is impossible to apply mindfulness in high stress environments associated with New York’s Wall Street, London’s City and lots of other fast paced business cities. But how much of this time is spent on mindless activities?

Moving from Mindless to Mindful
The argument thus far shows that we should approach life (work and personal) more mindfully, so what steps can we take practically to become mindful? Here are 3 things you can start today.

Keep reading »

June 9th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Susan Soh, Partner and Global Head of Marketing and Client Services, Perella Weinberg Partners

susan_soh_pwpBy Michelle Hendelman

Someone once asked Susan Soh, a partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, what she would do if she was to retire today. Her response:

“I would choose to do exactly what I do now because I love it,” said Soh.

If there is one underlying theme that has followed Soh throughout her career, it is that you must be passionate about your work. She first discovered this valuable tenet early in her professional life.

Building a Rewarding Career
Soh, as it turns out, did not always think she would enter the world of financial services. In fact, after graduating from Harvard Law School, she had aspirations of moving to Asia to become a successful attorney. Her trajectory changed, however, when she realized that the corporate legal environment did not ignite a spark in her. “I knew very early on that I would not be happy in a career doing something for which I lacked passion,” said Soh.

Soh, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Yale University, recalled her interest in finance and decided to pursue a career in banking. “The M&A market was heating up at the time and many firms were in search of reformed lawyers to join their team,” explained Soh. She accepted a position as an M&A banker at Bear Stearns. “I worked long, hard hours,” said Soh, “but I loved every minute of it.”

While in this role, Soh expanded her interests and moved to the merchant banking business at Bear Stearns where she worked on private equity investments as well as marketing for the firm’s first institutional fund. That turned into a full-time marketing role, which launched her career in asset raising. When an opportunity presented itself to get in on the ground floor at Lightyear Capital, Soh jumped at the chance to join a venture that appealed to her entrepreneurial nature. It was at Lightyear Capital that she was exposed to the hedge fund industry, an emerging space at the time.

In 2003, Soh entered the hedge fund industry, which brought a whole new world of dynamic markets and different strategies than she had previously experienced in the private equity world. “Very few people make the transition from private equity to hedge funds, so this was definitely new ground for me, but I always found being open to change and new challenges was one of the best ways to advance in your career,” she explained.

During this period, Soh was responsible for hedge fund business development at Highbridge Capital Management. “It was extremely exciting and a great learning experience as I was responsible for marketing each sub-strategy in Highbridge’s multi-strategy fund as a new standalone funds. It was there that I had the opportunity to be mentored by Glenn Dubin, one of the great titans of the hedge fund industry.”

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