The Resolutionary

Happy New Year!

Those of you who know me well, know that I am Type A personality with hyper-ambitions. It would then come as no surprise that I am extremely focused when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. If you followed other blogs of mine you would remember reading about the approach I’ve taken and the advice I gave on how to make effective resolutions that truly stick.

Often times, I begin to set my resolutions before the year has even expired, so that I may get a jump start on their implementation and hit the ground running. This gives me a solid head start while taking off some of that New Year’s Day pressure to which many people succumb. A perfect example is a resolution around diet. Those of you who try to begin eating right on New Year’s Day know that is a futile exercise as all you want to do after a night of partying is to eat crappy food - all day long.  

Along the same concept, of not adding pressure to what is already going to be a challenging task, I also don’t always start all my resolutions on January 1st.  Instead, I may decide that I will achieve the goal during some point in the year. I did this when I was quitting smoking and waited until February when all the holidays were behind me and I was free from distraction and temptation. It then took several months to implement my quitting strategy, but by Lent, I was done with cigarettes. That was 16 years ago.

Each of my resolutions are comprehensive and touch upon almost every category of life. I have notebooks and spreadsheets and Gantt charts that track progress. No task is officially completed unless the box is checked, a process that I find to be gratifying as it allows me to celebrate victory. All of this information is kept in one note book which I’ve had for several decades and frequently read to draw inspiration. Just last week I read my resolution from 2013 which was to write a book and become a published author. “Well done, me!” I thought to myself with a feeling pride and accomplishment.

This year, has been no different in terms of my resolution-setting process which began in December. However, instead of a free-flow of resolution ideas, I haven’t been able to come up with any - not a one.  I continued to think about it through the holidays, but I have drawn a blank. On New Year’s Day, I still had nothing. Not one resolution to show for myself. It was rather strange. So, I decided to have a New Year’s Resolution get together and on Friday night I invited a handful of my highly motivated friends to gather together. We had a blast, drinking champagne well into the night. But by the next morning, the 2019 page in my notebook was still blank.  

Today, I lay in bed for a few extra minutes and just quietly pondered my life. I wondered about the direction in which I should go and what should I do next. I closed my eyes and cleared my mind and began to meditate. I realized that I haven’t fully defined my life’s purpose. Clarity on issues such as this help set the course for our lives. My inability to answer these questions with any degree of certainly made me realize that there may be more that I need to discover about myself.

I seem to have come to a crossroad and instead of decisively moving forward down a path that lay before me, I have stopped. For the first time in my life, I begin a new year unsure of my direction. Instead, I am gazing the landscape and soaking it all in all while I am taking a breadth. One thing that I do know for certain is that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, at this very moment in time…And so are you.

Are Wall Street Men really Scared?

On December 3rd, Bloomberg News ran an article titled “A Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost.” The article describes how men on Wall Street are responding to the #MeToo movement and their approach may create unintended consequences that further set women back in the workplace. Apparently, Wall Street men believe that the risks of being falsely accused of misconduct or having their actions misconstrued by women are far too great and they are avoiding any circumstances that may potentially put their careers in jeopardy. As such, they are opting out of one-on-one situations with women. This approach will limit the amount of bonding time and opportunities that women have to build relationships which are instrumental to their pathway up the career ladder. Some men are even saying that hiring women in itself causes too many complications, and if given the choice, their preferences would be to hire men.

 I however, am not convinced that this is the consensus view of the men on Wall Street but rather a gross generalization made by a few in an attempt to diminish a movement that poses a threat to the natural order of things. Wall Street is still a male-dominated habitat and as women continue to seize power, men are trying to stand their ground and defend their turf. Retaliating against this movement by creating a counter-effect that hinders women’s advancement is a mere effort to keep women in-line and make them think twice about raising accusations. I also believe that those men who prefer to hire men over women do so because they want to perpetuate a “bro culture” and not because they are spooked by the #MeToo movement.  

Over the last 14 months the world has watched as women have seized their power and it has shaken many of our institutions to their core. As the movement has become politicized there has been a fair amount of collateral damage and a number of men have been falsely accused of misbehavior. This is unfortunate. Men have been vilified and they are rightfully concerned. What’s been interesting however, is that as this movement has continued to unfold, Wall Street has remained rather unscathed from the scandals. With its lack of high-profile cases, the industry has kept itself insulated and those looking on from the outside, wonder if a shoe is yet to drop. It may however be unlikely because the heydays of Wall Street’s “bad boy” behaviors are mostly a thing of the past.

Last summer, when I set out to write the second edition of my book, I had a theory. My theory was exactly what was described by the men interviewed for this Bloomberg article. I believed that Wall Street would see a backlash from the #MeToo movement and ultimately this would set women back in the workplace. I also thought that it would hurt the hiring prospects of women. Much to my surprise, as I interviewed many male managers in my industry, their responses did not support my theory. 

While there is no doubt that the #MeToo movement has raised awareness on the Street among men, they are still conducting themselves just as they did before. If they historically went out for dinner and drinks with female colleagues, they continued to do so and the Movement hasn’t necessarily curtailed their behaviors. Most of the men with whom I spoke believe that they treat their female colleagues with respect and decorum; whether they be peers or subordinates. As one man whom I interviewed said and many echoed the same sentiment, “if you walk a straight line then you have nothing to worry about.” This runs along the same lines of Stephen Zweig’s comment in the Bloomberg article “Just try not to be an asshole.”

Since the Bloomberg story broke, I continued to interview men on Wall Street in order to get their reactions. Many thought that the concept of avoiding their female colleagues was a ridiculous notion and went so far as to say that men who are thinking this way are probably the ones who tend to behave badly. Their paranoia may also stem from their inability to trust themselves in the presence of women, particularly when alcohol is involved.

I also think that the type of firm in which you work may come into play. Those who work for large structured organization with policies around issues of harassment may have a different reaction because the lines are more clearly drawn. Larger firms tend to address these issues, especially when patterns of misconduct begin to arise within the culture. Perhaps those working in smaller organizations without robust HR departments may be less clear on which behaviors are permissible and lines may seem a bit more blurred. Structured sell-side firms and large buy-side organizations have strict rules and protocols which protect both men and women.

Women also have to shoulder some responsibility and remain mindful of their own behaviors. The entire concept of my book, Lose the Gum, A Survival Guide for Women on Wall Street, Main Street and Every Street in Between, describes certain female behaviors that hold women back in the workplace. Although crying tops the list of those behaviors, it’s really emotional volatility in general. Women are perceived as unreliable if they cannot keep their emotions in-check. Ask any man what they fear most and they will tell you it’s hysterical women; and it didn’t take the #MeToo movement for this fear to emerge. Men have always been afraid of “crazy.”

Office Holiday Party

‘Tis the season for tidings of joy and Christmas cheer and of course, the office holiday parties. Office parties are a great way to bond the troops, celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to let your hair down. But before you loosen your bun, stop and pause for a moment and think twice about what you do for jollies. Keep in mind, that you are still on company time and as such you are expected to act professionally.

I have to admit, writing this blog post actually bums me out. I grew up in a corporate era riddled with wild behavior and I look back on those days with some degree of fondness and nostalgia. I now understand why older generations refer to the past as the “good ‘ole days.” If you are my age or older you know exactly what I mean, as it was a time of harmless fun – FUN being the operative word. For that one night a year, we threw caution to the wind and behaved like children. We danced and drank and flirted - you heard me correctly, we flirted; something you can no longer do today in a corporate setting.

As we prepare for these year-end parties, it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t provide you with the parental warning to watch your Ps and Qs. Remember that we live in a different time now with a new set of expectations and little to no tolerance for misconduct. When I worked in HR, at least half a dozen people would be fired after the office holiday party each year. It was a time when Wall Street was transitioning from its hey-day of raucous behavior to a more mature and civilized disposition. The industry was growing up. Today, for the most part, everyone behaves like adults. Boring, but necessary, I suppose.

It is important to remind everyone that not only have the rules of social behaviors changed, so has technology. Everyone has camera phones so you can be sure that any hint of misbehavin’ will be forever memorialized on video or worse yet, on the internet. That is something, I can promise, your company will not be cool with. So be careful about that. I also realize that whenever alcohol is involved, judgement becomes clouded and certain behaviors may seem like grey areas.  Let me just outline some boundaries in case you are unclear as to what behaviors may or may not be acceptable.

Dress code: Show up with more than just bells on, it is still a company event, so don’t dress too risqué. While you may wish to come to the office party dressed as Santa, which is perfectly fine, try to refrain from asking the women of the office to sit on Santa’s lap. I can guarantee that will not go over well.

Bathroom etiquette: No matter how long the line is, don’t use the bathroom of the opposite sex, it could lead to a very uncomfortable confrontation with your co-workers.  Another bathroom faux pas is smoking weed. Don’t do that. And of course hooking up with colleagues is also out of the question - but in the case you do, try and be discrete and don’t come to the office the next day wearing the same clothes. That’s usually an obvious giveaway.

Curb your drink: Don’t spike the holiday punch; that could lead to a catastrophe ending up in litigation. Be careful about how much you drink and if you have a low tolerance be sure and eat. You don’t want to hurl on your boss’s shoes – that’ll throw your promotion out the window.

All kidding aside, and yes I was being snarky, but as you troll the ancient Yule-tide carol, let  decorum be your guiding light this corporate holiday season.

Merry Christmas, I mean Happy Holidays!

Seize Opportunity

I once had an assistant who frequently complained about how hard it was to make ends meet. Her husband’s work was unsteady and she had three mouths to feed; money was always tight. At the end of the year, it is customary on Wall Street to pay our staff, out of pocket Christmas bonuses. The range has historically been quite large spanning from a few hundreds to several thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars - all depending upon the firm and its respective culture.

I always believed that the support provided to me by my assistant was invaluable; it was partnership that allowed me to harness my greatest level of efficiency. As such, I rewarded my assistant with a sizable bonus. At one point, my job had changed and I didn’t require as much support from my assistant, but I continued to pay her generously. For that however, I did expect to receive a higher service level than she provided to others; knowing full well, that I was paying her more.

But that’s not what happened. When I reduced her workload, her attitude towards me changed. She prioritized others over me and tended to their administrative needs first. I not only thought it was odd, I thought she was being foolish and had mistakenly assumed that she understood where her bread was being buttered. So, I began to reduce the dollar amount I paid her each year, until it matched what others were paying her. I thought to myself “how dumb is she letting easy money just pass her by?”

But she isn’t alone with this type of mentality. A lot of people allow opportunity to pass them usually because they are so consumed with gripes about the inequity of the system. I have come to realize that even if handed everyone the exact same amount of money, some would end up with more while others with none. The difference between haves and the have nots is not about circumstance but rather about opportunity. Those who stand ready to seize it, capture it. And those are the people who become successful in life.

One of Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules to Success is to “expect the unexpected and always be ready.” Cuban talks about the importance of preparation not just for the worst but for opportunity. Don’t get caught on your heels, be ready to attack the worst, the best, and opportunities.

But how does one learn this?

My ex-mother-in-law always used say “only an open hand gets.” Through the years this has become an expression that I have adopted as my own mantra because only when you are truly open to an opportunity will you be able to recognize it. That is the challenge. So often, we are set on an idea of what an opportunity is supposed to look like and when one comes by in different shape or form, we don’t recognize it and we let it pass us by.

It’s like the Story of A Drowning Man:

A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

“Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

Don’t be the Drowning Man, when an opportunity comes by, seize it.



Small Things Matter

Often times we are so focused on trying to make a dramatic impact that we neglect the little things. But the small stuff does matter much more than you may realize and when you string a bunch of little things together, collectively they can make an impression that could impact your career.  

Here are five small things of which you should take note because although you may disregard them as irrelevant, they do matter.

  1. Say thank you. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought that I should touch upon the importance of expressing gratitude. Showing appreciation demonstrates that you are well-mannered and thoughtful AND that you have humility. The person receiving thanks will feel recognized and appreciated and everyone wants that.

  2. Say good morning and good night – This is a common courtesy that is not so common in the workplace. Often times we are so rushed in the morning that we storm into the office without so much as acknowledging our co-workers as we blow by their desks. It’s poor form as a colleague, but if you are a manager, it is even worse. It shows a lack of consideration and respect for those who work for you.

    In the evening many of us may feel guilt-ridden that we are leaving the office while our co-workers are still working and so we try and sneak out without a proper goodbye and hope that no one will notice. But everyone does notice and trust me when I tell you they sneer at our rudeness.

  3. Remove your headphones – Once you arrive to office and get into the elevator, be mindful of those who are sharing the space with you. Be courteous by turning off the music and engage with those around you. Staying plugged in gives the impression and that you are looking to be distracted from your job as long as possible before you are forced to punch the metaphorical clock. When you arrive at the office try and present yourself as someone who is ready to work and show some interest in the job that you are about to do.

  4. Remember  people’s names – Former JP Morgan Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee was one of the greatest rainmakers of his time - he always remembered people by name. In attending a meeting with him for the first time, he would listen attentively while you introduced yourself and then throughout the meeting he would repeat your name several times to ensure that he memorized it. When you would run into him in the hallways of the building he would always greet you by name. Not only was he a great client guy and relationship builder, he was an instrumental part of developing culture which could make a large firm seem small.

    I have also heard that President Bill Clinton does something very similar and has an unbelievable knack for remembering people’s names – two very charismatic leaders.

  5. Lose the Gum – ok, yes, a shameless plug for my book, but this also happens to be a small thing that can also give a negative impression to one’s overall professional appearance.

    Happy Thanksgiving to All and I look forward to seeing you at my book discussion on November 28, 2018 at Civic Hall. Please register through the link here.


“It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game.” We’ve all heard this this expression, while growing up, it was usually told to us after we lost some competition or sporting event. None of us ever believed it. I myself saw through its intention which was simply to make losers feel better about themselves. I however, never subscribed to it as a philosophy by which I wanted to live.

When I was much younger than I am today, the quote that resonated with me was “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I think it was Vince Lombardi who said that. I believed that healthy competition brought out the best in people and kept us all striving. After all, it’s what helped us build this great nation. But as I got older and hopefully wiser, I recognized the flaw in that sort of thinking. I also saw the dangers that it creates for our culture.

This very mindset that puts winning above all, implies a loose fitting sense of integrity where the rules are easily bent for the greater goal of the win. With a mentality such as this we become egocentric and risk stunting the development of our own empathy. Winning at all costs creates a society in which a sense of entitlement sets the morale code. An ethical approach to winning is therefore very important to teach in a competitive environment.   

As someone who has been competing all her life, I have lost plenty and as I matured, I began to recognize the value in losing. Not only has losing taught me humility and perseverance but it has grounded me to the realities of world; it helped prepare me for the adversities that I would come to face, when life indiscriminately smacked me down. Losing has also allowed me to maintain composure under stress by providing me with the perspective needed to contextualize the loss. In summary, losing builds more character than winning.

Throughout my life, I have observed many who have never learned how to lose. Incidentally, they are also the same people who have never been told “no” which in corporate settings prove to be problematic, time and time again. Learning to lose with dignity and grace speaks volumes about an individual as anyone can seem swell when they are winning. It’s when the chips are down and they are losing that you get a real sense of the kind of person they truly are.

Losing is an instrumental part of evolution and an integral part of the process. We learn life lessons from losing which is critical to our own evolution. Ask any successful person and they will tell you that they learned more from times they lost than from when they won. But losing can be painful, so naturally we would choose winning over losing every time.

But on a deeper note, I have come to learn that placing such a heavy emphasis on winning is also a direct path to unhappiness because in a zero sum world you are also required to constantly tally the scores. Comparing yourself to your friends and neighbors in that manner, will only exacerbate lack. But life isn’t a zero sum game and as such, it truly is about how you play and not whether you win or lose.



Submitted Question | The Silicon Ceiling

This week’s blog topic is based on a question submitted by one of my readers.

Q:  After exploring careers both in tech and in finance, I've pivoted my career path towards tech, with the hopes that it would be a more equitable place for women than the typical "men's only" club that Wall Street perpetuates. However, according to various sources, the data shows that even Wall Street outpaces Silicon Valley in terms of gender representation. What factors that you have seen that might contribute to this disparity, and how can today's generation of new talent change workplace culture to make both environments more equitable?

The disparity between men and women on Wall Street continues to be an issue with which many firms grapple. Over the last two decades, the financial services industry overall has seen an improvement in the numbers, but progress has been slow and varies from firm to firm.  


While working in Human Resources almost two decades ago, I can recall the abhorrent male to female ratios. At the analyst level the percentages barely hit 30% and those numbers were even worse for women hired with MBAs at the associate level. To address these issues, the industry began to make a concerted effort to hire more women. However, the pool of female candidates interested in pursuing careers in finance were limited; attracting women into an industry known for its grueling hours and incessant boy’s club was a challenge. The culture required shifting and policies had to change but with management commitment, we began to see the needle move. Additional feeder programs were also implemented and we began to introduce women to careers in financial services as early as high school. The result of all the efforts have yielded near parity at the entry levels.


Although we were seeing improving ratios at entry, we saw a steep drop offs in retention at the VP levels. While many women were leaving because of life choices of having children, many were leaving because they felt they were losing opportunities to their male colleagues. Breaking into the boy’s club seemed to be too difficult and with so few women in leadership positions, breaking through the glass ceiling seemed nearly impossible.

Today, Wall Street still continues to have retention challenges but as the industry displays a solid commitment to diversity and continues to address the critical issues that women face in the workplace, the situation will only improve.

The Silicon Ceiling

While Wall Street’s main issue today is around retention, the Tech sector is facing a number of challenges that impact its diversity statistics. Silicon Valley faces tremendous pipeline issues as only 15% of tech employees are female. The claim from the industry is that while more women are graduating from universities than men, very few women are majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math which are the degrees sought after by Tech companies. Even firms like Facebook with Sheryl Sandberg, the poster child for women in the workplace as its COO, don’t tout any better statistics. With such a small pipeline of women you can bet that retention is also an issue in Tech companies as there is often a correlation between pipeline and retention.


Within the bowls of the Tech companies a pervasive “bro” culture runs rampant. With locker room type antics that lead to the ill-treatment of women, it’s no wonder that the number of females that work in Tech has actually seen a decline over the last few decades.

While tech companies claim their issue of gender diversity is a problem that can only be genetically solved if women were to become better at math, their greater issue is culture. The power in Silicon Valley is concentrated within a small group of individuals who haven’t yet been incentivized to change. Their formula for success has worked for them thus far and an impetus for change has yet to emerge.

If Silicon Valley were truly serious about improving diversity in the Tech sector then it could have learned a lot from the lessons of Wall Street. But human nature doesn’t necessarily work that way and when you have an industry where a low levels of EQ are prevalent amongst its executives, awareness and empathy become scarce. Silicon Valley is just going to have to learn its own lessons and endure its own growing pains. Much like Wall Street the driving change won’t come from a sense of moral responsibility or civic duty, but instead, change will come because of UBER lawsuits.

Join me on Wednesday, November 28th at Civic Hall as we discuss issues that women face in male dominated industries. Click here for event details and sign-up.

Are You Hungry?

My cousin once asked me “Out of all of the cousins, how is it that you got the least handed to you in life but became the most successful?” My answer to her was that it was BECAUSE I did get the least, that I became successful. It is difficult to muster up hunger when your belly is full and as such it is hard to develop a sense of hustle when everything is provided for you.

Growing up, money was scarce in my family and it was the source of a lot of stress for my parents. In early adulthood, I shared their monetary woes as the sudden death of my mother sent my father into financial ruin. A sobering realization came over me: with no connections and clearly no trust fund, it was ALL up to me; anything that I was going to make of myself would be solely based on my own abilities.

I was hungry and I learned how to hustle.  

As human beings we are wired for survival which instinctually motivates us to always get what we need; even if we aren’t consciously aware of what that need is. For my own survival, I needed to eliminate that feeling of dread that I felt around the topic of money. Attaining security through wealth was paramount to me and it became the source of my ambition. That directly translated into the hunger I felt and it gave me the hustle that was required to satiate that hunger. 

My story however, isn’t unique as we all know that some of the world’s most successful people came from the humblest of beginnings which they themselves attribute as the fuel that drove their success.

These same behavioral traits that have been deemed as success factors are visible early on in one’s career. I even see these behavioral patterns emerging with many young professionals whom I mentor. I could always tell the kind of background someone has had based on their level of hustle – how quickly they respond when I offer to help them, how assertive they are with pursuing follow-ups and how persistent they are with follow-through. Years later, as I check-in on their careers, I am never surprised by who among them has achieved great levels of success.

So can hunger be taught?

I often joke with my friends as they look for ideas and advice on how to raise successful children. My comment to them is this “The best thing that you can do for your kids, is to give them nothing.” I know that sounds rather harsh and of course I don’t mean it literally but there does seem to be a correlation between growing up with lack and your level of hunger.  

Of course parents aren’t going to deprive their children in order to spawn some killer instinct. While hunger may be inherent based on motivations developed though the conditions of our upbringing other success factors can be taught - a strong work ethic that rejects complacency chief among them.

The “F” Word

If you thought this post was about fornication and sexual performance you could stop reading now. Sorry to disappoint, but the “F” Word to which I am referring, is none other than Fear.

When I wrote Lose the Gum, I spent a great deal of time researching the role that confidence plays in our success and how many of our self-sabotaging behaviors are rooted in fear. It is widely understood that insecurities and low self-esteem create self-doubts that prevent us from moving forward and hold us back from achieving our ambitions.

What I did however, find to be quite interesting is the role that environment plays in fostering fear and subsequently hindering our success. The very conditions of our surroundings actually have physiological effects on our bodies and our minds and impact the quality of our thinking. Certain high-stress environments induce fear and can keep us operating in a perpetual state of panic which is not conducive to producing our best quality work.  

Fear is our emotional response to the presence of danger. It is our most primal survival instinct that kicks in when standing in front of a hungry tiger that wants to eat us like we’re a Scooby snack. When we are suddenly scared the hypothalamus takes over and makes a decision for us about whether to flee or to fight. Fear hijacks the frontal lobe and pre-frontal cortex which is the part of the brain that is responsible for careful thought, decision making and all executive functions. 

Operating in a constant state of frenzy keeps our brain and body locked in a reverberating circuit while our brains lose their sophistication. The result is simpleminded thinking with a loss of perspective and an inability to differential shades of gray. Intelligence even dims. Instead of actively managing, we resort to merely reacting to problems as they happen. This fear based existence undermines our ability to succeed.

Culture plays a role in creating an environment that perpetuates a state of fear. Consider the case of an executive who admits to being overwhelmed or overloaded. Generally employees who seem unable to keep up the pace are seen as deficient or weak. But companies do themselves a disservice by keeping staff overwhelmed which then fosters high-stress environments that prevent employees from performing at their best.

If you find yourself working in an environment where you are in a constantly overwhelmed or in a perpetual state of panic, here are some tips that can help you manage the situation :

·         Interact with a person you like every 4 to 6 hours. By connecting comfortably with people you enjoy helps reduce brain stress.

·         When you feel overwhelmed, do easy tasks first. That way, you feel more competent to conquer bigger, more complex tasks.

·         Plan to accomplish your most difficult tasks when you are at your best during the day.

·         If you're a manager, delegating effectively will improve your performance.

·         Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, and exercise. This will keep your brain in its best condition.

·         Think positively.


Mentorships and Sponsorships

Last Friday, I spoke on a panel at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on the topic of Mentorships and Sponsorships. The topic garnered quite a bit of interest from the audience and so I thought it was worthwhile to share a summary of the discussion as well as some insights offered by the panelists, who were executives from across various industries.

What is the difference between mentorship and sponsorship?

Mentors are individuals who will provide you with advice and guidance in an effort to facilitate your career advancement. The idea is that mentors, through their own experiences have the insight needed to help you navigate career challenges that you may be facing.  

Sponsors are individuals who advocate on your behalf. They are usually senior people within your organization that are willing to put their own professional capital on the line for you. They are willing to do so because you have done a good job for them and they feel as sense of reciprocity. When talent is discussed at the management table they will represent you and showcase your capabilities to ensure you are considered for arising opportunities.

Should you have both a mentor and a sponsor?

Yes, if you can get both. I have had multiple mentors at the same time in my career and there is really no limit to how many mentors you could or should have. Sponsors are more difficult to obtain because they put their own reputation on the line to speak on your behalf and not everyone is willing to do that. If you can get a sponsor, the difference it can make to your career is material. Sponsors are usually people of influence that will recommend you for a job and tout your accomplishments. Sponsorships depend upon the culture of your organization and they usually form organically - although I have asked people if they would be my sponsor in certain situations.

How do you find a mentor?

You never know where you will find a mentor. Just like all human relationships, the most effective mentor-mentee relationships are ones that form organically because of some common interests. I personally have never found organized mentor programs to work to any degree of effectiveness. Those relationships feel contrived and ultimately they become a corporate “check the box”exercise. 

You never know where you will meet a mentor. One of the panelists told a story about how one day while commuting into the city, her bus broke down and she spent several hours speaking with the gentlemen who sat next to her. He became her mentor and continues to mentor her to this day. What I found interesting was that she never spoke to this gentleman before that day because anyone who commutes from suburbia knows that the morning commute is quiet time.

I too have found mentors on my commute when I lived in New Jersey and took the ferry into the city. I have always found that the additional bond of living in the same community tends to incentivize people to help. The bonds tend to be longer lasting and stronger particularly because you continuously see each. The more you have in common the stronger the bond will be. You can have as many mentors as you like or need. I’ve had different mentors for different purposes throughout my career.

Audience question: If a mentee doesn’t follow your advice do you feel like they’re wasting your time?

I would say the answer depends on the ego and you should be mindful of this.

One of the panelists said yes. That she is so busy that if you come to her unprepared and not having followed her advice she would feel like you are wasting her time.

I have a different perspective and said no. Ultimately it is your career and you have to follow the advice that you think is best for you and that you are most comfortable with following. Sometimes a complex or high-stakes problem may require the council of several mentors and the advice you receive may be different from each one. I would then follow the advice that feels most sensible to me. If however a mentee comes to me with the same issue over and over again, not having followed my advice, then I may begin to feel like my time is being wasted.

Have you ever seen any negative effects of a mentorship?

It is important to recognize that not all advice is good advice and not everyone is good at giving advice. Learn to discern good advice from bad advice by exercising pragmatism.  

Not all mentors have your best interest at heart. Many industries are competitive and there are many people who may may not want you to succeed; they may intentionally steer you wrong. Be careful of that.

Also be weary, if you are young woman and there is a senior male mentor who is taking an unusual interest in your career, you should question their intentions. You should also be mindful of the optics - spending an inordinate amount of time with your senior mentor may ignite rumors around the office. Keep in mind that most people in corporate America aren’t in their roles for altruistic purposes and nobody goes so far on a limb to help anyone’s career. And if they do, you should be weary of their intentions – apologies for my cynicism.


Social Media Dangers

Over the last decade or so social media has given us the gift of global connectivity at our finger tips; and world has relished in it. Facebook has united us with long lost friends and family while LinkedIn has provided a platform to maintain and expand professional networks. Other sites have offered their own value propositions and each one continues to further expand their utility. But for all their good, there is danger to heed.

In certain industries, serious professionals have expressed their trepidation with social media as these sites offer a bit too much insight into one’s personal life. There is a genuine concern that certain behaviors taken out of context may come across as careless. This could potentially reflect poorly upon a person’s perceived professional demeanor. Think about it, no one really wants to see the surgeon that is removing their gallbladder in a few days, tagged at a tailgate party amongst a group of drunken, shirtless face painters. And I mean no disrespect to face painters.

Companies have long been using social media sites as credibility checks of potential candidates whom they want to hire; especially at the entry and more junior levels. In conducting such a search companies are hoping to discern an individual’s sense of judgement and maturity. I have even seen situations where human resources have used social media sites as evidence in a case against problematic employees. Keep this in mind and remember to post responsibly.

Last year, as I perused Facebook, I noticed pictures of a friend’s college-age daughter who was dressed up and ready to go out with her friends. Her outfit was extremely risqué - more so than any of the other girls in the photo. It gave me pause for an eye brow raise. I don’t consider myself to be a prude but I’m not sure posting such a picture was a good idea. Looking at it from the perspective of a hiring manager, I put her character into question. Wearing such an outfit is one thing, but posting pictures of it on social media for the world to see, is quite another.

In my book “Lose the Gum” I discuss the importance that brand has on your career. We form our brands through our actions and behaviors and our brand helps shape the way people perceive us. In business your brand is your reputation and it establishes your credibility. Ultimately, your brand is your currency.

Part of your brand includes your persona and demeanor on social media. This is especially true if your personal social media sites are linked to your professional sites because the two will inevitably conflate. Your persona on your personal site should somewhat align with your professional identity. If they don’t, the disconnect will make you seem inauthentic.

Another aspect to keep in mind when it comes to your social media brand are your political opinions. As of late, our political climate is highly charged and your views and affiliations may come in direct conflict with those of an employer or customer. Because convictions are so strong these days, you may find yourself shut out of opportunities or losing customers based on opposing ideologies. We have long been taught that the three topics you should never discuss in the office or at your place of business are politics, religion or sex. In that respect the rules of engagement have not changed and you would be wise to curtail your opinions while in the workplace. You should also be mindful of this on social media because those with whom you interact in a profession capacity may follow you on social media. Be careful and thoughtful is all I’m sayin’.

Whether or not you chose to express your political stance is one thing but your communication style is quite another. How you convey your messages is extremely important to your brand. I would even venture to say that the how is more important than the what. Many of us have watched and some have even participated in the blood bath that is taking place on social media. Civil discourse seems to have become a forgotten concept and the gloves are off. People are downright nasty. Constant participation in these types of exchanges impact your social media brand. In social settings, I frequently hear people refer to some as “that crazy one who always rants about [x].” Is that what you want your brand to be?

Social media has become an integral part of our society. It is not only how we socialize, it has also become an instrumental and sometimes critical part of how we conduct business. The latter needs to be carefully considered when engaging on social media because what began as a tool for good has also become a weapon that seeks to destroy.


Beyond the disbelief that women have endured in matters of sexual assault and harassment is an issue deeper than the abuse itself - there is an underlying credibility issue that plagues women. Since the beginning of time, history has painted women as temptresses that use manipulation and deception as their tools. This has even been supported by the very first story of biblical teachings as Eve persuaded Adam into taking a bite of the apple. Thousands of years later, it is this perception of women that has been ingrained into our society and puts our sexual integrity into constant question. This even transcends into the workplace and translates into a broad description that women are emotionally unreliable and subsequently unfit for certain roles. But that is all now changing.

In the era #MeToo more and more people are willing to believe women particularly in scenarios of sexual assault and harassment. Through this movement, we have seen accusations of sexual misconduct sweep across industries and purge notorious abusers from our workforce and in many cases from our society completely. Women have not only gotten the support that we’ve longed for but we have gained an enormous amount of power in a relatively short span of time. I would even venture to say that we have gotten a windfall of power. But that actually concerns me because obtaining too much power too quickly creates a situation ripe for abuse.

With our newly heard voices and a platform designed to protect these voices comes duty and responsibility. Any abuse of this power and misuse of its purpose will only reignite the deceptive stigma that women have been fighting to disparage. We are worthy and deserving but that draws a fine line between entitled. It is important to ensure that this Movement remains pure in its purpose and we do not allow it to be hijacked for personal benefit or vengeance or as we’ve seen in the Kavanaugh hearings, to be used as a political tool. Once that line is crossed, the credibility of both the Movement and of women will be shattered. Regaining trust will be difficult.

Sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace has existed as long as there have been men in power and the #MeToo Movement has removed the inoculation that men once had against the accusations of women. What the Kavanaugh hearings have further demonstrated is that even the most privileged men in our country have to answer for sexual misconduct allegations. We clearly have their attention now, the question is, will we use it for good and to advance social progress or will we use it to seek revenge and retribution for millennia of oppression and abuse?

I for one do not believe that a history of struggle entitles women to sweeping penalties of guilt that slot an entire gender into a perpetrator framework. Just as not all women lie and deceive, not all men are guilty of sexual misconduct. So rather than choosing a side, I will choose truth. Sexual abuse of any kind is a serious offense but so are the allegations themselves. Neither the abuse nor the allegations should be taken lightly and any abuse and misrepresentation of the truth weakens the entire Movement and diminishes its cause.

Unless the standard by which we operate puts truth at the forefront, the Movement will not have a sustainable path forward and may eventually cease to exist. Due process cannot become overshadowed by the power of momentum and destroy everything in its pathway with little consideration given to collateral damage. A cause that is meant for good cannot destroy so many in the process. We have to be better than that and we can be. But in order to do so we cannot lead with anger. Instead we must have open dialogue that includes men in our discussions. And making men the villains of our pain will only hurt us in the end.

Build Trust First, Then Lead

Is it really better to be feared than to be loved? Well, not necessarily. Although fear has long been used as a form of motivation, leaders who elicit fear are at risk of undermining creativity and problem solving while stifling a culture of “speak-up.” According to research documented by the Harvard Business Review, trust in leadership has greater long term benefits as employees are much more likely to embrace a firm’s values, culture and the company’s mission.

People respond more positively to leaders who are likable and lead with warmth than those who are viewed as competent which is often associated with fear. People respond to warmth much faster than competence and warmth is considered to be a conduit of influence. Warmth facilitates trust and communications and increases information sharing, openness and cooperation - all of which are attributes of a healthy culture.

As a leader you should note that before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you. If they don’t trust you as a leader, they will not follow you with any real authenticity – meaning you will fail to capture the hearts of your employees. Your ability to influence as a leader and get people to fully embrace your vision and your message will depend upon your ability to establish trust within the organization.

So why are leaders more concerned with competence rather than connecting with their employees?

Well let’s examine this for a moment. With the pressures that exist in today’s organizations, leaders are given a short time horizons to prove their value. We associate leadership with strength and then set an expectation that encourages the optics. Leading with warmth however, is about vulnerability. How confident and self-assured a leader is will determine their threshold for vulnerability. Additionally, in order to connect with people, you must also be connected with yourself. Leaders who lack self-awareness will be hard pressed to connect with those whom they lead.

It is more difficult to hate people up close, so lean in.

So often, leaders forget basic tenets of building relationships because they don’t think of the people who they lead, as individuals. But organizations are made up of people and everyone has basic human wants and needs. Everyone wants respect and a sense of belonging. They also want recognition; not only for the work they are doing, but to be recognized as a person. Reaching out to individuals and getting to know people by name goes along way at building loyalty and trust. Connect first, then when you lead, people will follow.

How to lead with warmth

It isn’t easy to lead with warmth particularly in a cutthroat environment. But non-verbal cues and body language speak volumes about what kind of leader you are. Tone and pitch of voice gives way to your enthusiasm and your receptivity to ideas. Your physical posture in front of others also tells a story: head down, arms crossed and the pivot of your body away from those you are speaking to are all signs of someone who is closed off.

Your words matter. Telling stories is a great way to connect but telling a story that ends with how great you are probably won’t connect you to your audience. Humility tends to be more effective while compassion and empathy go a long way, especially when boosting morale under grueling conditions.

Leading with warmth is more challenging for some than for others. If you are a leader struggling to lead with warmth make a human connection than I can offer you one simple tip - SMILE.

Failure is a Myth

As we strive for success and look for that silver bullet that will catapult us to career advancement we also look for one to inoculate us against failure. Most of us are terrified of failing but any truly successful person will tell you that failure is a necessary part of the success equation. I would even add that if you aren’t failing then you probably aren’t taking enough risk. This concept has been rather eye opening for me. When I first heard it, I recognized my own risk aversion and saw that I only really take chances after I’ve carefully calculated my odds of succeeding and then I only act when those odds are favorable or comfortable to me. As such I probably haven’t reached the full potential of my capabilities. Have you? 

How many of you are so afraid of failing that you don’t take chances?

Upon further study of failure as a critical ingredient to success, I have learned that failures bring forth new beginnings and failure acts as a catalyst for change. But human beings are creatures of habit and most of us don’t like change so there is little appeal to the concept of a new beginning. Instead we do the exact same thing that we do every day and often hope that it will yield a different result; which is also the definition of insanity.

I have learned that enormously successful people have failed many times before hitting it big. Failure is also an important part of their learning process. In order to grow we need to continue to learn and failure brings with it valuable teachable moments. The value of failure only exists if we allow ourselves to learn from the experience. If we let our failures hold us back by impacting our confidence, and becoming the mental barriers that prevent us from trying again, then their value is somewhat wasted. Learn to use the lessons to make you smarter and wiser. Don’t allow your failures to dictate your narrative. If it doesn’t serve you in a way that is beneficial then let it go!

Cool Things

As you may have noticed, I've been radio silent for the last several weeks as I tried to balance some much needed R&R with a boat-ton of work that I had to do for my passion project. All of this and all of you are my passion project, in case you were wondering - and it’s what keeps me inspired and motivated. But now that summer is over, it is time to get back into the rhythm. So here’s what I got going on….

  • Labor Day has come to pass and with it marks the anniversary of my mother’s death. This is of course a somber time for me, but I also treasure it and hold it dear, in her honor. The reason I mention this, in what is essentially a career blog, is because I always attribute her death as a driving force behind my success.

    I admit that the years following her passing were an extremely brutal way to start my adult life, but hovering at rock bottom really only provided me with one direction in which to proceed – UP! Somewhere in the depths of despair, I found strength and resolve and a will to strive. I always say that I am who I am today because of my mom's death, as it was the one single event that changed every aspect of my life. This one is mine, but I leave this with you as food for thought as you reflect on your own life.

    Back to business and making money:

  • Tonight I am attending an options trading class to brush up on some hedging strategies for my personal trading account. As you know the market has seen a straight shot up since the election, which is great but it also leaves us exposed, should it all fall to pieces. Putting on some hedges in order to protect against downside risk seems like a good idea to me, but I am no expert and want to learn more. As I prepare for this class, I have been looking at my own portfolio and am pondering the following:  buy NKE on the dip?

  • Interesting reading: For those of you who worked at Merrill, you may remember Harley Bassman aka the Convexity Maven. Harley is a brilliant guy and my former partner in Meet the Markets initiative. I recently caught up with Harley, who has spent the last decade working at PIMCO’s crappy office location in Newport Beach, CA. Attached is Harley’s latest publication – a must read if you follow the debt markets:

Cool Things

1.  Cool things continue as I have been asked to speak on a panel at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women this October. This conference is one of the premier women’s conferences and is attended by 10,000 participants. This year’s key note speaker is Amal Clooney, an accomplished Human Rights Lawyer who found stardom through her marriage to Actor George Clooney - Go figure, America. Conference Link

2.  I am working on a second edition of my book “Lose the Gum” which will include a few more chapters including one on the topic of harassment in the workplace. The book will be released in September.

3.  And the coolest, most dearest thing that happened to me this week was when I received an email from Saint Basil’s Academy inviting me to be a guest speaker at a new program they are developing on Women’s Leadership and Business. Saint Basil’s is a tiny, private, all girl’s highschool outside of Philadelphia. The reason that this is so special to me, is that my mother, who died when I was just eighteen years old, went to this highschool. The school randomly came across my book, found my website and reached out to me. This all just happened today and means more to me than all else combined. 

The Art of Networking

The Art of Networking

Networking is both a necessary tool and useful skill that everyone utilizes at some point in their careers. For many people however, networking can be a dreadful process of meaningless small talk which one hopes to exchange for some type of career chit which is why it can feel forced and contrived. And if that is how you feel about networking, then I can assure you that you probably aren’t going about it in the right way. I would even venture to say that your style of networking is probably ineffectual and I doubt that it is bearing any meaningful fruit.

Cool Things

Cool Things

I am on vacation this week at my friend’s Lake House in the Adirondacks which is a Cool Thing in itself. Thanks Damian for being such a generous friend and graciously lending me your lake house for the week! This is the place that I came to work on my book two years ago. It is truly a writer’s paradise.

Managing your Manager

Managing your Manager

Equally as important as the role you have, is the manager to whom you report. Your manager can make or break your career; a good manager can give you the support and exposure you need to attain the recognition you deserve while a bad manager could set you so far back that it could take years to recover. Not only does your manager determine your fate within the company, but they are responsible for setting the tone of the working environment which impacts the culture of the department.

Cool Things

Cool Things

Life is moving at a fast and furious pace and if we don't stop for a moment in order to acknowledge the cool things that we experience then they vanish from our minds. In an effort to give these moments a longer life span, I thought that I would jot them down and share them with you. So here is a short list of what I’ve seen, heard, read or did this week that may either interesting, useful or just plain fun.