The Brand of You

New York city, 7pm, Wall Street.

It’s day two of our trip to the big apple and we are in the heart of the financial district. En-route to meet Deirdre O’Connor, a Managing Director in Goldman Sachs. Impressive.

Well-spoken, accomplished and highly sought after, we really are privileged to have an evening with one of Wall Street’s top female bankers.

The opening discussion naturally veers towards the topic of women in business, more specifically, women in senior management. With $35 billion under management, Deirdre is uniquely placed to discuss the travails of operating at a senior level within a male dominated world.

As a co-chair of the Finance Women’s Network, Deirdre is more than accustomed to advocating for more women to be hired at senior management level. Her thoughts on the matter are concise, frank and relevant. Positive discrimination isn’t a runner. Why? Because people should be promoted on talent regardless of sex. A very simple answer to a difficult question.

Due to her professional success and having worked with firms such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Barclays, the WIP class are intrigued to know what has helped her to get where she is today and the questions quickly begin to flow.

Her answers are once again, concise, relevant and honest – It’s about creating a branding for yourself and “not being discovered but discoverable”.

Hard work and a positive attitude are extremely important, but they are fundamentals, a given. What really matters is building a strong network, converting opportunities and leveraging relationships. Asking yourself “What image am I portraying” is the first step. Regardless of whether you agree or not, perception is often reality.

This “Brand of You” requires investment in terms of both money and time. It is not an overnight transformation but rather a genuine cultivation of your professional character through an on-going learning and development process. Most people tend to stop studying when they finish college, so why not swim upstream and ensure that anywhere you go you use it as a university.

She continues to emphasises that as you work on your brand, you need to build lasting relationships along the way and this is with members of every level of the organisation as well as externally. You never know who you might meet and you always want someone in the room to be an advocate of you, willing to stand up and speak on your behalf.

The importance of networking cannot be understated was the key message Deirdre delivered to the WIP class of 2012. Being turned down for a job or promotion because you don’t have the necessary skills set or experience is completely understandable but if it is because “enough people don’t know you”, then you’re in trouble.