"You learn by doing. It helps you figure out what you do and don’t want to do with your career."
This is just one of the learnings that over 200 of our brightest female undergraduates took away from Bright Network Women in Leadership on Wednesday 6th September 2017. These select few driven candidates had been chosen to attend to learn more about the areas of Business & Finance, Investment Banking and Investment Management – one had even got up at 4am to make it to the event.
The day started with some warm-up activities, giving attendees the chance to meet and get to know each other. Anna Stupnytska, Global Economist at our premier sponsor Fidelity International, then set the students up for the day ahead with her keynote speech. She gave some insights on what she looks for in interviews - not technical knowledge taken from the front page of the FT on the day of interview but an open mindset and a variety of interests, showing that you’re a rounded person. Demonstrating that you want to learn and improve yourself was important to her, and this was a theme that many of the speakers returned to throughout the day.
This was followed by questions and answers with two Bright Network Alumni, who came to share their success stories. Jasmine Slade is about to start a Graduate Consulting Analyst with Accenture, while Vanessa Odunsi is a 4th year student at UCL who has just received a graduate offer at J.P. Morgan, where she completed a summer internship. They gave some great advice to the students including:
- You're never too late to try something. The only way to choose is talk to real people at firms.
- When talking to a client always come with a solution, never a problem.
- Having a positive attitude, being proactive and showing attention to detail are vital.
- Try to build up your commercial awareness as much as you can. I still read the Bright Network Commercial Awareness Update each week.
- I've been to lots of Bright Network events, they're all useful so I'd recommend going to as many as you can and making the most of them.
The students then moved into sector networking, where they spent 10-15 minutes meeting the firms attending, including premier sponsor Fidelity International, as well as Bank of England, Berenberg, CII, Deloitte, EY, HSBC, Insight Investment, J.P.Morgan, M&G Investments, Schroders, Silicon Valley Bank, T. Rowe Price and Willis Towers Watson. The attendees had lots of insightful questions and one of the firms commented afterwards: “That was excellent. It was so intense, I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
After lunch, the students attended a panel discussion with female leaders from their chosen area.
The Investment Management panel tackled topics including workplace sexism and how the culture of Investment Management differs from Investment Banking - it’s more about longer term relationship building with clients over your career. The advice from the panel was: be bold, take risks, be authentic, be curious and, if you’re not enjoying what you do, then stop and start again.
The Investment Banking panel encouraged the students to step out of their comfort zone and ask lots of questions. They also recommended looking for female role models and mentors within their organisation, particular those who have a great balance of work and family life.
For the bright women interested in Business and Finance, the final panel covered challenges they faced in their careers, including learning to say “no” when you’re starting your career and want to be involved in everything, as well as being in a minority as a woman in leadership - though this is starting to change. The industry leaders on the panel also advised how to act if you have a disaster at work - hold your hand up straight away and deal with it quickly, everyone will have made a mistake at some point and your team is there to help.
A few top tips included:
- Try to think about industry problems and how you’d solve them - you could end up somewhere interesting.
- Take ownership of your career and if you want something, let people know.
- Women ask for promotion when they’re 95% of the way there but men ask when they’re only 60% of the way there – the message to women is to be bold and take it into your own hands to ensure you’re not being left behind.
The day was rounded off with the Bright Network Awards ceremony, where the firms chose to reward Bright Network members who had achieved excellence. With fourteen outstanding students awarded prizes by some of the world’s leading firms, the attendees of Bright Network Women in Leadership 2017 may well go on to become the future leaders of these firms.