Sure, I set a goal to raise my hand more often, and speak up when I have a differing opinion, but I never wanted to sound like a blubbering idiot. I take Abraham Lincoln’s words to heart: better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. It worked out pretty well for him.
Let me set the tone. I work in private-wealth-management, old-family-money, finance. An area dominated by big banks, like Goldman Sachs (my alma-mater), that despite the vampire squid reputation have a phenomenal women’s network and my particular group within GSAM was probably 70% women. Girl power.
Despite these big city centers, there are still plenty of mom & pop shops that follow the “old men with grey hair are always right” rule. And I, unfortunately, ran into one the other day. I sat, unassumingly, in an introductory meeting with my manager and this horrendous, aggressive salesperson. Sure, my manager, who happens to be an ex-investment banker and a partner of our firm (and husband to a go-getting entrepreneurial wife), did all the talking, but the letters CFA after my name don’t stand for Cute Fancy Accessory.
To prove the point of how our firm acts as investors, not simply allocators, the example was given, “If Alana suggests we invest with a health care manager because of the regulatory modifications and changes in demographics…” A normal person would nod and listen, but not this guy. He snorted and punctured the air with his narrow-minded judging crack, “Ha! Alana?”
Did that just happen?
Did he think I was incapable of coming up with this investment conclusion? I was fuming, but I kept my cool. I had to act professional, right? I thought all mid-westerners were friendly and tolerant?
I was pissed, but for the rest of the day I couldn’t stop smiling. My manager shared my view that the guy was insufferable. He recycled the guy’s pitch books, ignored his phone calls, and deleted his emails. I was reminded through out the day just how much I was valued.
In the afternoon, a finance girlfriend waved me down in the hallway. At dance class in the evening, the substitute teacher (and unbelievable dancer) asked me to lead a group across the floor, a job she believed I was capable of. Then, a new friend asked me to take a picture with her before I left for the holidays. And at night, I met up with my husband and his work friends, who invited us to their New Year’s Eve bash.
The line between the squeaky wheel and the babbling buffoon may be blurred, but my optimism never is. Smart people don’t invest with stupid people. Simple enough. Looks like red-haired, young women are the new grey-haired, old men.