- Michal Katz is the global co-head of technology investment banking at RBC Capital Markets.
- In this op-ed, she describes some of the challenges, detours, and cultivating experiences that have shaped her career in the male-dominated world of Wall Street.
- She also shares her best tips for professional longevity, including to listen as much as — if not more than — you speak. It’s the ideal way to learn and gain insights about your clients’ objectives and opponents’ vulnerabilities.
Recent graduates and up-and-comers I meet often show a keen interest in the steps and paths I have taken to achieve what is, by most standards, a successful career. The road to a Wall Street leadership role in an industry that remains male-dominated is paved with challenges, detours, and cultivating experiences that have shaped my career and leadership style. I hope that by sharing a glimpse into my journey, I can perhaps illuminate a path for others.
The path to Wall Street
Growing up in Israel, I was given the gift of reading by my parents who sought to continually improve our collective lives. Whether immersing in the adventures of Jules Verne, exploring history or acquiring knowledge, I learned to develop points of views and advocacy for causes, planting the seeds of a career in law.
It was in high school after we immigrated to the US that those seeds took root. Reading “Compulsion,” a story about the legal defense by the renowned civil liberties lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of the Leopold and Loeb murder case, encouraged me to enter law school with the dream of making my mark on the jurisprudence system. While interning in a corporate law firm, I was also drawn to the world of finance.
This shift in interest was not embraced by my parents, who as small-business owners, encouraged us to pursue a more stable profession, such as law, medicine or accounting. Yet, my career in law was short-lived, as I joined Lehman Brothers, an investment bank newly spun out of American Express, to get closer to the business side. Under the mantra of “success begets success,” Lehman rose through the league tables and I was fortunate to learn the craft from the industry’s best practitioners. And while Lehman did not make its stated goal of reaching $150 per share, I loved the firm and the profession. I was and still am passionate about my clients.
Facing an existential professional question
A career in Wall Street, while rewarding intellectually and financially, also comes with sacrifices and challenges. Last year I grappled with an existential professional question: Is my passion still there?
My current role as the global head of technology investment banking group is exhilarating. Technology is foundational to the digital transformation underpinning every modern organization. Whether shepherding next gen leaders into the public markets, or advising on mergers and acquisitions that reshape the landscape, the sector’s dynamism mandates continued agility and creativity. My role also allows me to imbue in my team the art of the trade, and pass on my fervor for the business.
These experiences also presented me with the opportunity to join a public board, where I leverage the knowledge I have garnered to be a trusted advocate to our shareholders.
It takes a village
While pursuing a career, I also raised a family. Or more accurately, we raised a family. As well as a loving support system, my husband has always advocated for me and offered his hand, shoulder, and so much more when I stumbled or felt defeated and unappreciated.
So how did I become a not-so-accidental feminist? Well, it first depends on how you define one. I come from a line of strong women. My maternal grandmother fled her home at age 14 to escape the Nazis, and my paternal grandmother immigrated to a budding nation occupied by the Brits, not the start-up nation of today. My mother and sister are my rock, just like rock-star girlfriends, who did not view vulnerabilities as weaknesses. Together, we channeled our ambitions, frustrations, and disappointments to charge ahead and reach new highs.
I also married a man who supported my passion as well as dedicated his career to women’s health. I am proud, too, to work with confident, smart, forward-thinking men that serve as partners, mentors, champions and friends.
My generation of women burned the candle on both ends, which didn’t allow for time to think about feminism. But we believed that we could have it all, and in fact, were practicing feminism. Only when my kids went off to college did I find the time to nurture the next generation of women, pay it forward and pray they find the journey easier, learn from our mistakes and define the world they want to live in.
Originally Published on Business Insider.
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