Success is not defined by money, with Dr. Ely Weinschneider and Grace Reyes

My mother, who made no more than a little over minimum wage, used to always say that she was rich because of her children. She would always say to her friends that she was successful because she had wonderful kids and she wholeheartedly believed it. To me, success isn’t defined by the money in my bank […]

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My mother, who made no more than a little over minimum wage, used to always say that she was rich because of her children. She would always say to her friends that she was successful because she had wonderful kids and she wholeheartedly believed it.

To me, success isn’t defined by the money in my bank account. Don’t get me wrong, having money is very important and while money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys me things that make me happy! But raising a son who is simply a good kind-hearted person with a strong moral compass is my definition of success.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview…

Grace Reyes, one of the most prominent voices in finance when it comes to promoting diversity and gender balance in the investment management industry. As the President of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM), a non-profit organization featuring seasoned and rising investment managers that handle over $1T AUM collectively, Grace helps Emerging Managers get access to the largest institutional investors. Over the past decade she has formed a close rapport with an array of industry leaders and prominent investors — relationships that have helped her bring awareness to this personal and professional mission as she leads and drives growth for AAAIM. Grace’s message is further amplified through her top 1% investment management profile on LinkedIn where she engages with 13,000+ followers sharing selfies and conversations with some of the industry’s best-known investors.

Grace’s previous experience includes time as the Head of Investor Relations & Fundraising at The Reliant Group, a real estate private equity firm with $2B in assets under management. Most recently before joining AAAIM, she worked on the corporate and business development team at Switchfly, a travel-tech firm, reporting to the Executive suite.

Grace is also the Founder and Co-Host of goodtimesSF, San Francisco’s largest investment networking happy hour. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a Computer Specialization from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

In the very early years of my life, my mom lived in Saudi Arabia and worked as a nurse to provide for me while I lived with my aunt in the Philippines. It wasn’t until the age of 4 when she was granted a visa to come to America that she came back to the Philippines to pick me up and bring me to the states with her (#immigrant). I remember I was so shy and calling her “mama” was weird to me so I would say “ssshhht” (kind of like catcalling) to get her attention. I guess it is because I wasn’t around her that much and wasn’t familiar with her. I didn’t call her “mama” until I got to the states.

Since then, she had my younger brother and sister. She was a single-mom raising three kids while working multiple jobs — sometimes three jobs at a time. Since her full-time job as a special education teacher’s assistant was on break during the summer, she would always go to a cannery in Alaska during this period, canning fish while we stayed with my younger aunts who were like older sisters since they were closer in age to me.

While my mom never stopped working, every moment that my siblings and I had with her were filled with love (and home cooked Filipino food like the best chicken adobo ever!).

She passed away at young age of 50 from cancer. I was only 25 at the time. And while she’s gone, the value of hard work and quality of time with family has been ingrained with me. It’s something I will always keep forever. It has instilled within me a strong appreciation of the need for work/life balance and never taking any moment for granted.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Because of the vast network I have built within the investment industry, my Rolodex is valuable to many investment firms as well as AAAIM, the non-profit firm I currently lead, which promotes ethnic and gender diversity within the investment industry.

What I love about AAAIM is the flexibility it gives me to travel and work on my schedule, something that I know I won’t be able to control in order for me to be successful at other jobs. I have raised my son, who is in high school, singlehandedly, and while there are other firms who have recruited me for fundraising roles, I have found the balance that AAAIM provides combined with the rewarding work, to make it a perfect fit for my life right now. I always say, if I didn’t have to work, I’d still do this job. The mission of AAAIM is something I will always keep with me no matter where the future takes me.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

When I’m not 30,000 feet in the friendly skies? Let’s see…when I’m back at home in the Bay Area, and sometimes I feel like I’m hardly there, I use that time to recharge. I work from home so I have the luxury to start the morning off giving my son, Jayden, undivided attention and walking him out the door as he leaves for school. (I always offer to walk him to school. At 15 years old, of course he’s too cool for that.)

My phone is on DND throughout the night so I then take time to answer any text messages that come through as I have a lot of friends and colleagues — personal and professional — from many different time zones. The back and forth I try to limit to 30 mins — but some threads are too interesting to pause and save for later. Connecting with people is my job but also what I love doing so, and the personal touch of text messaging is a form of communication and instant connection that has helped me hone and build many deep relationships.

I then go online to check the news and scroll quickly on LinkedIn for a few minutes. I like or comment on the first few posts that pop up and that I find interesting. I respond to messages. I try to be as responsive as possible even if the reply is simply, “Sorry, I’m not interested in the business opportunity.” I think it’s important to respond back to people — of course within reason.

Contrary to what it may seem, I actually don’t spend that much time on LinkedIn relative to other tasks. I think the visibility of my post and engagement makes it look otherwise. I don’t scroll long enough and sometimes I miss a lot of updates myself.

I then take time to prioritize my tasks (yes, I should probably do this before all the other things that I mention but it’s just what gets me going — that connection with my network is the most important thing to me). I work on the initiatives and projects that we have set for the year. I am constantly on emails. I limit the number of meetings I take and so I have a lot of calls throughout the day.

For a typical day when I’m traveling, it’s non-stop meetings, events, conferences, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffee meetings, happy hours and sometimes when I get lucky like this week, I attend fashion shows to end the trip!

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I think the most important thing is for children to feel and to be surrounded by so much love that they’re so secure that your lack of presence won’t have such a significant effect on them. My son has always been surrounded by family members who love and care for him deeply as if he was their own son — if he had a choice, he would probably live with my younger sister in La Jolla!

Back when I was spearheading the fundraising and investor relations effort at a private equity firm about 5 years ago, my son hardly saw me. I worked 60-hour weeks and during quarterly reporting, 80-hour weeks. I quit and decided to go to grad school to take time off from the grind.

During that time, when Jayden would ask me for stuff, I would always have to explain that because I wasn’t working we did not always have money to buy things. He would try a few weeks later asking for the same thing. And again, I would have to tell him, I’m in school, not working, so I don’t have money to buy stuff. About a year into grad school, he finally said, “When are you going to start working again, Mom?!”

Now my work schedule isn’t as demanding but I do have to travel a lot for work. But when I travel he knows it’s ultimately for his benefit and for me to provide a decent life for him. I believe when children know what you do is for them and that because you love them, the effects of the lack of time with them is minimized.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?

It’s one of the most rewarding things in life! Of course, I say that now because the days of waking up at night to feed and change diapers are behind me. But it brings me true joy to see this human being in front of me that has grown into as a young, respectful, motivated and honorable man.

The ladies who live in our building always stop me to say how kind Jayden is and how he would offer to help with groceries and open the door for them. He just turned 15 this year and our neighbors have complimented his etiquette since he was quite young, which makes me proud.

Spending time with children helps create a generation that is kind to others and simple good hearted human beings with strong moral compass.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I was just gone for an entire week to attend investment conferences and meetings in New York. Now that I’m home, I’ll be taking Jayden on a trip to Hawaii for his mid-winter break week off from school. It’s one of his favorite places to visit (I’m more of a Hong Kong/Sydney/London…big city type of person). He knows that I work hard so that in the end, we can have wonderful experiences together.

To be sure, even low-key weekends at home with fried chicken and waffles for lunch together is enjoyable for us…eating his favorite food is definitely quality time! I work to feed him.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Enjoy dinner together — You eat all the time so this is a great opportunity to carve out of the day where you can give your children undivided attention. Try to always leave the office in time for dinner.

Do tasks together — Like eating, the laundry has to get done. Separating the colors from the whites, loading and unloading the laundry while asking how their week was is an efficient way to spend time and get the never-ending house duties completed.

Take the long road home — Everyone tells me that there will come a point when Jayden will hardly say anything to me as he transitions into adolescence. I find that when we’re in the car, I can get him to talk for hours. So sometimes I take the long way home until he finishes his story. That extra drive around the block does wonders.

Read together — This is something I’d like to do more of. I read a lot but not so much with my son since I read at random parts of the day. Setting aside time to read together and experience learning and growing together would bode well for our relationships with our children.

Have family traditions — Aside for beliefs, religion has kept people together because of the traditions they keep. It’s the thread that keeps them together. At sporting events, we rise for the National Anthem to unify us. The same can be said of family traditions.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I still remember the day I left for UCLA, my mom handing me $3,000. It was really the only money she had. It’s the money she had earned that summer from working overtime shifts in Alaska canning fish in a cannery. I took the money not thinking much about it at that time. Since then I always felt and still feel guilty about it. She probably needed it more than I did.

While it was a huge sacrifice, never once did she make me feel that providing for me or my siblings was a burden. It was as if her whole purpose in life was to provide for her children and working was the means to do that. She put us first.

I think where parents can get it wrong is when children feel their parents’ work is more important than they are. If you want to be a good parent, you make sacrifices for your children but you do it out of love and happiness and not just because it’s your responsibility as a parent. Children can feel the difference.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

This is kind of hard because my son dreams big and wants to be an NBA player or the POTUS. I still have to remind him to have a plan B just in case! He’s not having it though…

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

My mother, who made no more than a little over minimum wage, used to always say that she was rich because of her children. She would always say to her friends that she was successful because she had wonderful kids and she wholeheartedly believed it.

To me, success isn’t defined by the money in my bank account. Don’t get me wrong, having money is very important and while money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys me things that make me happy! But raising a son who is simply a good kind-hearted person with a strong moral compass is my definition of success.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I read and listen to a lot of books but they’re mostly on business not so much on parenting. What has helped me become a better parent is remembering what my mom was like and how she exuded love. I also try to emulate parents that I strive to be like.

I also recently joined HeyMama, a network for working mothers seeking to stay driven, connected and balanced, and am looking forward to becoming more involved.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Richard Branson’s said, “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.”

In all aspect of my life whether personal or professional, I try it make sure there is some kind of element of fun while making sure the goals and mission are achieved. My son appreciates this too and whatever activities I have with him, we always try to make them fun!

To be sure, not everything in life can be fun but when I can, I always add it in the mix. #yolo

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If everyone valued having a strong work/life balance, what would happen? You never know when the time will come when you will lose that person. I never take my son, family, friends and business connections for granted. I try to make the most efficient use of my time while acknowledging people and showing appreciation.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

Thanks, and I enjoyed sharing my insights with you!

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