Former Wall Street executive gives tips on success for women


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Photo by Elaine Zhang |

Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive, said women should focus on making money in the first few years of their professional careers yesterday at the Livingston Student Center.


Amy Siskind believes women should forget about helping people and focus on making money the first few years of their life.

Siskind, a former Wall Street executive who later became president of The New Agenda, an organization for women’s empowerment, spoke at the Livingston Student Center yesterday about how women can be successful post-graduation.

The majority of workers at more charitable jobs are women, even though those jobs pay less, she said.

“Women have it drummed into their heads that they have to help people,” Siskind said. “You have to help yourself first.”

She said women also tend not to self-promote and are less arrogant about their achievements, factors that put them behind.

Women who want to get a promotion or pay raise should develop a short pitch that points out their contributions to the business, Siskind said.

“Sometimes women will ask for things, and by the time they’re done, you don’t even know what they’re asking for,” she said.

Whether women workers get a pay raise has little to do with education, experience or attractiveness, Siskind said. Instead, it’s all about the money.

“What you are worth is what revenue you generate,” she said. “What really gets you paid is whether the business goes with you.”

Siskind said women often have unrealistic expectations about success, especially directly after graduation.

“You’re not going to be CEO in the first two days,” she said. “The first decade of your life is going to be hard work.”

In the first few years of their career, workers should put in extra hours to get ahead, she said. When they have commitments later on, they have bargaining power over what they could do.

During the first few years, networking is essential, Siskind said.

“Every job I got in my career was because of friends,” she said.

Some of Siskind’s opportunities came from unexpected places, including casual friends.

“When I went to get my second job, I had an interview at a Japanese restaurant,” she said. “It was not going well — [the interviewer] was totally indifferent. Then, when she mentioned she’d gone to [University of Virginia], I told her I knew someone there. She called him and he told her the truth [about me].”

Siskind said women need to take more risks in their career choices and in what they do with their career.

When she was leaving her first job at NatWest personal banking, finance was in the middle of a crisis.

Her last interviewer told her she was not going to be successful at her new career in sales and trading, she said. Siskind had to make a decision about following his advice to give up.

“I had two choices: I could either take the risk or stay there on the Titanic,” she said.

She chose to move ahead from her old job and became even more powerful, while her old company failed. Now whenever a challenge comes up at work, she thinks about his advice and relishes the chance to prove him wrong.

She said she had failed many times in her career, but never let her failures drag her down.

“If you fail, you have to pick yourself up and start again,” she said. “You’re all going to fail. Never look back, only at what you’re going to do next.”

Students have many more opportunities to take risks, she said. They are free to choose careers and change them at will.

“If that is your talent, then you have to make the most of it,” she said.

Courtney Afriyie, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said Siskind’s advice about choosing majors and making money particularly affected her, since she was a psychology and sociology major.

“I’m questioning a lot of things now,” she said.

She said she enjoyed hearing that our society overemphasized perfection at the price of risk-taking.

“We put too much pressure on students,” she said. “When I do badly on something, I have to remind myself I always have the chance to do better.”

Much of what Siskind discussed about Wall Street is still true, said Marissa Joseph, who helped organize the event.

“My sister works at [Standard & Poor’s 500 index], so it’s interesting to hear a young person’s perspective as well,” said Joseph, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “And a lot of what she says, I heard from my mentor at Rutgers Wall Street last summer.”

She said she invited Siskind to speak this year because she enjoyed the talk last year.

Sylvia Cordero, a career management specialist at the University, said networking with people in New Jersey helped her to find her current job, and women should be more forward in pursuing their goals.

“Communication pertains to success in any field, in any setting,” she said.

Cordero frequently advises students to take risks and not worry about failure.

“My advice is, expose yourself to as many things as possible to develop thick skin,” she said. “If you don’t have failure, you will never learn.”


By Erin Petenko

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