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Women In Finance: Find A Work Environment Where You Can Be Yourself

Johanna-RobinsonWhile studying at Harvard Law School, Johanna Robinson had a hunch she’d be happiest working in business. When her first two years practicing law ultimately strengthened her interest in a finance career, it motivated Johanna to earn an MBA and led her to Evercore’s corporate advisory practice.

PATH TO FINANCE

Johanna’s early career years were marked with remarkable academic success. In 2006, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University with a BA in economics and psychology. Immediately thereafter, she earned her JD cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2009.

Johanna then leveraged these degrees in her first job as a lawyer at O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles from 2009-2011. She generally worked in corporate, bankruptcy, and securities law, and found the business side of this work to be dynamic and exciting. She used her network as a sounding board about her increasing interest in business, and received the advice that she needed a stronger finance background—especially given the economic environment in 2009. “I decided if I was going to make a career out of finance, I needed to go to business school,” Johanna said.

MBA EXPERIENCE

In 2013, she earned her MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in finance.

More than two years into her post-MBA work experience, Johanna’s confident the degree and network are helping tremendously: “The finance and accounting background is necessary—and you learn so much about managing people, problem solving, and business that is not as tangible but is so valuable.”

HER JOB NOW

As an Associate in Evercore’s corporate advisory group, Johanna focuses on mergers and acquisitions, and advises clients about strategic M&A, activist defense, capital structure, and more. For example, she advised DuPont in its successful defense against activist investor Trian—the largest proxy fight to ever go to a vote. She also advised DuPont on the spin-off of its Performance Chemicals unit.

She finds the job intellectually challenging because it’s fast-paced and analytical, and she gets to interact regularly with bright and driven people. As an Associate, Johanna’s day-to-day work includes financial analysis, preparation of client presentations, overseeing junior bankers’ work, and coordinating with senior bankers to ensure the client’s needs are met.

Her experience in law serves her well in banking: “It taught me a lot about working hard. It also helped me to better analyze and address problems and anticipate opposing arguments. These skills were especially useful in the proxy fight.”

WOMEN IN FINANCE

Since joining the banking world, Johanna’s found that women have a great support network.

She said Evercore’s environment is very conducive to day-to-day, informal mentorship. Additionally, as part of the Advisory Women’s Forum, she has formal senior mentors who provide career advice. She also attends special network events ranging from a poker game to a small group dinner with the founder of the firm, the CEO, and other senior bankers.

“Women here are a close knit group.”

BIGGEST BUSINESS LESSONS

Complementing her academic track record, Johanna has learned big business lessons on the job.

  1. Take on work outside of your comfort zone. “I’ve grown the most and gained the most confidence when I’ve been the most overwhelmed. I feel lucky that Evercore pushes me in situations like these.”
  2. Find a work environment where you can be yourself. “I work a lot. Pretending to be someone else at work would be a big waste of time and energy. I’m lucky I found a place where I’m comfortable.”
  3. Realize juggling work-life commitments is about prioritization. “You won’t have time to do everything, every day. But be sure you’re able to fit what’s important to you into your life.”

Learn more about financial careers at the 2016 FAST Track to Finance for College Women on March 18, 2016 in New York City. Interested female college students should apply to attend by February 28, 2016. Let’s move ahead!

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