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MBAs on the Move

Keitha Pansy – BlackRock & Berkeley Haas: Influence

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Keitha Pansy, Chief of Staff, BlackRock

Alumna of University of California – Berkeley (MBA, 2002) and Howard University (BBA, 1995: Accounting)

Keitha Pansy is Chief of Staff to a top global executive at BlackRock, a leader in investment management, risk management, and advisory services for institutional and retail clients. She’s a strategic partner in driving BlackRock’s distribution and investment businesses. Her MBA and unique ability to harness the power of relationships have propelled her diverse finance career.

What do you love the most about your job?

I love the variety and spontaneity. I oversee everything from strategic projects to making sure a key BlackRock leader—Mark McCombe, the Global Head of BlackRock’s Institutional Client Business and the Chairman and Co-Head of BlackRock Alternative Investors—is maximizing his time and impact on the business. I also enjoy working for Mark, specifically. He’s a strong influence in my career.


STEPS TO RISE »

UC Berkeley MBA

Gained the flexibility to explore roles at Arthur Anderson, PwC, J.P. Morgan, Barclays Global Investors and BlackRock.

Pivotal internship

Turned down a full-time offer with J.P. Morgan following her investment banking internship when she discovered her real talent was managing relationships.

Mentors

Listened to her career influencers—from her current boss at BlackRock to her “she-roes” (female heroes) throughout her life.

Leadership

Positioned herself as a strategic partner in driving BlackRock’s business.


What were some other critical stops on your path?

It’s not a traditional, straight career path. I moved from accounting at Arthur Andersen and PwC, to corporate then private banking at J.P. Morgan, and landed in asset management at Barclays Global Investors and BlackRock.

I worked on a number of deals when I started my career as an accountant, observing the investment bankers along the way. At that time, the financial markets were ripe for mergers and acquisitions and I enjoyed the deal flow. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an investment banker, and that became my catalyst for going to business school.

How has your MBA impacted your career?

My MBA has been invaluable. I’ve had so many different positions in various arenas of finance, and those doors wouldn’t have opened to me without having my MBA. It gives you the flexibility to explore your career.

How did you ultimately land in asset management?

Interning at an investment bank helped me discover I’m a better relationship person, which led me to private banking. I later discovered asset management as a consultant when Barclays Global Investors was my client.

What I enjoy most about asset management is that it isn’t transactional—it’s about relationships. Clients can pick anyone to manage their assets, but they have to trust you. I appreciate that in asset management, we help the “everyday person” through retirement accounts, pensions, foundations, endowments, etc. I can relate to that.

You have to understand what you want to do and who you are, and then live with that authentically. I’ve been with BlackRock for nine years. I believe in BlackRock and what we do for our clients.

If you had to pick a career “wow moment,” what would it be?

It’s when I realized that investment banking is not my calling. While I was in business school, I interviewed with all the top banks for a full-time position. Each investment bank submitted my resume to its private bank/wealth management division. Even J.P. Morgan, where I was an investment banking intern, gave me my full-time offer in the private bank. That’s when I realized that I’m clearly good with people and meant to build relationships, rather than support transactional deals.

Are you willing to share a career blunder because you learned something constructive?

I used to be super defensive about constructive feedback. I would always have a comeback if my manager or peer offered it. Over time, I’ve matured and learned it’s not always about being right. Feedback affords me the opportunity to develop.

When it comes to feedback, you have to find your spirit of discernment. Is the feedback coming from a positive or negative place? Good feedback makes you better at what you do. It’s not criticism; it’s a growth opportunity. Now, if the feedback is coming from the right place, I welcome it and listen.

If I’m doing something incorrectly or not up to expectations, my manager tells me immediately. I so appreciate this management style: there are no surprises, which means I’m continually learning.

What’s your biggest business lesson?

Never listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something.

What have you learned as a woman in your industry and in business?

We have a voice and it needs to be heard. Women make excellent asset managers. We’re great with relationships. We create trust instantly. We know how to diffuse controversy.

In business and life, you have to find your “she-roes”—your female heroes. I have so many mentors at all levels who have been key to my success. Now, it’s my responsibility to pay it forward. I just worked on business school recommendations for an amazing young woman—it’s my duty and my honor to help her.

Women can’t stop striving to have equality. I may never see women earning the same as men, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Immediate family members in her household: Single, lover of dogs
Recent Forté volunteer experience: Speaker at a Forté Forum, among other volunteer experiences since 2004
Her role models: Her father: As she grew up in a middle-class household with two working parents, she observed him investing in real estate to best manage the family’s finances. This served him well in retirement and left a lasting impression on Keitha.
Words of wisdom that inspire her: “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” –Albert Einstein
Song that makes her turn up the volume: “Go Get It,” Mary Mary

Get more inspiring stories and a wide array of professional development programs to help you attain the career you deserve by joining the Forté Foundation.

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