Publication Date: January 2009
Rating: 3 Stars
It is incredible when your real life banking job marries your passion of blogging, reading and writing. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to witness Carla Harris speak personally. In this speech, Carla conveyed to us her “pearls” of wisdom, stories from her career on Wall Street and what she has learned over the years. So, at the end of her speech, when she mentioned her book and the chance to win it, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to bring my blog into my professional life. It has been a surreal experience witnessing an author, a successful woman in finance nonetheless, bring the fruits of her labor to us via her book, and then having the opportunity to feature said book on your blog, it has provided me the opportunity to bring my two loves full circle (my job and blogging).
To back up, Carla is a triumphant woman in finance. Currently, she is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. It is for this reason that she was brought in to speak to us, because in 2017 much of the banking I am exposed to is still largely men, and I can’t say it enough, representation matters. Seeing women in positions other women strive to be in is something men often take for granted within their own gender. Seeing women of color in leadership positions other women of color want, is even more empowering.
Have you ever just wanted to walk up to someone you idolize in the workplace and ask how they got to where they are today? What they’ve learned along the way? And what advice they’d give you, either as someone just starting out or as someone more matured in your career? This book is exactly that, from Carla’s perspective. Her “pearls” aren’t earth shattering, but rather have been reiterated different ways, many times before, but Carla puts a unique spin on this book by including her experiences and vividly defining trigger words such as “mentor” or “sponsor,” it is for this reason that Carla’s book is unique and set apart from the rest.
In Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace, Carla took the approach of writing as if she is speaking right at you. In fact, her book closely mirrored her speech to us, making it so as the reading of this book was similar to simply watching Carla on the screen in front of me. The chapters within this book addressed topics such as authenticity, career goals/planning, being your own career champion (or captain as she phrased it), presenting yourself to others, mentor/sponsor/advisor relationships, using your voice, fear, networking, balance, mentality and spirituality. I took a unique approach to reading this book, given the business nature of it, and stopped each chapter to write down my thoughts on the specific chapter. Some of my thoughts I’ve shared below.
- Carla opens the book with a chapter on authenticity. This has become a “hot topic” right now as we continue to break down some of the age-old mentalities that work should be kept separate from home. I cannot help but agree with this statement from a balance perspective, if you are changing who you are for work, to keep those two work/home separate, how exhausting it can be. Throughout my MBA program we constantly came back to this topic. The culture of your organization must allow you the ability to bring your authentic self from home to work, if the culture does not support this there is a culture somewhere out there that will, it is up to you to find it.
- One chapter dealt with the topic of perception, how others perceive you and how to steer this perception. This topic is pretty common. Often one hears lectures telling people how to dress or how to make a great first impression, and while it is true your outer appearance affects how people judge you, Carla takes it a step further by looking deeper and providing some solutions. What messages can you be sending to others? You want to be tough, drop the word “tough” in sentences, she even discussed finding adjectives to align your real self with your organization, and then using those adjectives to help people associate them with you. Carla discusses that it is never too late to change people’s perceptions of you, even going so far as to indicate she was successful in doing so five to six years into her own career at Morgan Stanley.
- The last thing that really stuck out to me was Carla’s chapter on balance. Work/Life Balance is another trigger word currently being thrown around in many organizations and cultures. It is one of those concepts that escapes many, but remains important to all. I wholeheartedly agree that when you lack balance your day becomes a function of someone else’s day. For example, one does not have good balance when they allow a missed deal to ruin their entire week and follow them home. Finding passions elsewhere whether via volunteering, hobbies, etc. is important, but being aware enough to realize when I, personally, am out of balance because of “work fails” is where I need to be better. Work fails should not translate into life fails and I often struggle with this myself, needing constant reminding. Although, to that point, prior to reading this chapter if someone had come up to me and asked if I had good work/life balance I would have considered myself successful as I don’t work while at home and I never answer email off hours, but clearly I have work to do as evidenced after reading this chapter, as my work failures can sometimes translate and show in the attitude I display at home.
Overall, I found this book was geared toward a niche market, financial professionals. The “lingo” Carla used required a level of financial understanding and the examples provided were all from within the financial industry. However, the shear factor that set this book apart from other business-minded books was the financial setting and financial experiences, as they related to Carla. It is for this reason I enjoyed the book, but for this same reason a broader audience may not.
*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.