Doostang News Jul 28: Exclusive Career Q&A with Janet Hanson, Founder/CEO of 85 Broads

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We recently announced Doostang‘s partnership with 85 Broads, a global network of 20,000 trailblazing women who are inspired, empowered, and connected worldwide.

This week, we were honored to speak with 85 Broads CEO and Founder, Janet Hanson. Janet is much more than the brains behind 85 Broads. She’s a Columbia MBA, the first woman in Goldman Sachs’ history promoted to sales management, founder of a $3B asset management fund, a published author, philanthropist, mother and more.

When someone like Janet talks careers, it’s a good idea to listen. Read on.

Tell us about 85 Broads and why you started it.

I set out to solve a problem. When I left Goldman Sachs in 1993, I was leaving the world I had known and loved for 14 years to stay at home with my two young children. I wanted to know what the markets were doing, I wanted to be “in the game” but instead I was at home wishing I wasn’t. I founded 85 Broads (which is a humorous play on Goldman’s street address in Manhattan) to re-establish a connection between women who were “alumnae” of the firm with women who were still in the building.

You have had a very successful career in finance. Can you elaborate on your decision to go into that field, and give us perspective on that choice?

I won the career lottery after I graduated from Columbia Business School at the age of 24 – I became an associate in the Fixed Income Division at Goldman Sachs – it was just an amazing time to be at the firm. Being in Fixed Income Sales played to my competitive strengths- I thrived because I was challenged every single day to push myself. It was incredibly hard work but it was also incredibly rewarding.

The 2 year investment banking stint as we know it isn’t a pervasive option for top grads today. What advice do you have for members who are facing this tumultuous job market early in their careers?

My best advice: be willing to really push yourself – whether you’re doing a 2 year stint with Teach For America or 2 years as a banking analyst, this is how young people can truly differentiate themselves. If you can figure out how to live and breathe the company’s “mission,” you will earn the respect of the people who hired you and invested in you. And lastly, when you’re young, if you do nothing else, figure out how to leverage your college alumni network. That is the single best resource you have and it’s free.

Like you, many of our members have elected to further their education with an MBA. How can top MBAs get the most out of their investment in today’s tough environment?

I was extremely young when I went to Columbia. I am sure I was the dumbest person there. But I was an extraordinarily good networker. Business school is a great investment if you’re not just there to go to class and get a degree. You have to apply for case competitions, you have to spend time with your professors, you have to become best friends with the folks in Career Services, and you have to go to every lecture and networking event that you possibly can. That is the only way to earn a high enough ROI on taking yourself out of the work force for two years and earning no money.

Women have made strides in business thanks to trailblazers like you. What advice would you give to the high-achieving women on Doostang who hold career success as a core value?

We have a favorite expression: “read the ending first.” Being driven in your career is great as long as you have your eye on what else will be critical to your happiness 5 or 10 years down the road. I left Goldman Sachs when I was 35 because I had no social life whatsoever. I was on track to be made a partner within a year or two. I left the firm just as my career was going into high gear so that I could concentrate on how to be in a successful relationship as well as have a successful career. Five months after I left, I came back to Goldman in a part-time job in Personnel. My friends thought I was absolutely insane. But less than a year later, I married Jeff Hanson, who I worked with in Personnel. Even though he wasn’t a “big hitter” by Goldman standards, he was brilliant and fun and we built an amazing life together. I left Goldman Sachs because I didn’t just want to be someone’s rich aunt, I wanted to have a family AND a successful career. My approach was a bit unconventional but it worked – Meredith and Chris Hanson are the loves of my life. They are the reason I’m still happily “in the game.”

Bottom line, I had the guts to know that to be happy I needed a successful career AND a great family. That is not work/life balance. That is work/life optimization.

What are some common mistakes you’ve observed in interacting with top grads just starting out, as well as the hiring managers who recruit them?

It is critical to figure out how to relate to young people – the smartest thing a hiring manager can do is solicit candid feedback from the young people they hire. These kids are absolutely whip smart. They are the best educated, best traveled generation ever. And they learn fast so it’s imperative for managers to keep them intellectually engaged and motivated. That is their single biggest challenge.

In a recent interview for the Huffington Post, you talk about “Reading the ending first” in job search. What does this mean for our members who are actively looking for new opportunities?

It means acquire real skills which will make you eminently more qualified. If I was a young person today I would want to have killer computer skills so that I could analyze data and information better and faster. That doesn’t mean you have to be a programmer. It means knowing how to use technology to your greatest advantage. Anyone over 40 years old is probably not that familiar with how to use SEO or the newest social media tools which could give their companies or organizations a real competitive advantage. Young people, if they’re smart, will use this “edge” to make themselves invaluable in any career path. Older people are at a severe disadvantage which young people can exploit (in a nice way). That is a co-mentoring opportunity if there ever was one.

What role can and should the online world play in young professionals’ lives?

Accessing critical, timely information online can make the difference between career success and failure. There is a ton of information on the internet that can help you get up the career curve faster. It just requires an inordinate amount of discipline to stay focused on extrapolating data and information in a way that makes you a value-added team player. I work with a brilliant team of young people who are absolute pros – that is because they understand how to apply technology in a way that makes running our global network look easy. Believe me, it isn’t easy which tells you how highly skilled these folks really are.

85 Broads promotes events/”offline” networking in addition to serving as online resource. Can you speak to the role of “Rolodex”- building through professional associations, alumni networking, etc?

That’s a no-brainer. You can’t be an effective leader if you don’t have presence. Why? Because it’s impossible to command a person’s respect or attention if you have difficulty speaking “live.”

Figuring out how to master the art of conversation is critical, not just in business but in life.

What does career management mean to you?

I will always be grateful to Nancy Reagan. When she was First Lady, she was asked by the press how she would tell young people to steer clear of drugs. Her answer: “just say no.” She was derided in the press for that rather simplistic response but guess what – saying “no” is actually one of the most important skills you need to master in order to have any semblance of happiness – particularly as you get older and are likely juggling career and family responsibilities. Jeff and I launched Milestone Capital so we could spend more time with our kids and have complete control of our own destiny. We worked like absolute dogs but we never looked back. In 2004, I left Milestone and went to work for Lehman Brothers to hedge our downside risk if our business started to falter. But as everyone knows, stuff happens. That and there are no guarantees in life. If I had it to do all over again, I would have banked a lot more of my income from Goldman which would given me many more options down the road.

Anything else you’d like to add?

One of the most essential ingredients to success long term is “partner optimization.”

If you pick the right partner to marry and the right people to team up with, you are way ahead of the game. The 85 Broads partnership with Doostang is an absolute win/win because our values and goals are aligned. That is what always makes all the difference!

85 Broads is an internationally respected global network of over 20,000 trailblazing women who are inspired, empowered, and connected. The “founding members” of 85 Broads were women who worked for Goldman Sachs at 85 Broad Street, the investment banking firm’s NYC headquarters. Over the past decade, 85 Broads expanded its membership to include women who are alumnae and students of the world’s leading colleges, universities, and graduate schools worldwide. Their members are located in 82 countries around the world and work for thousands of for-profit companies and not-for-profit organizations.  To join and for more information visit their website: http://www.85broads .

We couldn’t agree more with Janet and we are thrilled to be partnering with such a highly esteemed community of women.

Have a wonderful day,

Team Doostang

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