In January, I received an email from Maura Cunningham, founder of Rock the Street, Wall Street, a nonprofit providing financial literacy to high school girls with the goal of sparking their interest in financial careers. She read my op-ed in the New York Times on the lack of gender diversity among financial advisors and wanted to connect. After our conversation, I immediately knew I would do whatever I could to bring a classroom of her program to New Orleans.
Several months later, I helped secure funding from the CFA Society of Louisiana and the CFA Institute to sponsor that classroom. We eventually connected with The Academy of the Sacred Heart, where Rock the Street, Wall Street’s curriculum fit perfectly into an existing math elective course on business and entrepreneurship. I recruited volunteers, who had to be professional women working in finance careers, a Rock The Street, Wall Street program requirement. Five of us taught five classes on financial literacy to 13 girls, all juniors or seniors in high school. Last week, we wrapped the fall portion of the program with a field trip to the local offices of JP Morgan’s Private Bank.
I moderated a panel at the field trip that included three women working in finance and a college campus recruiter for JP Morgan. The best questions came from the students, however. One asked about the importance of mentorship and how to find / connect with mentors. Tamara Wyre, a panelist and Senior Portfolio Manager at Hancock Whitney, made an excellent comment about the importance of finding mentors who challenge you.
Tamara’s comment resonated with me, and I have been thinking about it for a week. When I reflect on my career, I am grateful for the mentors, bosses, colleagues, and clients who pushed me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Complacency is the enemy of progress, yet humans are conditioned to seek a state of ease. It is vital to continue on a path to progress, never resting on one’s laurels.
I am especially thankful for the clients who challenge me. I don’t always know the answer to their questions off the top of my head. Often these questions require me to seek answers from the experts within my firm or to go searching further for the answer by consulting professionals in other industries. Each time I take this journey, which some may view as an inconvenience or a threat to their time efficiency, I become a better advisor.
I have always subscribed to the concept of lifelong learning. In the years since I finished my traditional education, I have earned numerous professional designations, a masters degree in financial planning, and spent hundreds of hours in continuing education. By volunteering for Rock the Street, Wall Street, I am experiencing some of the most exciting growth of all – learning from young people. I hope that one day, someone will count me among their mentors who challenged their growth.