Success in The Financial Services Industry: Two Women in Vastly Different Roles Share the Career Advice You Can’t Ignore

Sponsored: This content was created in partnership with American Express.  The opinions here are of the featured employees and do not reflect those of American Express or The Everygirl.

Women are truly amazing — and when we forget this, we need look no further than the incredible women who hold leadership (and other) positions across a variety of fields. When we work together and support each other, we are unstoppable — so today, we’re honored to highlight inspiring women in the financial services industry, who call American Express their professional home.

We’re sharing the stories of Rosie, SVP and Head of Investor Relations, and Anna, an engineer — two women at American Express who are empowering fellow women to pursue a career in the financial services industry. Read on to learn more about their unique career trajectories (one of them actually studied trumpet performance!), their day-to-day work lives, and the ways American Express supports them, their career goals, and their full well-rounded selves.

 

 

Name: Rosie, SVP Head of Investor Relations   
Location: NY  
Education: BS, Economics: Wharton; MBA, Harvard Business School
Colleague Since: 2007

 

What was your first job, and how did you land it?  What was your overall career journey beyond your first job that led you to American Express and the position you have today?

 

Two of my first jobs were tutoring students after school and working at an ice cream parlor. I developed very strong arm muscles from scooping ice cream all day! 

My first “real” job after college was as an accountant with a large accounting firm. I got the job through a summer internship during college. I really loved my accounting classes and fell in love with the people and culture at the firm when I visited their offices (I literally fell in love — I met my husband there).  

After a few years at the accounting firm, I decided that I wasn’t done with school. I wanted to take my college experience and my few years of work experience and go back to school. My goal was to broaden my perspective beyond accounting and figure out what I wanted to do as a next step.  

From graduate school, I came to American Express, where I have spent the last 12 years in a number of different roles in our Finance organization. I love the breadth of finance roles that we have, as well as the ability to move around. My current role in investor relations is one of many roles in finance at American Express and lets me take all of the things I’ve learned and help craft our message to the investor community.

 

What lessons/skills from your early job(s) did you carry with you throughout your career? What early experiences shaped your current approach to your career?

 

My first job was as an auditor with the large accounting firm. A job as an auditor really prepares you to think through things logically. You spend a lot of time understanding processes and financial statements. But, maybe surprisingly, you spend even more time talking to people. It involves reaching out to experts to understand their processes, their controls, and their numbers. You learn to ask good questions and work with people to get the information that you need. All of these skills have been really useful in all my roles where you try to understand trends, performance, expectations, and business problems. 

 

 

What initially attracted you to work at American Express?

 

I loved the payments industry, which is very dynamic and innovative. But, the things that really attracted me to American Express were the opportunities I saw to progress through the company. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and I really felt that I could figure it out at American Express. More importantly, I really felt a connection to the people and the culture. It was very collaborative and team-based, and I felt I could succeed here.

As I think back to what has kept me at American Express for 12 years, I realize that it’s still all of the same things that attracted me to the company in the first place. 

 

Tell us a bit about your current role. What’s your title, what are your responsibilities, and what does your day-to-day life look like? Think about how you would describe your job to someone who doesn’t work at American Express.

 

I run our investor relations group at American Express. This means that I am the liaison between the investment community — our current shareholders, potential shareholders, as well as the analysts that cover American Express — and our company. My goal is to ensure that our company has a fair valuation, which means that I spent a lot of time making sure that investors are well-informed about our strategy, our performance, and our objectives so they can make a decision about owning American Express stock. 

As with many jobs, no day is the same. I have a small team who works very closely together. We split our time between:

  • Understanding our company’s business initiatives and performance so we can communicate them to investors
  • Working with our CFO, CEO, and management team to prepare them for meetings with investors and in crafting the key messages we want our investors to understand
  • Meeting with investors and potential investors to answer their questions about our company’s strategy and results 

The job involves a lot of collaboration across our company and across the investment community, which is one of the most fun parts of the job.

 

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you? What is the hardest part about your job and what is your favorite part of your job?

 

Right now, we are working on the agenda for our annual financial community meeting. It’s a great opportunity to bring the analyst community into our building and for our management team to spend a few hours with them going into more detail on our strategy and the various initiatives we are focused on. 

We’re also working on the calendar of management meetings for the year. This is the list of investor meetings and conferences that we attend with our CEO, CFO, and members of the management team. The investor community really appreciates the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the company and ask them questions. 

 

What is unique about this type of role at American Express?  What can you do in your field at American Express that you couldn’t get somewhere else?

 

This role is unique because there is only one of them. In fact, there are only five people on our whole team. The roles give you the unique ability to meet with our company’s investors and hear from them directly. We also get to spend as much time looking externally at the industry as we do internally at what is happening at American Express. Lastly, it’s one of the rare finance roles where we spend as much time on the messages as on the numbers!

 

 

How does American Express support its employees? What aspects of your company culture do you find valuable and important?

 

American Express supports its employees in a number of different ways. Our leaders are very involved in employee development. We consider it part of our job to ensure that each of our team members have development plans, and we actively work with our teams to help them in the next steps of their careers.

In addition, we have a number of different affinity groups (aka Colleague Networks) that are communities that act as both networking groups and resources for employees. I have met many great people through my affiliation with HOLA and Exec HOLA, our Hispanic Origin & Latin American Network.  

And lastly, we have a number of different support systems, such as the Healthy Minds program, which offers mental health support, and flexible working arrangements, that support an employee’s life outside of work.

 

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in your given field?

 

Like most kids, my dream job changed every week. So, it took me awhile to find my way into finance! It happened gradually. I started getting some experience and trying different roles along the way, which helped me solidify what I wanted. 

I have found it helpful to be open minded, with less of a focus on a specific job and more focused on the things I wanted to learn or experience. I could not have imagined that I would have been in some of the roles that I’ve had, but I’ve learned something from all of them.

 

Finance may not always be considered a female-driven field. How did people in your life react when you began pursuing your field? What kind of support system did you have?

 

I was lucky that I received only positive support around my career choices. My parents are Cuban exiles who came to the U.S. with very little. Therefore, they placed a lot of importance on getting a good education and worked hard to make sure that I had the opportunity to succeed. As far as a specific career, they never pushed and were very happy to support me in anything I wanted to do and are very proud of where I am today. 

Outside of my family, I have a great support system of colleagues, team members, and leaders who know me well and act as both role models and advisors.

 

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

 

I’m proud that I was always open to different challenges and different roles — and raised my hands for the things that scared me. 

In terms of accomplishments, I am proud that I accepted a year-long role as the CFO of our Canadian market. This involved me moving to Canada and acting as the CFO of one our international markets. Each piece of the job was new to me, as was living and working in a new place. But it was very fulfilling and one of my favorite roles at American Express. I am also proud of leading the finance work on our recent renewal with our largest partner. 

 

What advice would you give your own younger self?

 

I would tell my younger self to enjoy the process more — of learning, trying new things, and even sometimes failing — instead of being so focused on the final outcome. As I get older, I get more comfortable with making mistakes and I wish that I could tell my younger self that mistakes are not the end of the world. 

 

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

 

 I’ve received many great pieces of advice over the years from leaders and colleagues, including:

  1. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. That’s how you’ll learn and grow. 
  2. Focus as much on building relationships as driving outcomes. Those relationships will make it more likely that you’ll be successful and will make the process of getting there more fulfilling. 
  3. Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. To me, this means that many times, it’s important to take action instead of waiting for someone to tell you what to do. 

 

How has American Express backed you to pursue your passions both inside and outside of the company?

 

American Express has been a great support to me in my career. The support comes in many ways. Sometimes it comes through formal professional development programs like career coaching; other times, it involved giving me challenging roles and projects that would help me develop a skill or try something new. In addition, I’ve always felt that I had the flexibility and the independence to focus on my personal life when I wanted and needed to. 

 

 

Rosie is The Everygirl…

Last show you binge-watched?
Silicon Valley

Favorite item in your closet?
my running shoes

Favorite way to spend a Saturday morning?
hiking with my dog

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
All of my close girlfriends, who live around the country now since we rarely get to see each other.

 

 

 

 

Name: Anna, Engineer I
Location: NY
Education: BM Trumpet Performance, MM Orchestral Performance
Colleague Since: 2016

 

What was your first job, and how did you land it? What was your overall career journey beyond your first job that led you to American Express and the position you have today?

 

My first job was playing taps for military funerals as a trumpet player. I had an audition and played taps in front of the military crew and they hired me. I think I started shortly after I could drive. I went on to pursue a career in music, winning an international competition and getting nominated for a Latin Grammy. While living in New York, I founded the world’s first juice crawl — and through my business I began to learn to program. I attended the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, an immersive coding bootcamp for women. I was then offered a position at American Express and have been working here since 2016. 

 

What lessons/skills from your early job(s) did you carry with you throughout your career? What early experiences shaped your current approach to your career?

 

Musicians are great problem solvers, because we start with a goal in mind and spend hours a day finding a way to reach and perfect it. We are detail-oriented and often find creative ways to get around a problem. No matter how good you are, you never completely master your instrument. So a musician always has something to learn, and we’re good at learning. Performers take failures and turn them into a learning opportunity. We’re in-tune with our bodies and ourselves. I carry all of these skills with me throughout my various careers and life. 

 

What initially attracted you to work at American Express?

 

During the hiring process, I noticed Fullstack alumni working at the company and appreciated seeing female leaders. I also was excited for the technology solutions used, and about the team that offered me a position. I appreciated the opportunities for professional growth and the culture of respecting work-life balance.  

 

Tell us a bit about your current role. What’s your title, what are your responsibilities, and what does your day-to-day life look like?  Think about how you would describe your job to someone who doesn’t work at American Express.

 

I’m a Software Engineer, and I work on the mobile team as an iOS developer. I work on features in the main phone and tablet app that Card Members use to do things like check their balance, redeem points, replace a card, or check into airline lounges. My day-to-day involves writing code. I work on a team with other mobile developers to build APIs (ways that the software interacts) and user interfaces (views that the user sees). Sometimes things don’t work as expected, and we fix these things we call bugs. When we think we have a solution coded, we create a PR (pull request) which is a way to ask to submit a change into the existing code base. Often, PRs are reviewed by other developers and can both act as a learning tool and a way to get another set of eyes to prevent potential bugs. 

 

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you? What is the hardest part about your job and what is your favorite part of your job?

 

I love working with my team because everyone is friendly, respectful, and smart. I’m fairly new to iOS development since I was originally in a role as a web developer. Many of the same types of problems need to be solved, but where I was previously writing code in JavaScript™ I’m now writing code in Swift. It’s exciting to learn a new programming language, but it can be challenging when the code base is large and you’re getting used to how the team works. But with each assignment I feel like I learn something new, which is exciting. 

 

What is unique about this type of role at American Express?  What can you do in your field at American Express that you couldn’t get somewhere else?

 

I think what is unique at American Express is the ability to do things right the first time. Since the company is well-established and we have a lot of developers, we don’t function the way a start-up might in that we don’t need to rush just to get something out to test the market. While we do have deadlines and do work on tasks in a timely manner, the attention is focused on writing clean and maintainable code that won’t cause bugs later.

 

 

How does American Express support its employees? What aspects of your company culture do you find valuable and important?

 

American Express offers a great work-life balance and a culture that supports its colleagues. I appreciate the ability to work from home when needed. We respect everyone’s choice in holidays and support each other in professional growth. My leaders try to make sure everyone uses their 5+ (a program on my team where we get to use five consecutive days for learning anything work-related that we are interested in). They also encourage us to use our vacation days before the end of the year to ensure everyone is taking time for themselves.

 

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in your given field?

 

I had a website built on a content management system for my trumpet playing and was always curious to learn more about websites. When I started Juice Crawl, a business I started before working at American Express, I took the opportunity to build a landing page from scratch instead of using something like a content management system. As the business needed new features, I learned how to implement them for the website. I was doing everything from marketing, handling press, leading the events, and building the website. I enjoyed building the website the most. As I learned more about programming, I felt like it was similar to music. Music is a language and musicians create music following a set of rules and patterns just as a programmer uses a language to express and create an app. I also like that the tech field is always evolving, and that there’s always something new to learn.

 

Tech is not typically a female-driven field. How did people in your life react when you began pursuing your field? What kind of support system did you have?

 

I don’t think anyone reacted negatively; I think actually the opposite! It’s definitely a more lucrative career, but it’s true that tech is not typically a female-driven field. Then again, neither is brass playing in the music industry!

I didn’t actually think too much about it at first. I think tech has more support for women than the brass industry (both could use more support though). One of my first trumpet teachers was the former principal trumpet player of a professional symphony orchestra. It’s crazy to think that she is the first woman to be named principal trumpet of a major symphony orchestra anywhere in the world! During her lifetime, women didn’t get hired to play brass instruments in symphony orchestras. Tech isn’t the only field where women need support, but I guess the first step is recognizing the problem. I’ve noticed more and more women brass players just as I’ve noticed more women developers. I think the trend is slowly changing. 

 

Furthermore, how can we as communities be more supportive of women seeking careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or other typically male-driven fields? What advice would you give to women hoping to enter a field they have historically not been a part of?

 

We need more relatable role models. There have been women throughout history in STEM who have made an impact and we should recognize and teach people about them. I think it also comes with the way we as communities speak about young women. At an early age we learn we need to be “pretty,” or whatever messages we’re told. The same is true for men and gender stereotypes. As communities, we need to be conscious of the dialogue we speak. Women are smart; we’re capable of anything we see men do. I think if I didn’t go down the musician road, I would have continued down a STEM route anyway. My advice for women hoping to enter a field is to do it! There are organizations dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers, that can provide a support system if that is what you need.

 

 

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

 

I’m proud of starting my own business, I’m proud of my musical awards, I’m proud of my role at American Express, and I’m proud of learning a new platform and language. 

 

What advice would you give your own younger self?

 

I would advise my younger self to trust myself — though I’m not sure my younger self would listen! Confidence and trust have been recurring themes from playing a piece of music to learning something new. Often the obstacle in the way is myself. If I could help my younger self with that, I would. 

 

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

 

The best advice I’ve received from a trumpet mentor is to put up a “no-trespassing sign.” It’s a mental trick to keep people — including yourself — out of your head! The idea is to focus on your goal and not what’s going to get you there or prevent you from getting there. You stay in the present and just let yourself get there.

The best analogy is to picture yourself seeing a good friend walking down the street through a window. Let’s say your goal is to get your friend’s attention. What do you do? Well, you probably open the window and yell their name. If they don’t turn around, maybe you yell louder or call their phone or run down out the door. The point is that in that moment, you’re only thinking about getting your friend’s attention and reacting quickly. You’re not letting voices in your head speak. You don’t have time for those voices to speak, because your friend is walking away! Those voices might say things like, “Your voice isn’t loud enough to yell.” Staying focused on your goal is something we can use as a performer, or with anything in life.

 

 

How has American Express backed you to pursue your passions both inside and outside of the company?

 

American Express has a culture for respecting work-life balance. After work I have time to play a gig or learn a new skill. I’m able to see family and travel the world. American Express has also supported me to learn mobile development and rotate into a new team working in iOS. 

 

How can you explore the many angles of your potential at American Express, both personally and professionally?

 

American Express is a great place that supports professional and personal growth. If you have something in mind that you are trying to achieve, you can speak to your leader and they will help create a path forward. My manager supported me to get the role I’m in now, and I’m very grateful. 

 

 

Anna is The Everygirl…

Favorite way to spend a day off?
Try a new vegan restaurant/food, learn something new or start a side project, hang out with my cat and boyfriend, do something outside if the weather is nice

Coffee or Tea?
Herbal tea, unless it’s a matcha latte with oat or macadamia nut milk

App you use most on your phone?
Darksky — I bike everywhere and need to know the current weather.

Best book you’ve ever read?
I can’t label one best book, but my trumpet teacher had me read Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and it had a big impact on me.

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
My great grandmother, or a woman from my family past that I never got to meet. I’d love to know how the world was for her and what she thinks about.

 

To learn more about life at American Express, visit careers.americanexpress.com.