An incubator of women leaders

Member Spotlight - Maya Tussing


Name: Maya Tussing

Job / Title: Principal

Company: Alesco Advisors

Industry: Investment Advisory

Q: What are the factors that have impacted how you navigated your career?

Maya: Twenty years ago, right out of business school, I started a career in risk management working for General Electric in the financial services business. The dot.com boom was hot, so working for a large, 100-year-old, multinational was not particularly viewed as an asset. But little did I know that a job in risk management, honed at one of the most respected companies in the world, would serve me well for the rest of my career. To be effective in a risk management role, one has to

1) develop a broad and diverse network,
2) be likable and trustworthy enough so others will share their greatest business concerns,
3) make recommendations and speak with authority based on scant information and
4) do it all with an air of confidence.

When I left risk management after a 15-year career, those skills were critical to transitioning successfully into new roles and functions.

Q: What advice about navigating your career you wish you knew earlier?

 Maya:

1. Ask, ask, ask

It sounds ridiculously academic, but ASKING for what you want is the most effective way of GETTING what you want. Some things you can ask for:

  • A larger salary
  • A loftier title
  • People to manage/increased headcount
  • Advice/feedback
  • More work
  • Less work
  • A larger budget
  • A larger office cube
  • A stretch assignment in London

You get the picture.

Yet women rarely ask or advocate on their own behalf due to a fear of failure or being perceived as ungrateful or unhappy. Those feelings of anxiety are not unfounded. For example, a former manager of mine admitted to me he almost rescinded the job offer because I’d negotiated, but he ended up giving me the job anyway and meeting some of my “asks”. The point is, while asking can sometimes be scary, it works. Research shows that 75% of the time, people get something when they ask. The key is releasing your attachment to the outcome and casting success as just asking in the first place. The more you do it, the better you become.

2. If you want faster career trajectory…
     a.    Follow the money

The closer you are to where a company’s revenue is generated, the more likely you’ll experience promotions, salary increases and an overall increase in authority. Those individuals who sell or design the company’s products or services are considered key people and the firm does much more to keep them happy and employed. Granted, these roles are riskier and more demanding, but if you perform, you’re more likely to be in the sights of decision makers than those in “staff” positions. This sounds like obvious advice, but you’re unlikely to hear it from anyone on the inside, particularly not from your manager.

      b.   Network with men

The advent of women’s networks has made networking so much more agreeable and comfortable. We now have a circle of supportive women who are there to advocate for us, give us feedback and motivate us. But in many industries around the Bay Area, the people typically in authority are men---the people who hire, increase salaries, approve budgets and investments. Don’t be afraid to reach out to men for help, as many are eager to advocate for women. It’s just that they’re unlikely to proactively help unless asked (see advice #1).

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

Maya: I used to participate in competitive playwriting and it was one of the most stressful yet fulfilling hobbies I’ve participated in. We would be given a broad topic on a Friday---say, The Beatles---and then had the weekend to write a 10-page play with either direct or indirect reference to The Beatles. A group of judges would pick the best six to be performed a week later by well-known Bay Area actors at the Berkeley Rep. What an experience to see your work performed and interpreted on stage in front of an audience! Unfortunately, I found that increased work and family responsibilities made me less and less creative and I decided to take a break. But creative writing is something I’d love to come back to when I have more time.

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