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Episode 6: Pivot in your willing to start at the bottom

Dr. Sarah Andreas interviews Pauline Yan. Pauline Yan Professional in portfolio manager in finance.

You will learn:

How to pivot in your career

You can prepare now,

When the opportunity comes you will be right where you are meant to be.

Your dream will keep growing as you grow.


Interviewer: Hey, everyone. Welcome back. Today my guest is Pauline Yen. She is a professional in portfolio management and works in the finance industry. I'm going to have her tell you a little bit about what's going on and what she's accomplished. Welcome, Pauline.

Pauline Yen: Thank you so much for having me. I am Pauline and I am a Portfolio Manager at a bank. That is quite a nice title that I wanted to share with everybody, kind of my journey of how I got here. It was not a glamorous journey at all. When I graduated from university, I was told that I didn't have the right degree, I didn't have the right work experience. I just had this notion of what I wanted. I had to find a lot of different ways to get here. One of those things included a two-year stint stuffing envelopes at the bank. Definitely, not glamorous. I got a lot of paper cuts, I'll tell you that.

Interviewer: You had a degree and you spent two years stuffing envelopes?

Pauline: That's right. I had a degree in Psychology, and I got it at McGill University. McGill is a good school with an international reputation, but because I wanted to pivot into finance and not in my field of study, I really just had to start right at the bottom and prove to everybody that I was serious about what I wanted to do. Yes, it was very, very humbling, those two years of me sitting in a cubicle with just stacks of envelopes to stuff.

But that's how a lot of people do start. We hear a lot about the people who are at the right place at the right time, and all of that, and they just skyrocket to the top. We love those stories, but they're few and far between. I did spend two years stuffing envelopes. But that wasn't eight hours a day. There was a couple of hours where maybe there was some downtime and I volunteered for projects, trying to just learn as much as I could.

During this time, I kept my eyes out for opportunities, learn from other people in the office and in the industry. Then, after a couple of years of me working during the day stuffing envelopes and me studying at night, I did get a finance designation. That really started me on a path where people did take me a little bit seriously about my intent to become a Portfolio Manager.

Overall, I'm going to say, from the moment I entered the industry to where I actually got the title that I was really hoping for was a good 10 to 12 years. It's really not an overnight story. Throughout that time there are promotions and there are lessons. I had many, many months of thinking, "What am I doing here?" I'm like, "I could be working at the Apple Store and still make more money," like there is that.

But I had a really good mentor that taught me that opportunity and preparedness will intersect some time in your life. Opportunity is luck and you can't control that, but preparedness you can. He said, "Prepare now, and when that opportunity comes, you'll be right where you're supposed to be." It's very frustrating to hear that as a 23-year-old with four paper cuts, but it is the truth. It's people who've gone before me, so I did take that to heart. It was humbling. But after all of that, it was worth it because I did become a Portfolio Manager and I got to where I wanted to go.

One of the thing I wanted to share with everybody is that-

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-then it keeps changing. Because once I became a Portfolio Manager-- and that was my dream for the past 10 years-- I later learned that that wasn't enough, only because that was a little bit of an external dream, "Other people would view my career as a success." But it wasn't fulfilling to me in my heart.

So, it took a couple of years for me to really do some soul-searching and come up with an idea that marries all the experience I have, and all the frustration, and all of the obstacles I've encountered; and then I'm going to launch a business that combines all of these things with a passion, with something that gives me purpose. I wanted to let everyone know that you don't have to get a home run right out of the gate, and then even when you do, there are more innings to go.

Interviewer: I love that. That's such a vivid mind picture for me of, "Even when you hit it out of the gate, there's another inning, there's another thing that you're going to be responsible to do."

Pauline: Yes.

Interviewer: My next question is, what was your biggest leadership lesson that you learned?

Pauline: The biggest leadership lesson that I learned was that leadership is not what most people think it is. It's not the person sitting in the corner office. It's not the person who sits at the head of the board room. Leadership is, in a way, selling your idea. Doesn't matter if you are middle management or you're starting out, but it's about you selling your idea from the heart that benefits everybody, and you can communicate that it benefits everybody.

The leadership is actually when you get everybody on board and you say, "Yes, this is what we need to be doing." For people who are going to volunteer their time-- We're all busy, we're all working nine to five, but perhaps you have an extra work project that you want to do, but you need other people. Leadership is actually convincing people to come with you on this journey. It's not a title. It's really about how you can inspire people to go that extra mile for you.

Interviewer: I love it. One of the things that we were talking about a little bit ago before we got on the podcast was your, and that's your new project that you're working on right now. I'd love for you to tell my listeners a little bit more about that and about how that came into being.

Pauline: Well, thanks. Yes, that's my new project that I am working on after hours, and it is for professional women to learn about finance and investing. Here we are, we're climbing the corporate ladder, we're making the money, but how are we going to invest it? That's the new inning that I'm in this game.

A lot of the reason that I wanted to do this was because when I got my professional title, I still felt like something was a little bit missing. I had a good title, I had respect, I had a very comfortable life, but there was this idea of what was I going to be leaving behind in my career. How am I really helping, impacting and touching people?

I think most of us are going to say, "Well, we don't go to the bank. We don't talk to tellers. We're not really doing any of these things." I thought, "How can I help the people who need help and that are really being ignored by the existing institutions?"

The reason I created Sunday Brunch Cafe-- and I named it such-- was because I saw that women and men, they just want different things when it comes to finances. Because finance is so male-dominated, they don't really talk to women and address what they want. They seem to tell you what you should be wanting.

I think what women really want is to know that they are on a good path, that they're providing for their family, that they're providing for their future, and that they're going to be able to take care of their kids, Take care of their aging parents, give back to the community. Though, I feel like that is what I wanted to convey.

Sunday Brunch Cafe, again, is one of those non-intimidating titles. It denotes that we're going to have a good time, we're going to get together, we're going to talk about things that matter, but in a communal way. Women just take couple hours for themselves to have lunch with the girls. Sometimes, for a busy working mom, those couple of hours just feeds the soul.

Interviewer: I love that. What advice would you give to a young professional who wants to grow and feels like they're stuck?

Pauline: I would also say for every professional, no matter what age they are-- but especially when they are young-- is that your runway is incredibly long. I know it doesn't seem like that, but the runway is really long. That's why I know it's really hard to be patient and to see what is down on the runway. Just keep on working hard, but be smart about it. Right? Invest in yourself and it's never too late to make a course correction.

If you are really stuck in terms of you hate your job and you hate the company's mission and all of that, it's not too late to turn around and do something else. But if you're feeling stuck because it's been 18 months since your last promotion and you really wanted to make manager by now, just stick it out.

Remember that you will have the rest of your life to become a manager, so right now invest in yourself, invest in learning new things, and invest in the relationships that you build. Not in the sleazy networking sense, but take a real interest in what your colleagues are doing. It gives you a better picture of the business in general. So, when somebody asks you for your opinion, you will come up with a great opinion that sees the whole business, sees things from your unique perspective. I think that, again, would help set you apart in management's eyes.

Interviewer: That's great advice, Pauline. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me and my listeners on my podcast today.

Pauline: It was such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Interviewer: I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Leadership Snap Shot. If you'd like to hear more podcasts that are very similar to this, please make sure you subscribe, so that way you know when a new podcast comes out. All right, embrace your journey, and I'll talk to you next week.

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