Anjali Menon, VP Technology with Morgan Stanley, sits down with Rebecca Knight at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
Growing up in India, Anjali didn't need to look very far for female role models in technology. She and her two sisters all had a knack for math and science and ultimately pursued careers related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
A native of Bengaluru, a hub of technology and home to many startups, Anjali remembers learning in first grade to code in Basic, an elementary programming language, and using it to maneuver a digital turtle around a screen. In primary school, she learned other programming languages, such as Pascal and C, and then—as she put it—was on her way.
Anjali earned a BE in Computer Science and Engineering from C.M.R. Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, India, and an MS in Computer Science from the Courant Institute of Mathematics, New York University.
I always had a real aptitude for mathematics and sciences—it's definitely a family trait. I was placed in a mathematics and sciences track in high school. In India, children—girls and boys alike—are often encouraged to enter STEM-related fields, such as engineering, medicine, and computer science, as there's always a need for those types of positions.
I came to New York City for graduate school, and it was there that I heard about Morgan Stanley and its three-month Technology Analyst Program. The program, known as TAP, involved intense, classroom-based training in application development, as well as in our various proprietary technologies. I liked the on-the-job training aspect of it, as well as the rotational structure, so I applied and was accepted to the program in 2011.
I was first placed with Field and Client Technologies in the Wealth Management division and worked primarily as a client-side developer on various reporting dashboards for Branch Managers and Financial Advisors. I later moved on to the capacity-metrics team, where we analyzed server metrics and reported on the health of the sector's infrastructure.
Now, after seven years, I'm an IT systems owner in Capital Markets, and I oversee development of the equities and options order-entry applications, as well as the syndicates validation engine. They're systems that our Financial Advisors use to validate and process stock-order placements, and they are essential to Morgan Stanley's trading operations.
Over the course of your career, have you noticed a sea change for female technologists? Do you see more women entering the field and rising to leadership positions?
Over the past few years at Morgan Stanley, I've seen the gender gap in technology narrow. We're very fortunate to see more and more women applying, and being hired, to TAP.
Representation is so important to young women in school and university. It's our responsibility as women technologists to be the change we wish to see in the world, so we need to actively reach out to these women and present ourselves as role models to develop a consistent pipeline through events like the firm's Women in Technology panels, internship opportunities, and our Girls Who Code summer immersion program, to name a few.
You're an active participant in the firm's annual delegation to the Grace Hopper Celebration, an international gathering of female technologists. What do you enjoy most about the event?
Without question, I enjoy being around so many other talented female technologists and seeing what they're working on in terms of research, either as academics or professionals in private companies. When I was in graduate school, men always outnumbered women, generally 60/40. So when you're at a conference surrounded by other women with similar backgrounds, interests, struggles and achievements, it's simultaneously comforting and inspiring.
As an experienced member of the firm's delegation, I'll be doing a lot of formal and informal interviews with students who approach our booth at the conference. With 20,000 people scheduled to attend, we anticipate a lot of foot traffic. When I chat with students, I talk to them about their specific interests in technology. Seeing what candidates are interested in and what they can bring to the firm is always exciting.
It's so important to know yourself as a person, in terms of your preferences and the environment where you'll be happiest. Develop a strong background in computer science, and remember that first impressions are often based on how you present on paper, so make sure all of your key accomplishments are reflected on your resume. Also, keep an eye out for important opportunities, from information sessions to internships—anything that can lead to someone or something that can open a door.
Asking questions is also a big part of any job, so don't be afraid to speak up, especially if you're a woman. In addition, advocating for yourself is a big part of advancing and, ultimately, getting to where you want to go. It's always wonderful to have colleagues who will speak up for you, but a fundamental skill is learning to speak up for yourself, highlighting your own accomplishments and showing what you've personally brought to a team effort.
Technology evolves constantly—it's a vast engine that powers our business. Morgan Stanley computer scientists, in essence, build and curate that engine. Personally, I love the diversity of frameworks, languages, and platforms available to do so. As a result, there's never just one cookie-cutter method of solving a problem, and it's the process of deciding among the myriad of possible solutions that I find the most challenging and, subsequently, most fulfilling.
Meet Nicole, A Branch Manager at Morgan Stanley
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Morgan Stanley. Go to Morgan Stanley's Page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
As a young, black woman Nicole Dickerson knows she doesn't fit the typical image of a branch manager. Through her leadership at Morgan Stanley, Nicole shares how she's breaking stereotypes with her success.
Nicole Dickerson, selected by Morgan Stanley as a MAKERs in 2018, knows that she doesn't fit the typical image of a branch manager, and she's good with that. As a young, black woman heading up a fast-growing branch in one of Morgan Stanley's major markets, she sees herself as the reflection of a shifting corporate culture, both within the firm and throughout the financial services industry.
She is one of 17 outstanding professional women nominated by her peers and selected by Morgan Stanley executives to participate in MAKERS, a national program that identifies and celebrates accomplished professionals from a variety of fields and companies.
"Morgan Stanley is trying to broaden the face of leadership," says Nicole, Branch Manager of the Beverly Hills office. "There's so much predisposition in what we think a leader should look like that it's important to show the world that success can come in a multitude of shades and genders."
Nicole is a case in point. In 2007, she decided to change careers and was considering getting her MBA in finance. She went to a few university open houses to get a feel for their programs and heard a presentation on wealth management that sparked her interest.
At the time, Nicole had two friends working in the industry. One ran a hedge fund, and the other was an advisor with a large wealth management firm. The hedge fund manager told her he made big money by taking big risks. The wealth manager told her that he built his business by working with amazing clients who are now friends. "What I got was 'slow and steady wins the race,'" she says. "And that resonated with me."
So instead of going back to school to pursue her MBA, she took a massive cut in pay and responsibility to become an assistant at a financial services firm. That was in March of 2008, at the depths of the financial crisis. "I took one step backward so that I could take a thousand steps forward," she says.
When she became Branch Manager of the Beverly Hills office in 2016, Nicole faced two key challenges. The first was suddenly finding herself responsible for managing her former coworkers. The second was breaking down the silos that many of the branch's top Financial Advisors had built around their businesses.
The key to both was creating a culture of inclusivity and teamwork. "A consistent message of mine is that we are all in this together," she says. "Whatever decision we make, we are all going to have to stand behind it and believe in it."
Under that philosophy, no person or position is more important than any other, and everyone in the office shares responsibility for the branch's success. "With 54 Financial Advisors in this branch, I have realized that true success happens when Financial Advisors view all of their decisions through the lens of a shareholder," she notes.
Nicole has the added complexity of managing Financial Advisors who have been in the business longer than she's been alive. They also had been successfully running their practices on their own and weren't particularly interested in changing how they did things. "People who have been in this business for so long can develop a fixed mindset that their system is the best for themselves and their teams," she says.
With those blinders on, though, even well-entrenched Financial Advisors can miss the opportunities being created in a fast-changing world. So Nicole started chipping away at those silos by rolling up her sleeves to work as hard as they did to meet client needs. "This is one team, one dream," she says. "I'm only going to be as successful as my Financial Advisors are, and because I'm their intermediary within the firm, they are only going to be as successful as I am."
So when a Financial Advisor comes to her with something that requires an assist from corporate, they work together to make it happen. "We approach it with the understanding that we need to own this together," she says. "We craft the message together and then figure out how to get other people in the boat with us."
"It's an easier way to do business, and that's part of the cultural change that I'm trying to create here," she adds.
The results speak for themselves. The Beverly Hills branch is on track to post strong organic growth this year. "We changed the focus on how to help Financial Advisors be successful," she says. "Our Financial Advisors know that I'm advocating for them and will be shoulder to shoulder with them in terms of closing business and getting things done."
Looking ahead, she wants the rest of the Los Angeles marketplace place to know that the Beverly Hills office of Morgan Stanley is the best place for any Financial Advisor who wants to grow his or her business. She points to the strong support that she and her team have received from management and the deep resources available to help make Financial Advisors successful.
"I want to make sure my Financial Advisors know that when they bring in a prospect they can say, without a doubt, that this is the best firm in Beverly Hills," she says.