There is nothing more important as you progress through your life and career as having the ability to communicate in a compelling way so that others will want to listen to you and want to connect with you."
Three executives from separate business disciplines discussed how oil in Saudi Arabia might impact the stock market, the growing impact of women in the C-suite, and taking chances with new, aggressive product lines.
But David Andrews, Senior Managing Director at Evercore, John Murphy, EVP and CFO at Coca-Cola, and Kristin Kallergis Rowland, Head of Alternatives at J.P. Morgan, shared a common theme for finance students a 90-minute panel session on Friday, November 15 – advice for young professionals. Three takeaways: be receptive to feedback, recruit mentors, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
The event, held in Lowder 125 and packed to standing room only, was in conjunction with the annual Financial Management Association Leadership Summit.
“When I look back at my career, the major inflection points have been directly related to either a sponsor who thought I was worth sponsoring or a mentor who was there to give good advice,” said Murphy (left), who has held numerous management, finance and strategic planning roles in his 31 years at the soft drink powerhouse.
“It’s often intimidating to think – particularly if you’re looking for more senior people and believe that they won’t help – but in fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. People are often too willing to share back what they have received. Actively recruit mentors from the get-go.”
Andrews, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Auburn in 1991, spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy and has worked in the oil industry since 2012. “At my stage of my career, I’ve found that people who seem the happiest are the people who don’t take themselves too seriously,” he told students.
“I know that you are sitting here all dressed up in a suit and tie and you’re anxious about starting your careers, and I’ll tell you that you’ll spend the first 20 to 30 years of your career just trying to make sure that people are taking you seriously. That’s good. Strive to make sure that other people take you seriously – but don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Rowland, spent five years as Alternative Investments Specialist and Head of Alternative Investments at J.P. Morgan in London, England, before moving back to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
“Always be open to feedback, because it’s the only way you are going to grow,” she said. “If people think that you are not good at receiving feedback, then they will stop giving it to you. One of the things that I’ve always done in my career is I go to a team member and ask, ‘What’s one thing you would have done differently?’ When you ask it that way, it’s a nice way to pull the answer out of them.”
Murphy added that a special emphasis on communication skills is vital for success in the business world. “If I was to give myself some advice, I would have invested more time earlier in communication," he said. "There is nothing more important as you progress through your life and career as having the ability to communicate in a compelling way so that others will want to listen to you and want to connect with you.”
Always be open to feedback, because it’s the only way you are going to grow."If people think that you are not good at receiving feedback, then they will stop giving it to you."
The question-and-answer style forum was moderated Harbert College of Business alumnus Steven Aldridge, Managing Director at Cantor Fitzgerald. A favorite of students, Aldridge has been a part of the Summit since it started three years ago. He moved into the role of moderator in years two and three after serving on the inaugural Summit panel in 2017.