What is it like as a woman in finance? We caught up with Wen Lei, CFA, Manager, Asset and Liability Management at Manulife Financial and recent Rotman Master of Finance alumna for a wide-ranging conversation on her career, influences and the Rotman MFin program. This post is the first in a four part series. Stay tuned!
How did you choose finance for your career?
In my undergraduate studies, I had an excellent instructor, Karen Chiykowski. She was very influential in my finance career choice.
Were you interested in finance before?
No. I had no idea what I wanted to do exactly. Truthfully, I just thought that I wanted a business degree because of the job options. You had a few fields to choose from. More than half of the students went into accounting. I had no interest in accounting at all. I did quite terribly actually. I think it was my only C+. I hated it! I liked finance the best. Karen was really good. She motivated me and definitely kicked off my interest in the area. It’s not 100% just numbers; you have the quantitative and qualitative aspects at the same time.
There are relatively few women in the finance industry. Thoughts?
I don’t feel disadvantaged at all, especially in Toronto. My boss is a woman. I had a couple of women mentors. In school we had female professors, a lot of whom had also been practitioners in the industry.
I think a lot of women go into other fields by choice. Traditionally, we might look at ourselves as better in literature, psychology, not necessarily in math nor science.
What character do you need to succeed in finance?
You have to be able to compete in finance. You have to be hard-working. You have to be driven. You have to be motivated all the time. Particularly in Toronto, we have more CFA charter holders than New York! Everyone works hard to get in to get a good job. You just have to be very assertive about yourself. Very self-motivated.
Would you have any advice for women thinking about going to finance?
Find yourself a mentor. Join some sort of organization. For example, Women in Capital Markets is very good. Having a good mentor is important. I mentor some people too. Right now, I’m in a formal mentorship through WCM as an “apprentice”. Actually, my mentor is also a Rotman MFin alumna who graduated in 2012.
What value do you find in a mentor?
I find women very supportive. Most mentors have more experience than you. For example, my mentor has been in the industry for more than 15 years. She has a pretty good career path. She did the Rotman MFin. You’ll find commonalities with your mentor. You’ll also learn about their career path, their experience, how they get to where they are right now. You learn from that. And, if you have issues or problems or questions, maybe they can help. Maybe they have had the same experience or puzzle before. They’ll help give you some kind of solution or insight that could be useful.
This article was posted on July 24, 2014.
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