‘Your career is going to be measured in decades’
In 2021, Jane Fraser will be the first woman to lead a major US bank after she was named CEO of Citi in September. Her story casts corporate leadership in a new light.
Fraser exemplifies how an enriching non-linear career track can still lead straight to the top and how work-life balance can be achieved despite the not-so-ordinary challenges that women – in particular, working mothers – face on Wall Street.
At the Singapore Fintech Festival, Fraser narrated how one encounter with Citigroup’s former CEO Vikram Pandit steered her career into a new direction.
Read more: Citi sets stage for first female CEO
Pandit once asked Fraser to map out her career trajectory. But when she came to him with an outline of her goals and the skills she needed to cultivate, her mentor “basically tore up” all her plans and said: “You’re thinking about this all wrong.”
His point, she said, was to “think about how you collect and gather the experiences that will make you successful in the role, not the experiences that will get you to the role.”
“That was a game-changing piece of advice for me because then I started doing completely different jobs and ones that weren’t necessarily logical to most people’s thinking,” recounted Fraser, who is currently CEO of Citi’s global consumer banking.
Her nearly two decades at Citi saw her rising to the top of every line of business she managed, from being global head of strategy and mergers & acquisitions, to being CEO of private banking, mortgage and the Latin America divisions.
“That philosophy very much guided me to start thinking what are the things that would equip me better for a more senior role further down the path,” Fraser said.
The mother of two looks back on all her career choices – including working part time while raising her children – and tells people to pace themselves.
“There is some crazy pressure on women, and on men, to almost be superwoman or superman, and that’s just not realistic,” she said.
“Your career is going to be measured in decades, and you’ll probably have many careers in your life, so make sure that you really enjoy each period of your life and make the most of it.
“Don’t try and achieve everything at the same time and put so much pressure on yourself.”