My "Voice" Led to My Progress
By Suni P. Harford, Citi Managing Director, Regional Head of Markets, NA March 03, 2015 10:30 AM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Suni P. Harford, Managing Director, Regional Head of Markets, North America, shares her story about the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
There are pros and cons to being more vocal than most, and I can certainly think of many places where it hurt more than helped. To be honest, I am still learning the art of keeping my thoughts to myself. But having a voice which projects – and using it selectively but forcefully – has been a singular characteristic that has helped me in my career.
Your voice is your greatest career management tool. We hear a lot about the importance of visibility – of not just doing good work, but making sure it is also noticed. Being one of the few (loud) women on a (loud) trading floor definitely increases your visibility. So does speaking up when others keep quiet. How will anyone know you have a good idea if you don’t tell them about it?
I learned early on to establish a less formal dialogue with my manager so that I could keep him constantly apprised of what I was working on. I found that the best way to ensure that I kept on track in my career was ongoing feedback rather than waiting for a year-end discussion. It has also served me well to ensure that my managers know what my career aspirations are, the skills I am developing, the promotion I am aiming for. Once I found my manager was surprised at my willingness to relocate my family when I asked to be considered for a job in Asia. When many hear that story, they suggest it was his fault for making assumptions that I would never move my family. But I disagree. It was my fault for not letting him know earlier that I was open to such a move!
Ironically, I have found that the most powerful voice in my career is not my own, but those of my partners, colleagues and the members of my team. How others speak of you ultimately defines your success, and not only because the biggest opportunities are often decided upon when we are not in the room. So I try to be a good partner. I try to be fair in my dealings. And I try every day to say “thank you,” give credit where it is due, and to admit when I am wrong (which, as my children will tell you, is quite often!). That is where my big mouth does its greatest good.