Tell us how you got to your current position.
I graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance, and started working at Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) as a European Shareholder Services Analyst. As part of that role I supported their liquidity portal, which hosted BlackRock’s money market funds. This is where I became familiar with the BlackRock team and ultimately ended up applying for a sales role.
Prior to this, I had never considered a sales role as the prospect of sales targets and KPIs was slightly daunting. However, at the time I was a little concerned about being pigeonholed, gaining experience in sales would provide me with a more transferable skill set.
What would you say is the biggest challenge that you’re facing right now?
I don’t think you can answer this question without referencing COVID-19. The impact has brought its own pressures, both personally and professionally. I work from Hong Kong but cover all of Asia. Trying to conduct any new business is difficult when clients have to prioritise conducting routine processes remotely.
Personally, there are definitely days where I feel far away from home; home being Ireland. COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated that. But I’m fortunate to be working at a firm that has been exceptional in taking care of its employees through this time. We’ve had everything from access to mindfulness apps to morale boosters from different team engagements as we make an effort to check-in on one another regularly. In addition we’ve been granted ‘switch off’ days, which I think is a pretty remarkable gesture from the firm during these challenging times.
What advice would you give to women in finance in terms of establishing and developing a career?
Put your hand up and don’t wait to be asked. I certainly wouldn’t be in Asia if I hadn’t put my hand up.
Secondly, take risks. Move jobs, learn more, and become more valuable.
What is your motto in life, or your greatest inspiration?
The one that jumps out at me is “what’s for you won’t pass you”, because my mother has always repeated that to me growing up.
Personally though, I’ve always loved the poem The Dash by Linda Ellis. It’s actually quite a sad poem, but through it I’ve found the motto ‘enjoy the dash’. It just reminds me that life is very fragile and we just have to make the most of this.
Find your voice and silence the Crow
When it comes to being a female in the workplace, Tiana feels like her voice has always been heard and has always worked in teams that are gender diverse with a minimum of 50% women. However, it is evident that in most companies you do see fewer woman in more senior positions.
This does put an onus on women in senior positions to be more vocal, whether that’s through panels or internal networks. “Every woman has a duty to make sure the voices of other women especially those more junior are being heard, and giving them that platform and opportunity,” she says. This could be as small as asking a junior team member their opinion in a meeting, mentoring, empowering a female colleague, or giving credit to other women in order to share successes.
Tiana concedes that finding her voice is always a work in progress. “I believe everyone has a responsibility to clearly communicate in an appropriate manner how they feel in their role, and actively participate in how that develops over time,” she says. “It’s ultimately to everyone’s benefit if that communication is really open – even if it’s not always the easiest conversation to have.”
When it comes to gaining that necessary confidence, Tiana refers to a development programme she took part in in 2019, called Taking the Stage. “There was a lot of discussion around ‘the Crow’, and some definite good advice is to give the Crow as little airtime as possible.” The Crow, she explains, is the negative voice in the back of your head. “That voice can unnerve you and knock you off kilter when you focus on it for too long - silence the Crow!”
The same development programme focused largely on women in the workplace, and taking ownership of presence, brand and purpose. “I found that I suffer from ‘word obesity’, meaning that I add lots of words that dilute my message. It could be a lot of ‘I think’, ‘I just’ or ‘maybe if…’, so now I go back over my emails and remove anything that doesn’t add value,” she explains. These small tips and tricks can make drastic changes in the way that people communicate.
Reverse mentoring and empowerment
There’s been a recent increase in companies exploring the concept of reverse mentoring, which Tiana says has had a positive impact at BlackRock. “With reverse mentoring programmes, you have a really great opportunity to have more informal and healthy dialogues with senior individuals, whereby you can positively influence their thoughts and approaches to different topics,” she explains.
As a member of the People and Culture Committee, Tiana has helped to coordinate and arrange reverse mentoring placements. In doing so, she actively tries to pair mentors and mentees from different teams, to connect those who may not naturally connect during their day-to-day duties. This approach can reap even more benefits owing to the often completely different perspectives.
Alongside mentorships, Tiana notes that BlackRock has a focus on affinity networks. These networks are gaining traction as they allow all employees to gain exposure to the unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of their peers. “There are always new ones being established, but if there isn’t one that caters to you, then start one,” she concludes.