“I manage with a lot of collaboration, communication, transparency, and humility,” says Kathryn Black, Director of Sales Enablement at Fidelity Investments Canada. “Empathy is critical, especially now when everyone has a different story going on behind the Zoom screen.”
- Kathryn Black, Director of Sales Enablement at Fidelity Investments Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic had an unexpected silver lining for Kathryn Black, Director of Sales Enablement at Fidelity Canada. Her current position was traditionally based in Toronto, but she has been able to transition to the role remotely from Calgary, close to her family and friends. In addition, she and her husband have enjoyed the opportunity to share memories and milestones with their young daughter while working from home.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
If something scares you, it’s what you need to do to grow and evolve. Someone said that to me early in my career. I remind myself of it every time I’m asked to do something outside of my comfort zone. For example, public speaking used to be extremely intimidating to me. However, over time—and with a lot of practice—it’s something I’ve really come to enjoy.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in finance?
I’ve always loved numbers and building relationships with people. While in university, I spent my summers working at a bank, where I got exposure to the markets and personal finances, but, more importantly, working with clients. I was also fortunate to have family and friends in the industry to consult and give me perspective. For me, this industry offers the opportunity to cultivate relationships while maintaining a quantitative focus. It has also allowed me to pursue different career paths, such as wealth management, sales, people management, and now firm leadership. Finance is a thriving, constantly changing business with opportunities, challenges, flexibility, and passionate people to learn from. At the end of the day, we’re working with people to help build and protect their financial futures, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
What examples of positive change have you noticed in the industry since you started?
The number of women entering the industry has grown tremendously. In my experience, I’ve been fortunate to work with, and learn from, many amazing, smart, empathetic, curious, and ambitious women. This has happened partly because the industry now has a strong focus on diversity and inclusion. At Fidelity, we’ve put resources and energy behind engaging with university clubs across Canada, promoting and expanding our mentorship programs, and providing support through our employee resource groups, to name a few initiatives. Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to recruit and hire women from different backgrounds onto our sales team, which we’ve seen yield very successful results. When everyone has different experiences and viewpoints, it brings diversity of thought into the organization and allows innovation to prosper.
How can we dispel the myth that it’s challenging for women to succeed in the world of finance?
This idea has been around for ages. I feel like the more we talk to one another and hear about one another’s experiences, the more we can dismantle the idea that only a certain type of person works in this industry. Fidelity has put concerted effort into supporting women joining the industry and providing more flexibility in roles to ultimately help employees be successful, no matter what background they’re coming from. There are some very strong role models and examples of female leaders in our industry, like our own CEO at Fidelity, Abigail Johnson.
What advice do you have for young women in the industry?
First, view challenges as opportunities. As women, we often have to demonstrate our credibility and proficiencies to earn the trust of clients and senior leaders. Being a woman in finance presents an opportunity to stand out and bring a new perspective people haven’t heard before. Remember, you don’t have to conform to the way things have historically been done. Know your strengths and then make your mark by putting your own unique twist on things.
Second, in a lot of situations, the worst-case scenario is that someone will say no. I feel many young women are afraid of this. However, if you’ve made your case and put yourself out there in the most well-thought-out way you can, sometimes hearing no is a great learning opportunity. Hearing no builds resiliency and your ability to bounce back with new ideas or insights.
Finally, build your network and your brand. The more time you take to build and nurture rapport with your colleagues and people across the industry, the more doors will open to you. Just because you may not work directly with someone, doesn’t mean you can’t foster a relationship and learn from them.
What’s your approach to leadership?
My approach to leadership has evolved over time. I’ve been lucky to have great mentors to guide and teach me about different styles to apply in various situations. This, along with my experience, has been pivotal in defining and shaping my own leadership style. I manage with a lot of collaboration, communication, transparency, and humility. I listen and try to see all perspectives, give people autonomy, and, ultimately, be fair to everyone regardless of role or title. Empathy is critical, especially now when everyone has a different story going on behind the Zoom screen. It’s important to set expectations for your team and meet or exceed the expectations that others have of you. If you’re accountable to your team, they’ll be accountable to you.
How do you keep your work and your life in balance?
It’s all about defining boundaries and finding a healthy balance that works for you, knowing that it may not always be equal. My workday may not be your workday, and everyone should find comfort in taking time for what’s important to them.
Women often worry about balancing opportunities for career advancement with taking time off to raise a family. In finance, there can be an assumption that you have to pick one, which may deter women from entering the industry. I feel it’s important to be open and transparent about my work and family commitments. I truly believe there’s a routine or schedule out there that can enable everyone to succeed both personally and professionally. It may just take a little trial and error at the beginning.
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March 28, 2022