“A career isn’t built in a day or week or a month or a year. Careers build over time, so have patience. But have perseverance, too. Each thing that happens is part of the journey – it’s about the long haul. That’s the way to build a successful career.” – Melissa Gow
The Oppy is reconnecting with some prominent NYU Stern alumni with our ‘Graduate’ series. Each month, we’ll interview notable alumni that have made an impact on their community and industry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This month, The Oppy sat down with Melissa Gow (‘96), Managing Director at IHS Markit. Read on to learn more about Melissa’s career, IHS Markit and her reflections on the changing Financial Services industry.
We’re going to start off pretty broad – describe your background and tell us a little bit about your career journey.
It’s been a long career journey so I’ll try to condense it into something digestible. I have a degree in Economics and a minor in Spanish from Georgetown University and, of course, my MBA from New York University. I started my MBA part-time a year after I started working so I didn’t have much off in between one educational experience and the next. My first job was as an operations analyst at Swiss Bank Corporation, which then became UBS. Once I graduated from NYU, I moved to Goldman Sachs and worked as a project analyst within our financial controls group. After Goldman, I moved to a small company called EquiLend that Goldman Sachs had had a stake in.
EquiLend was a very small trading and operations platform in the securities finance industry with about 18 employees. It was a cultural shift from Goldman Sachs, which at that time was around 15,000 people. Then, I moved to a company called Data Explorers which was in the securities lending world. Data Explorers was eventually acquired by IHS Markit, and that’s where I am today. It’s been a long journey to get to this point. I’ve done a bunch of different things, but all within the financial services world.
That ties perfectly into my next question. I noticed on your Linkedin profile that you’ve been in all aspects of wealth management and securities finance. I’d love to hear more about how you think that has benefited you professionally.
I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to explore new opportunities and one thing I always encourage people to do is try different things. I view my career as a natural progression of the professional abilities I acquired along the way. I wouldn’t say the path to where I am today was largely calculated, but it has certainly been an exciting journey.. Even at this stage of my career, whether I’m doing one thing or another, I’m learning different skills that could be useful and bring value to other parts of the firm or adjacent areas. And in the end, I find that this mentality is conducive to achieving success in any organization.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the finance industry over the arc of your career.
When I started working, about 30 years ago, people were still allowed to smoke in their offices and no one had a computer on their desk. We used to receive interoffice mail – paper memos that came to you with things that you needed to do or if someone wanted to contact you. There was no email. From that standpoint it’s been not evolutionary but revolutionary. The way we work today and the way we communicate with our colleagues has been completely transformed.
Looking at it from a different perspective, the biggest change is the contemporary focus on diversity and the composition of the workforce. When I started working, diversity wasn’t something that anybody talked about. The Financial Services industry has come a long way, but it still has work to do in recruiting, retaining and promoting women and people of color. I believe that many leaders recognize this and honestly acknowledge that we still have plenty of work to do in advancing meaningful changes.
I also do a lot of mentoring. Mentoring and career development is so prevalent now and when I started it wasn’t. We didn’t talk about career development or promotion, it just sort of happened behind the scenes and you didn’t always have much insight into why. There’s much more transparency in recruiting, retaining and promotion today and it centers a lot around mentorship, guidance and career development. I think those conversations are really critical in terms of evolving the workplace.
As business school students, we are looking for our next job opportunity. Tell us about IHS Markit and why we should consider it as a potential employer.
IHS Markit is a great place to work. We have expertise across the world’s largest industries and we use data science and information analytics to help our clients make well-informed decisions. I specifically work in our financial information services group, and then more specifically within equities and securities finance. I’ve been with the company for almost 11 years and have witnessed its incredible growth from the inside. Based on my experience here, I would definitely recommend IHS Markit as a potential employer.
There’s a huge amount of opportunity for any MBA candidate. We’re always looking for people who have a passion connecting clients to different sources of data and services. In addition to expertise in a particular area, I think there are some important characteristics that we look for and certain behaviors that we like to see. The most successful people at IHS Markit demonstrate accountability, innovation, customer focus, integrity, inclusiveness and partnership. It’s a very fast-paced, dynamic environment.
We do tend to hire a lot of MBAs because we like to know that a candidate has a strong educational background, and also knows how to think and knows how to relate – the kind of person who can bring disparate groups together and have a conversation.
It’s also worth noting that our CEO, Lance Uggla, is a fantastic leader. If you follow him on LinkedIn, you’ll see that he’s very committed to diversity, equality, education and many other important issues in the world today. I think his genuine nature also trickles down across the rest of the organization, which I believe is inspirational to colleagues at every stage of their career.
Now it’s time for our rapid fire questions:
What’s one word that describes you? Loyal
Your favorite professor at Stern? Roy Smith
Where did you spend the Covid lockdown? I’ve been working in my dining room until last week, then I moved upstairs to another room – a nice change of scenery!
… a big move.
Your favorite tri-state area restaurant? L’Escale in Greenwich, CT.
Finish this sentence. At 7am you can find me: where I am right now in front of my computer. I get an early start and I’m on the job by seven.
What is a cause you’re passionate about? Financial literacy for youth.
What is one thing you can’t do that you want to learn? I can’t sing. I would love to be able to sing.
If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be? Marie Curie, she’s a female role model. My daughter and I have had a lot of conversations around her recently.
What’s the most important thing in your life? My family.
I have a couple more questions. How do you think your time at Stern influenced where you are today?
Like you, I went part-time, so my time at Stern showed me how much I can actually accomplish. It’s a pretty rigorous curriculum and group projects can be really demanding and time consuming. I also learned the theoretical side of what business is about and that, in turn, informs the practical application of that theory. It gave me a very strong background and principles in terms of understanding business. Coupling that with working full-time allowed me to immediately apply the theory and put it into action.
Shout out to Langone!
I don’t think it was even called Langone back then. I started out in the World Trade Center building. The school used to have some space down there before Washington Square.
I didn’t even know that, that’s very cool. To conclude our interview, what advice do you have for students who will be embarking on a new path post MBA.
A career isn’t built in a day or week or a month or a year. Careers build over time, so have patience. But have perseverance, too. Each thing that happens is part of the journey – it’s about the long haul. That’s the way to build a successful career. To take the good with the bad, to learn from the good and the bad. Don’t view any single success or failure as something that’s going to make or break your career because you’re in it for the long haul.