I have always been the kid who loves school. I never balked at a summer reading list, and after about three weeks of summer break, I was ready to go back. Even while completing my undergraduate degree at James Madison University (Go Dukes!), I had a strong feeling that I would head back to school some day for an advanced degree. I wasn’t sure what my area of focus would be or when I would start, but I knew it would happen.
Before I could make these choices, I wanted real-world experience. I joined Vanguard in 2014 as a Client Relationship Associate in our Charlotte, North Carolina office, serving our personal investors. I supported a few teams within our Retail Investor Group, where I was responsible for helping new clients meet their investment needs and continuing to deepen current client relationships. From there, I transitioned to the social media team in the summer of 2017 to focus on community building and social care. If you’ve ever seen a post signed with “—Emily” on our Facebook page, that’s me!
It was a few months into my new position when I felt ready to continue my education journey. Work was going well for me and I was getting the hang of how marketing works outside of the classroom (I took a few marketing classes as an undergraduate, but everything is different in practice than in theory). I wanted to learn more about not only marketing, but business as a whole, and decided to begin looking for an MBA program.
Charlotte is a hub for many financial companies, so I had multiple programs available to me. I needed a program that would allow me to continue working full-time, since I would be paying for this on my own. I also wanted a program that was cost-effective (as a Vanguard crewmember, I think about costs more than the average person), and flexible in case I needed to take time off. The Professional MBA (PMBA) program through the University of South Carolina is what I ultimately chose, and two years in, I’m so glad I did.
Posing with Cocky, the University of South Carolina’s Gamecocks, at the Charlotte USC campus
Because I would be paying for school on my own, I was nervous about how I was going to make this work financially. I’m fortunate to not have any undergraduate debt (thanks Mom and Dad!), and did not want to be buried in debt as a result of obtaining a graduate degree. When discussing my education goals with my manager, he mentioned Vanguard’s Academic Assistance Plan. Once I researched this further, I became even more excited to start my studies.
The Vanguard Academic Assistance Plan offers a generous tuition reimbursement each calendar year for full-time crewmembers. There’s no minimum time-in-job requirement, so even as a relatively new employee, I could still take full advantage of this benefit. Based on the cost of my specific program, the plan covers the cost of tuition for four classes per calendar year. School is stressful enough, so not having to worry about how to pay for it is a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m able to focus more on my studies and build relationships with fellow students because I don’t have to fret about how I’m going to afford everything.
I plan to graduate from my MBA program in December 2020 and will genuinely miss working with the professors and other students. Having the opportunity to get the perspective of other professionals, both inside and outside of the financial services industry, has helped me provide more well-rounded input and insights in my current role and better understand Vanguard’s place in the business world at large. Vanguard’s Academic Assistance Plan is allowing me to accomplish one of my dreams (getting an advanced degree), while working at a great company.
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There are many anticipated advances that will change the way that we do business. Speculation and ideas about what will shape the future of investing can bring fear or excitement to the industry. Vanguard’s Crew Resource Group, Leadership and Engagement for Asian Professionals (LEAP), held a Q&A session with Vanguard’s CEO, Tim Buckley, and a Principal of the Institutional Investor Group, Jean Lu, on how cultural and technological differences make an impact on ongoing and future ways of working, both at Vanguard and within the industry.
(Left to right) John Ameriks, Jean Lu, and Tim Buckley discuss Future of Work
In the opening remarks, Jean Lu reminded everyone that approaching cultural differences can be an opportunity to challenge the status quo. Although difficult, addressing the uncomfortable aspect can provide a new perspective to everyday operations.
As one of the department heads of the Institutional Investor Group and a co-executive of LEAP, Jean discussed her experiences receiving difficult questions about diversity and shared that when we speak up, we become advocates for diversity and bring value and new ideas to light. She referenced a quote from Verna Myers, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, who noted, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance,” to highlight the importance of what we can do to increase diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality in the workplace. Jean later added, “Diversity matters because embracing different cultures give us a competitive edge. It’s my fiduciary duty to share my perspective, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
Tim Buckley also made it clear that diversity plays an integral part in the future of Vanguard. Tim elaborated, “If we listen to each other, we can learn from each other and build on ideas.” As an example of this type of collaboration, he described how Vanguard’s economics team brings together regional expertise from Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, and the U.S. to ensure our research and analysis presents a global picture of the trends investors need to know about.
One trend our economists have an eye on is how technology will impact the future of work. With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, Tim reminded the room of the distinction between tasks and jobs. Many rote, repetitive tasks can be automated, which means that jobs will rely more on human creativity and problem solving. At Vanguard, we’ll need both technical expertise and what our researchers call “uniquely human tasks” to serve clients well. Jean added that the “. . . need for tech acumen and expertise will only increase. Our ability to go deep is important.”
LEAP holds events throughout the year to participate in meaningful and impactful conversations. John Marcante, co-executive of LEAP, shared that LEAP impacts the workplace by “providing a network of support, development, and empowerment,” and urges that we “Get involved. Dig deep. Ask hard questions. It takes courage. That’s what leaders are made of. It’s about talking about intersectionality.”
A brand new year is here and we asked Vanguard crew across the organization how they plan to make it count. Read as they share their 2020 aspirations:
Live in the moment
Carrie H.—My goal is to take less notes in meetings. I will aim to be more present, make better eye contact, and only jot down action items to ensure I never drop a ball. This idea came from some recent presentations by Mel Robbins, who encourages women to have a confident and present presence at any table at which we sit.
Kristin T.—My professional and personal resolution is to take more breaks, including breaks from screens. I am most thoughtful, creative, and innovative when I can clear my mind, get outside, and step away from my normal routine. Easier said than done when you work in social media (which is always on), but I hope to make it a priority in 2020.
Expand impact in local communities
Linda T.—I am a member of the Community Outreach Team for Vanguard’s Information Technology Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success (IT WILS), which has organized or sponsored 50 STEM events in the last five years that impacted over 10,000 students ranging from kindergarten to college. Our efforts include supporting, sponsoring and/or hosting Hour of Code in elementary schools, Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology (GETT) for 1,000 middle and high school girls, Techies Day for high school students, as well as college hackathons.
In 2020, I will be representing the IT WILS Community Outreach Team by mentoring the Women in Computer Science club at a local college. Through this experience, I will work with the students to co-host a coding workshop with non-profit organization, TechGirlz. Additionally, I recently volunteered to support the Women in Tech Summit conference in Philadelphia for college and female IT professionals. We need to build the pipeline of future crew by encouraging them to pursue careers in technology. The children are our future!
Strengthen working relationships
Tara T.—My resolution is to go back to doing something I used to prioritize. I plan to set up regular check-ins with business partners to learn more about what their goals are for the year. We often meet only to move a project forward, but by sitting down to learn more about their passions, career goals, and personal lives, we establish meaningful working relationships. These relationships always tend to have the best business results for me, and more importantly, give me the opportunity to get to know my coworkers better.
Laura B.—This year I am going to make an effort to learn more about the individual skills of others on my team. Even if I do not become a technical expert in what they do, I will better understand how much time and effort is involved in their daily work, and I will be able to assist when needed.
The end of the year is often a time to reflect on all that’s been accomplished in the last twelve months. We pulled together the top four career stories from 2019. Whether it’s your first read or you’re revisiting a favorite, we hope you enjoy!
We sat down with five Vanguard recruiters to hear how they coach candidates through the interview process. In this blog, we share 12 ways that experienced professionals can prepare for a Vanguard interview—whether in person or over the phone.
Annsley opens up about her voyage to Vanguard after college. “To say I was hesitant to join the finance industry is an understatement. Much of my college education was focused on classes like organic chemistry and biomechanics. But my friend assured me that my passion to help people live a better life directly aligned with Vanguard’s mission. With his support along with my family, I took a giant leap of faith, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.”
Vanguard’s financial advisors are using time-proven investment methodology to offer investment solutions that lead our clients confidently toward their business or personal financial goals. In this series, our financial advisors share their personal experiences in pursuing a career in this field and the impact they’ve had in driving successful investment results for clients.
Kristen shares a personal story about how Vanguard allowed her to focus on family during a difficult time. “While my personal life was turned on its head, a new leader was assigned to my team. I was experiencing changes both at Vanguard and in my personal life. My first one-on-one was conducted through video conference from my parent’s house. It was during that conversation I finally said the words out loud…my mom had cancer. Not knowing how my new leader would respond, I waited. He took a moment and said, “Family comes first,” a concept I heard Vanguard was known for but never experienced firsthand.”
In this blog, Amy G., a chief of staff, shares why the Giving Season is important to her. During Vanguard’s Giving Season, crew members around the world join together to help brighten the lives of children, seniors, and families through a variety of activities including raising funds and purchasing toys, books, clothing, and necessities. The Giving Season is one of Vanguard’s many Community Stewardship programs through which crew donate their time, talent, and treasure to help communities have the best chance for success.
Ever since I could remember, my parents consistently instilled in my siblings and me the belief that “it’s always better to give than to receive.” One way my parents demonstrated this belief was to participate in a variety of community service events throughout the course of year. When I think back to those events, my mind is instantly flooded with positive memories, and many stemmed from our annual participation in a sponsor-a-child program. I vividly recall as a young child walking up to the Christmas tree at my family’s church to select a “wish kid,” typically a young girl close to my age, for whom I could help ensure her holiday was just as joyous as my own.
Branching out to Vanguard
In 2011, prior to receiving my undergraduate degree and launching into the professional world, I searched determinedly for an employer who was both well regarded in the financial services industry and also demonstrated a strong sense of commitment to community service—a trait central to my own personal values. Luckily, I did not have to look far from the Philadelphia region to find Vanguard, a company with many community stewardship programs that were positively impacting their local communities. One program in particular caught my eye, given the close significance to my childhood memories: Vanguard’s Giving Season.
Seeding more Santa helpers
Fast forward to 2019, I share with enthusiasm that I have participated in the Giving Season at Vanguard each of the last eight years, and that I have been joined by my members of my soccer team. Outside of Vanguard, you can find me on countless soccer fields as a female youth soccer coach for a local Philadelphia club. While I don’t have a specific number of games or tournaments I set out to win, I do have one very specific goal—positively impact as many young girls in the surrounding Philadelphia area, both on and off the field, as possible. I feel that it is my unspoken duty to use my personal experiences and leadership skills as a platform to help influence the lives of my players. I want to make my players better people, not just better athletes.
During each Giving Season, I volunteer my time by signing up to shop for 20 kids who have been sponsored by Vanguard crew, and each of my players has her own child to shop for. My team and I will venture to the local Target and begin a shopping frenzy. I’d describe it as organized chaos, but thankfully I have a group of soccer moms who assist in the process! Overall, my team has an absolute blast while learning the same lesson my parents taught me—“it’s always better to give than to receive.” The best part? When they begin asking if our team will be shopping for children in need again next year.
When I was a young kid, I wanted to be the Incredible Hulk. However, my desire to be a super hero was different than that of my friends at school because of one small nuance: I spent time with Hulk. I knew that he woke up at 5:00am every morning to do cardio, and some days I would join him. I knew that he liked to put black pepper on almost everything he ate. I had the opportunity most evenings to watch him lift weights, and WOW! He was strong. And the green paint? Well, that was just for television and public appearances. You see I lived with the Incredible Hulk… he was my dad.
I have a vivid memory of when I was about five years old: My father (a.k.a. Hulk) was doing bench press in the basement, and I could hear his exhale with each rep. And then it stopped. Next came a struggled yell for help, followed by my mother running down the stairs in a panic, and then two incredibly loud thuds. My mother helped him dump the weights. And for the first time in my life, I realized that everyone, even a super hero, needs help sometimes.
Your career is no different. Neither is mine. We all need help. I recently completed a fun exercise: I listed as many people as I could think of that have helped me in my 15 year career. In about 10 minutes, I wrote down the names of 94 people, and I could have kept going. The old saying is true, sometimes it does take a village! Among these individuals, there are a few who have had the greatest impact on my career due to their willingness to serve as my mentors. In keeping with the theme of seeking help, I’ve asked two of them, Vanguard senior leaders Marissa Blank and Steve Holman, to come alongside me to construct a guide on how to establish a strong mentorship relationship.
Engage with individuals naturally: The best way to build trusting relationships is to allow connections to occur naturally through your network. As Steve shares, “While formal mentorship programs can work, my experience has been the best mentor relationships happen organically. There has to be a deeper bond or connection to develop a relationship that allows both parties to go beyond superficial conversation and pleasantries.” Start meeting with leaders in your immediate department to discuss your career, and ask for ‘referrals’ on who they’d recommend you meet with. Over the course of time, you’ll get to know a lot of individuals and likely connect with a couple of them as ongoing mentors.
Be intentional about who you engage for different topics: In Marissa’s experience, “Each mentor I have in my network helps me with different things. Some are fantastic strategic thinkers, while others are great at vetting career options and next steps.” Connecting with mentors in this way will also allow you to go deep on important career topics rather than staying surface level.
Don’t be afraid to ask….for anything!: Sometimes fear is the only thing preventing us from moving forward, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. People generally want to help others succeed. “I have never had someone tell me no when I have asked for time.” says Marissa. I have personally experienced the same.
Come prepared with one key item you wish to discuss, and send agenda beforehand: This may be an obvious one, but it is one that can be often overlooked. Ensuring you are being respectful of your mentor’s time is important, especially if this is a new professional relationship where a friendship has yet to develop. In Marissa’s experience: “The mentor relationships that have been the most productive are those where the mentee comes prepared, whether they bring a thoughtful topic to discuss, provide an update on their respective business or share insight into their career planning.” Steve agrees,“Ask specific questions about where you think you need help. Seek insight about situations you’ve experienced. Don’t force your mentor to have to guess what you need.”
Don’tbe afraid to share your fears or failures: As Steve shares, “those are where your biggest opportunities for growth exist, and potentially where your mentor can help you the most.” If trust is established in the professional relationship, then this should be a ‘safe space’ to be completely honest, let your guard down, and get insightful feedback.
Be thoughtful about how often you meet with mentors: Marissa says, “I have some mentors where we only connect once a year or as something arises, where others are more frequent given the type of relationship we have.” You want to balance ensuring that your meeting time is valuably used with maintaining the relationship. For many, a couple of quick emails in between meetings can keep the conversation going without the logistics of face-to-face time.
Show interest in your mentor’s career: The more you understand their career, the more you will learn from them. And who knows, you may be able to teach your mentor something that helps them too. Marissa has a reputation for formulating successful teams, and I have indirectly learned from her to be comfortable ‘thinking outside the box’ when looking for talented individuals. Steve has an innate ability to balance professionalism with ‘being real’ and has taught me to feel comfortable bringing my full self to work every day.
I may never actually become the Incredible Hulk and save the world, but that’s okay… becoming someone’s mentor and positively impacting their life is just as fulfilling. In this season of giving, let’s show thanks to those who have helped us by committing to help others in their career.