I was introduced to Lisa approximately a month ago by April Rudin, founder of The Rudin Group. In our first call with each other, I was enthralled by Lisa’s accomplishments and background. She truly has an amazing journey, and she is a true leader and role model for women in our industry and for women on Corporate Boards. There’s no doubt that Lisa and I have become lifelong friends, and I look forward to the day we can actually meet in person. Every time I read her story, she inspires me to do more!
– Maree Moscati, CEO, Copytalk
Tell us something about yourself that most people aren’t aware of.
Lisa: I have a Japan background that started when I was still in high school and remains a very meaningful part of who I am. I won a student-exchange scholarship, and for reasons I still don’t understand today, my parents were willing to allow me to go to Japan – the other side of the planet — which in the 1980s was really far away and disconnected versus the connectivity we see in the world today. In order to communicate, you had to rely on sending letters in the mail, which took a while to get to the other side of the world and back.
This cross-cultural experience really opened my eyes to the world, and held up a mirror to my own customs and culture, giving me a view of myself I hadn’t had before. “Why do the Japanese take off their shoes before entering a home?” became instead the question “Why don’t we?” At a very early age, I learned about empathy, the value of multiple perspectives, and the importance of making others feel included, lessons that shaped my definition of leadership, and are clearly still so relevant today.
This experience was the first of many “smart risks” I would go on to take in my life and career. I am a big believer in smart risks, because they create such amazing learning opportunities and growth. If I hadn’t had that Japan opportunity, I might not have become someone who embraces and run towards smart risks.
Share how your career path positioned you to be where you are today.
Lisa: After the Japan experience, I wanted to learn Japanese. I majored in East Asian Studies, for sentimental reasons, but got quite lucky — by the time I graduated, Japan had become the #1 economic power in the world. There I was, one of the few non-Japanese people at that time who could speak Japanese. So Japan shaped my career path. I was selected for an internship in Tokyo at Japan’s largest media company, and came back to work in the New York overseas office of that company.
I realized that while I knew a lot about Japan, I didn’t really know how business worked, so I decided to get an MBA. I never imagined I would work on Wall Street, but discovered the job Japanese Equities Sales, which enabled me to help US-based investors invest in Japanese stocks. It gave me the opportunity to talk with smart people about Japan all day, amidst the energy and excitement of being on a trading floor, and really was a dream come true. My Japan expertise was valued highly, and I went from Japan Desk Associate at Goldman Sachs in NY to running the North American Japanese Equities business, to Tokyo where I ran the business globally, and back to NY where I became Head of International Equities Sales and Trading and a Partner of the firm.
That then opened the door to more smart risks, that led to many other leadership roles at Goldman and beyond.
Can you share your thoughts about having mentors and have you benefitted from mentors along your rise in your profession?
Lisa: I very much believe in mentorship and have benefitted tremendously from mentors. Thanks to those experience, I definitely have a pay-it-forward mentality. Most people would define a mentor as someone senior to you. What I’ve noticed is the definition of who is a mentor changes over the course of your career. Especially now, at this stage in my career, mentors come in all shapes and sizes.
I still have mentors that I would consider senior to me, but increasingly I have mentors who are peers. There’s so much give and take that comes from people who really understand and care about you, and share stage of life and pain points, and I think peer-to-peer mentoring becomes a much bigger part of the equation. But probably the most interesting is reverse mentoring. Post-Goldman Sachs I was working for a 25-year-old founder of a millennials-focused media company, and everyone at the company was below 30 years old. They mentored me as much as I mentored them, and now I have a tremendous group of advisors who are younger than me. When I think about influential people right now in my life, I am grateful to have a portfolio of mentors from all three of those categories, who are phenomenal sounding boards and help me continue to learn and grow.
Lisa Shalett is a retired Goldman Sachs Partner who now advises and invests in growth companies and serves on corporate boards. Known for her agility, she has thrived in large, complex organizations as well as smaller fast-growing ones, and uses her considerable, diverse business expertise and operational experience to help startups scale, and large corporates stay innovative. Her leadership roles have included capital markets, brand marketing, digital transformation, crisis management, and strategic innovation, as well as risk/control areas compliance, legal and audit. She led Goldman Sachs’ brand during the financial crisis.
Lisa currently serves on the boards of AccuWeather and digital agency Bully Pulpit Interactive; prior boardwork includes Brookfield Property Partners and PerformLine. In 2016, she founded Extraordinary Women on Boards, a community now close to 250 women corporate board directors focused on advancing board excellence, modernizing governance, and increasing board diversity. She is a sought-after coach and mentor, committed to paying it forward, and a frequent speaker and podcaster.