CareerWritten by Beverly Creamer On 20 October 2011
Carla Harris Offers Career Advice at Wahine Forum

In one electrifying 45-minute keynote speech at the 2011 Wahine Forum, Wall Street whiz Carla Harris mapped out the road to success – she calls the steps ‘Carla’s Pearls’ – for more than 500 women taking part in the annual business strategy sessions last Tuesday at the Hawaii Convention Center.

“You can train people to think about you the way you want them to think about you,” she said in a rapid-fire delivery that left the audience energized. “Pick three adjectives consistent with who you are and also valued in your organization … then build consistent behavior around those adjectives.”

Harris, who has spent 24 successful years on Wall Street, and is now a managing director at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, is also a best-selling author with her book “Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace.

She told the packed ballroom of Hawaii businesswomen that it’s critically important to understand the adjectives associated with success in your particular business while developing your own persona to fit that success model. “It’s important to understand the perception people have of you,” she said. “That’s exactly how they will deal with you.”

Additionally, everyone needs certain key relationships to maximize success. She includes these three: adviser, mentor and sponsor. “The adviser is the one you can ask discreet questions of, such as ‘Walk me through this presentation,’” she said. The mentor, meanwhile, is the one who gives you advice tailored to your career, and should be someone who knows you well. And the sponsor is the powerful backer in your company who will go to the mat for you – or “pound the table on your behalf,” according to Harris.

“You will not ascend in the organization without a sponsor,” she said. This is not the person you go to for advice or to share your weaknesses with, she added. “This is the one you tell the good, the good, the good to …. You have to articulate your value to that sponsor. And the sponsor has to have a seat at the table and the juice to get it done for you.”

But Harris also said that the way to maximize success is by being comfortable with risk, and not succumbing to fear.

“You can’t let fear stop you in any measure,” Harris said. “When everyone is keeping their head down (during recessionary times) this is exactly the time to take risks. … When you submerge your voice, you become irrelevant.”

Even if a risk fails, Harris said it brings a gift – experience.

Harris encouraged the women in her audience to bring their authentic selves to their work. “You are your own competitive advantage,” she said.

“We each have a tool chest,” she continued…“Our academic profile, our experience, and our network.” Use your network, she added. It’s a key part of success.”

“If you expect to win,” she said, “you will.”

Want to attend the next Wahine Forum or other events helping to get local women in leadership roles, like the Wahine Forum page on Facebook.

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Beverly Creamer

A long-time Hawaii writer, formerly with The Honolulu Advertiser, and earlier, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. University of Hawaii graduate; Canadian born.

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