By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
Mark Chamberlain, Head of Diversity for the Americas at Deutsche Bank, said the best piece of advice he received actually came from his grandmother. He explained, “In the early part of the 20th century, women weren’t supposed to go on to higher education, play sports or work outside the home – and she did all that. She said, ‘Only you can make your life interesting. Go out and do it.’”
He continued, “You have to take charge of your life.”
Chamberlain, whose interest in diversity issues started during his time with the Peace Corps working in Mali, now leads Deutsche Bank’s efforts in the Americas to attract and retain diverse talent. The other piece of advice Chamberlain said has impacted his life came from his father. He said, “He told both my sister and me, ‘No matter what you do, do it well.’”
Making an Interesting Career Path
Chamberlain studied business at the University of New Hampshire and took his first job at Fidelity Investments in Boston. “It was a two year program – it provided great exposure to careers in finance, and I learned a ton. I knew I definitely wanted to do something in the financial services field.”
But after two years, knowing he could always go back to a career in finance, he wanted a different kind of experience – and joined the Peace Corps. “I worked in small business development in Mali. It was amazing. I was there for three years.”
Chamberlain said it was in Mali that he developed an understanding of what it’s like to be in the minority. He explained, “I grew up in New Hampshire, and as great as it is, it’s not a very diverse state. I had not really been exposed to demographic differences until I was in Mali, where there were, at the time, approximately seven million Africans there, and only about 1,000 Caucasians, with me being one of them. It was a very interesting experience to suddenly be living in a place where I was in the minority. .”
He continued, “It was an eye opening experience and helped me understand the importance of diversity and inclusion.”
After his time in Mali, Chamberlain enrolled in a graduate program at Yale, studying finance. Then he joined a corporate finance program at JPMorgan Chase.
“I worked in banking for seven years, working in leveraged finance and lease financing, and then I transitioned into a program manager role within the investment bank on the HR side.” He explained, “I loved my job and the energy of working in investment banking, , but I wanted more time for family and friends and a little more predictability, and less travel. The program manager role gave me the perfect blend of staying in financial services and some work-life balance.”
He continued, “It was an easy transition – the bank was very supportive of my needs. I moved into diversity recruiting after that role, and in 2007, I moved to Deutsche Bank. In 2008 I became Head of Diversity for the Americas.”
Aside from his time spent in the Peace Corps, Chamberlain said he is most proud of his work with Deutsche Bank’s MBA Fellows program, which recruits women and diverse talent with new MBAs. He explained, “The idea existed before I took on the role at Deutsche Bank, but it was up to me to execute it and get it off the ground. It has been very well received.”
Building a Web of Connections
Chamberlain said that over the course of his career he’s learned many important lessons, but one that really stands out is a concept called web thinking. He explained, “It’s the ability to connect the people you meet, the things they do and the things you do.
He continued, “You take these seemingly one-off events, and find how they are actually all related somehow. It helps you make better decisions and do better in your career. You have to be open to thinking more broadly. Of everything I’ve learned in the past five years, it’s changed the way I approach work.”
“People think that if you keep your head down and work, you’ll be rewarded. Yes, do your work – but keep your head down less often. Notice how things fit in together.”
Today’s Biggest Challenge: Generational Diversity
Currently, Chamberlain said his most interesting work revolves around building better work relationships between different generations. He explained, “Right now the baby boomers are approaching retirement. And they have this incredible knowledge in the organization. On the other end, we have these really smart young folks coming in. We want to make a smooth knowledge transfer.”
Deutsche Bank’s NextGen Network is a cross generational platform for transferring this knowledge and wisdom. “The purpose is to ensure the generations better understand and work with one another, so they can leverage their differences, rather than resisting those differences.”
He continued, “It’s a different aspect of diversity – folks haven’t thought about it as much. No other company that I know of is doing as much work as we are on generational diversity. The NextGen Network already has over 600 members,” he said, noting the group has had a presence on the bank’s web portal for only about six months – and just officially launched in early February.
Women at Deutsche Bank
Chamberlain said that he is proud of the bank’s work to build networks of women – for example Deutsche Bank’s annual Women on Wall Street event which draws together thousands of women in the financial services to network and share advice for success in New York. Deutsche Bank is sponsoring similar programs in Frankfurt in March, London in June, and, for the first time, will host an event in Asia this year as well.
But one of the bank’s new programs is an especially high note for Chamberlain, in that it focused on building business for its members and for the bank. He said, “Our corporate investment banking women’s network is really business focused. We have career development events, but we also have events that focus on female clients..”
“It’s great from a diversity standpoint and from a business focus standpoint – and it’s great to combine the two,” he added.
Chamberlain also mentioned the bank’s ATLAS (Accomplished Top Leaders Advancement Strategy) program, a global initiative to raise up managing director level women. “They’ve already made it to the top levels, and now they are looking at executive committee or executive board roles. It’s designed to enable accomplished, senior women to become even more senior.”
For women at the director level, the bank offers the Women’s Global Leaders program which brings women from across the organization together at France’s INSEAD business school. “It’s a way for them to prepare for the next level, Managing Director – it’s been very successful,” he noted.
And regionally, he said, the bank offers coaching programs for female vice presidents.
In His Spare Time
Outside the office, Chamberlain said he enjoys exercising and the outdoors. He explained, “What I find most rewarding is physical exercise – running, swimming, hiking, rollerblading. That endorphin rush is a big motivator for me and get’s me going the most.”
He also mentioned that he enjoyed traveling, having visited Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.