By Jessica Titlebaum (Chicago)
Karen Ho, chief operating officer of Broadway Technology, a trading technology solutions provider for top-tier banks and hedge funds, is an avid Mets fan. She recalls a game they played at Wrigley Field when she was living in Chicago and working at O’Connor and Associates.
“I went to the game with some of my colleagues and no one would sit next to me because I was wearing a Mets cap,” she said. “The Mets were leading all the way into the 9th inning but the Cubs won in the end.”
Ho’s integrity and enthusiasm have helped her excel as a leader in her career from an early age. For example, having becoming Managing Director at Bank of America at the age of 30, Ho has taken her skills to Broadway Technology to help turn it expand internationally.
A Young Leader
A New Jersey native, Karen Ho graduated with a computer science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She went on to receive her Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from New York University with a focus on Finance and International Business.
“When I was graduating, I was interviewing and I had two choices,” she said. “I could go to Silicon Valley and write code for a chip that would be released in three years. Or I could work in finance and build an application that would be released in three months.”
Ho chose finance and moved to Chicago to begin her career at O’Connor and Associates, an options trading firm. The company was later acquired by Swiss Bank and eventually merged with Union Bank of Switzerland to form UBS.
“I spent four years at O’Connor as a developer before taking on a role in equity derivatives at Bank of America,” she explained.
Ho exceeded at the bank and became managing director at the ripe age of 30 years old.
“I was a young manager and it was hard to manage a large organization,” she said. “One thing I did was delegate too much. When I look back, I realize I should have been more of a leader sooner.”
One of the reasons she may have been hesitant to lead was because she was managing people older than her.
“I kept thinking that they must know more than me,” she explained. “There will always be people that are skeptical of young leaders but by working hard and doing an excellent job, you will erase that skepticism. It really is their problem, not yours.”
Assistance Along the Way
Ho gives credit to management at Bank of America for being blind to gender and race.
She recognizes that being a minority could be an issue for some women; however, she tries not to focus on it.
“It becomes a distraction if women put too much of a focus on it,” she said. “We should focus on working hard and getting results because that is what really matters.”
One thing that helped Ho move forward is her active involvement with the MIT Club of New York, the alumni organization for over 5000 MIT graduates in the New York area. Ho served as President for 2 years, sits currently on the Board of Directors and is slated to become Chairman in 2012.
“The senior alumni in the Club taught me how to lead, how to run a meeting, how to handle a sticky situation between two people,” she said. “And I am passing this down to the recent alumni that I mentor.”
She said that the best piece of advice she received was that she should always provide value.
“Also, people have a memory so you should always do the right thing and be sincere,” she added.
Ho is most proud of her career transitions and how each role has varied with responsibilities.
“I was a developer at O’Connor & Associates, then worked on a trading desk at bank of America before moving into a management role there,” she said. “Now I am chief operating officer at Broadway Technology. Each role has been very different with different responsibilities but the transitions have been smooth and successful.”
When talking about her current role, she said that she is responsible for making sure operations run seamlessly at Broadway Technology. She oversees the Finance and Taxation department as well as the Human Resources, International Logistics and Procurement aspects of the business.
“With less than 50 employees spread out in five different countries, we have the simple aim that every team member must have access to the same resources and that we all behave as efficiently as a team under one roof,” she said.
Ho is also a part of the Executive Management team and involved with Legal, Project Management and strategic initiatives of the company.
“I focus on the operations of new business development,” she said. “When any number of market opportunities present themselves, we are ready and able to take advantage of them.”
Ho is looking to grow the firm internationally from a small to mid-size business, developing specialized departments and people. She is working to make Broadway a leader in the industry, as she has already established herself as one.