To progress in your career, you have to get out of your comfort zone, says Goldman Sachs’ Miriam Wheeler, who was recently named a partner at the firm – a role that will come into effect in the New Year.
“If you’re never uncomfortable, you’re not growing professionally. And even if you fail, you will learn valuable lessons that are relevant for the next undertaking,” she says. When those successes inevitably come, she thinks it’s important to celebrate as a team. “We have a tendency to jump right into the next deal, but giving the team recognition and celebrating wins together helps morale and overall job satisfaction,” she notes.
Exploring Different Areas of Finance
Wheeler joined Goldman as a summer intern in securities in 2004, working in mortgage sales for two years before moving to the finance group. She had always wanted to work in real estate, with a specific interest in land use policy and city infrastructure. She found her perfect fit in the Real Estate Financing Group, a role she finds continuously challenging and interesting. “As a deal junkie, I love the thrill of when a big project comes together for a client,” she says.
In fact, the professional achievement she is most proud of so far was seeing Goldman Sachs vault to the top of the 2017 CMBS (Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities) league table. “It was truly a team effort where we delivered on a lot of transactions. Not only did it represent a huge leap in position, but it signified how relevant we had become to our clients,” she says.
The GS real estate lending platform has expanded considerably in recent years. While the team previously focused only on securitized lending, they now have a much wider array of products to offer clients, including real estate loans that sit in the Goldman Sachs’ Bank USA, which clients have found to be a useful and relevant product offering.
Helping Women Advance in the Industry
As Wheeler surveys college resumes, she is surprised that there are still so many more men applying to roles in the finance sector right out of college than women. “We need to continue to recruit women and educate them on the benefits of a long-term career in finance, as many are self-selecting out of the industry before they even have a chance to begin a career,” she says. In fact, when she looks back over her own career, she notes that initially a lot of the senior positions were predominantly held by men, which can be a barrier to women when they only see men across the table. She is encouraged that the mix is changing, particularly among her client counterparts. “It’s vital to show women who are considering a career here that it is a viable place for them to have a successful long-term career.”
She encourages women who enter the field to build relationships with peers at their level, as those peers will also become more senior over time. “Build as many relationships as possible both internally and externally.—get to know your peers and clients of both genders. You can build great relationships by delivering excellent execution and client service, even if you don’t have a lot in common with someone on the surface.”
As a woman at Goldman Sachs, she has found the firm to be very supportive of women’s family needs, including a robust maternity leave program that she took advantage of when both her daughters, now ages 1 and 3, were born, as Goldman offers 16 weeks of paid leave and the option to extend maternity leave as well. Goldman also offers a month of paternity leave and has recently begun to offer a milk shipping program, allowing women traveling on business to ship breast milk home to their baby. In addition, she has taken advantage of the firm’s onsite back-up childcare, when her regular childcare is not an option. “All the support is incredibly beneficial when you are trying to balance your family and your career,” she says.
Looking ahead to her daughters’ future, Wheeler is excited to think about opportunities that will be open to them. “We all have the responsibility to create an environment where future generations of women can thrive,” she says.
That ethos expands to her philanthropy work as well; as a board member for WIN Partners, she is proud of her involvement with a group that is dedicated to helping homeless women and children transition from shelters to their own homes. Over the past year, WIN has supported 10,000 homeless individuals, including 6,000 children.