By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
Networking is critical, according to Lisa Davis, Director and Global Product Manager, Citi Global Transaction Services. She said, “I want to mention the power of networking. You need to develop a network of people who can help you. Be sure that you’re networking on various levels.”
According to Davis, “Networking is a necessary tool that is underutilized. I believe the sooner you realize the power of networking, the greater your chances are of successfully navigating your career. This is especially true for women, minorities, and the LGBT population.”
“Many people are afraid to network,” she continued. “I for one am a typical introvert and I’m not always comfortable taking the initiative to meet people and interact – but when you talk about true networking, that’s what you do! Its not just about meeting people, it’s about developing relationships rather than just collecting business cards.”
She added, “When networking, you should always have your elevator speech ready and you should always make sure you have an intelligent answer and something relevant to add.”
Managing Big Career Shifts
Davis graduated from Long Island University with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology. She spent 13 years working in conference planning and executive dining services for Equitable Life and American Express before moving over to Citi, where she has spent the last 13 years. She explained, “I was recruited by the former Smith Barney Company to head their conference and dining services in several locations within the New York metropolitan area, and I did that for a few years.”
When Citi began a Women’s Council initiative to focus on the retention and development of high potential women and introduce them to other roles and areas in the company, Davis was tapped to participate.
“I started networking and making contacts, and I realized that I wanted to get out of conference and dining services and move into a core business within the bank. Through one of my networking contacts, I learned of a position within Global Transaction Services.”
She continued, “I worked on the Global Client Delivery team developing and implementing best practices in customer service across regions. Through another contact I made on the Women’s Council, I moved into project management, working on large global implementations for our customers. After working in the Project Management Office as a senior project manager for four years, I moved into a product management role as the Global Lead of Billing. “
“Being able to transition out of a traditional hospitality function and moving into banking and finance was an important achievement for me. It wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do until I got involved in the Women’s Council. However, I realized early on that the work I was doing in conference planning wasn’t so different from banking in the sense that its all about listening to what customers want and finding solutions.”
Davis recently graduated from the Zicklin School of Business, Executive Masters program at Baruch College. “Once I moved into core banking functions, I went back to school so I could hone my skills in banking and finance,” she explained. “That was a huge milestone for me.”
Challenges for Diverse individuals
Davis said, “When it comes to diversity in the workplace, we still have challenges. There are people who are not as comfortable with women, minorities, and LGBT individuals.”
“As a woman in this industry, we need to be more aggressive in terms of how we communicate what things we’ve accomplished,” she suggested.
“Tell your own story, toot your own horn. Women are less inclined to do that, and in this industry, your work can go unnoticed if you don’t self promote. We need to raise our hands and take on bigger challenges because our male counterparts are already doing this.”
Davis was also concerned with the small number of women at senior levels in the financial industry. “It becomes a little more challenging to remain relevant when you’re suddenly the minority in the group,” she explained.
Lesbians also face challenges, she said. Davis, who came out many years ago, explained, “As a lesbian in a corporate organization, the challenges are all about how people perceive you, your appearance, how you dress, how you carry yourself.”
But, she said, “You need to stick it out. You need to be able to bring your whole self to work – and I couldn’t bring my whole self to work if I was hiding something, or not being myself. I would encourage people to stay true to themselves at all times.”
She also encouraged people to speak up when they are made uncomfortable by negative comments. “When people need to be corrected, be very clear and crisp when you correct them. They don’t necessarily realize the impact they may have on you.”
“But,” she concluded, “you never have to worry about what people think about you if you stay true to who you are.”
Advice for Professional Women
Davis advised young women to think carefully about their career path. “It helps to know or have some idea when you’re first starting out, what you want to do, and what career path you want for yourself,” she said. “When I think about my career change, it was certainly a lot of work and there was a lot of catching up I had to do. It helps if you know what you want to do early on.”
She continued, “This is an industry that is very demanding, and it will take a lot of your time if you want to be successful. You have to acknowledge that.”
Diversity at Citi
“I’m not just saying this because I work at Citi,” Davis said, “but Citi really does a good job with diversity initiatives, within the bank as well as within the communities we serve. At Citi, individuals are valued based on the diversity they bring to the Citi culture. We have over 45 Employee Network programs in the US alone and many more in the over 100 countries in which we do business. Some of the employee networks include African Heritage, Hispanic Heritage, Asian Heritage, Pride (LGBT), Disability, Military Veterans, Women and Working Parents.”
She continued, “Because of the work that Citi has done to define and promote a diverse workplace, I can bring my whole self to work each and every day.”
Davis is involved in many initiatives around diversity, focusing on women, African Americans, and the LGBT community. She serves as co-chair of Citi’s NYC Pride network and sits on the GTS North American region’s Diversity Operating Committee.
She also created and chaired GTS’s DCU (Diversity Council University), which works to develop minority AVPs within the organization. “When I was chair of the Training and Development committee, we graduated 35 people through the DCU program, most of whom have been promoted and have taken on bigger jobs,” she added.
In Her Personal Time
Davis’ partner of eleven years, Debbie Brennan, is a Fixed Income trader at a boutique broker-dealer in New York City. The two have raised Brennan’s two adopted children, current ages 23 and 25, together.
In her spare time Davis is also a well-known and talented DJ, having received the 2004 NYC Night Life Award for best female house DJ. Davis said, “I was introduced to DeeJaying when I was 14 years old, fell in love with it, and have been doing it ever since. I love being able to make people dance and feel good. Making people have happy feet on the dance floor is very important to me.”