Voice of Experience: Wendy Mahmouzian, America’s Head of Corporate Services and Real Estate and Global Head of Hospitality, Goldman Sachs

Wendy MahmouzianThe ability to recognize and support talent and lead diverse teams in a high-performance environment, along with a keen appreciation for people’s individual balance between work and personal lives, have significantly contributed to Wendy Mahmouzian’s career. She has not only found the right work/life balance for herself, but supports this pursuit among the teams she leads.

“You have to understand that we’re all somewhere different on the work/life spectrum, and there’s no one answer to the question on how to achieve balance. It’s up to you to determine what it takes to make you feel comfortable and allow you to bring your best self to work,” she says. “It might be your family, sports, culture or education that allows you to achieve that balance, enabling you to bring 100 percent of yourself to work and perform at your best.”

For Mahmouzian, performing at her best has meant constantly learning new skills and being willing to take on new challenges, all while continuously looking for ways to solve problems and create new opportunities for clients. During her 20-year career at Goldman Sachs, she has spent the latter half with the Corporate Services and Real Estate (CSRE) team, first as global chief of staff and now as head of the team for the Americas and global head of hospitality. She joined the firm in the Global Investment Research division and subsequently co-managed the Securities e-Commerce group. Common themes in all of her positions have been contributing to transformative change and enhancing engagement with clients.

A Diverse Set of Priorities That Range From Crisis Response to Sustainability

One of Mahmouzian’s most significant undertakings was leading the team in 2009 that opened the firm’s world headquarters at 200 West Street, overseeing the startup of operations and multi-month migration of employees to the new building. Ensuring that everyone in the new headquarters could be productive on day one was a significant undertaking.

She remains focused on improving the firm’s workplace strategy to respond to business needs and creating a high-performance environment that enables the flow of business, promotes client engagement, maximizes productivity and reflects the firm’s commitment to sustainability and inclusion. She is currently involved in a number of projects, including refurbishing existing buildings, developing new campuses and ensuring that the firm’s spaces meet the needs of employees, clients and guests.

Reviewing past milestones, Mahmouzian notes the vital role her team plays in supporting the firm during key events, including Superstorm Sandy. During the 2012 storm, she organized the team that managed the firm’s response. “We focused on protecting the firm’s assets, particularly its people, and making sure that the business remained up and running throughout the storm and its aftermath,” says Mahmouzian. “The intersection of planning, communication, managing risk and being nimble enabled the team to ensure the firm’s business continuity and was a hallmark of our response.”

Mahmouzian also helps manage the firm’s environmental and operational impacts through innovative strategies in energy efficiency, investments in green building and initiatives to ensure a sustainable and inclusive supply chain.

Advice Along the Career Ladder

For Mahmouzian, patience and listening were skills she developed over time, but she also notes the importance of individuals’ establishing their own voice and speaking up. “You have to learn how to balance soliciting the opinions of team members with articulating your own view as well,” she says.

She also advises women, especially those early in their careers, not to be deterred by a historically male-dominated field like real estate, but to seek as role models more experienced women who have succeeded professionally in the space. “Your capabilities will make you successful, so don’t be intimidated by a room full of people that look different from you.”

While Mahmouzian also supports hospitality, a typically female-dominated field, she says it’s important for both hospitality and real estate to cast a wide net and seek diverse talent that is accretive to the team and delivers for clients.

“Embrace the strengths of those around you and use them to your advantage – engage, encourage and enable,” she says, adding that as she has become more senior, a big part of her job is supporting high-potential talent and creating a platform for their success.

Helping Evolve Women’s Initiatives

One of the projects that Mahmouzian undertook in the CSRE division was to help formalize the division’s women’s network. A cornerstone of this effort was establishing a signature women’s conference that features speakers and a wide range of professional development initiatives to enhance participants’ skills. Over the years this conference has evolved into a global event via video conferencing. She is also proud that many male colleagues have increased their attendance and advocacy. “It’s gratifying that they are eager to support and sustain broader efforts to advance women in the firm,” she noted.

Work/Family Balance Comes From Being Present in the Moment

For Mahmouzian, balance depends on being present in the moment. “With today’s technology, demands are coming from all different angles, and we need to remember that five minutes of focused attention on a challenge or in a discussion will yield a better outcome than an hour of distracted work. Take the time to listen, interpret and have a clear mind,” she says.

She brings that ethic home to her husband and two daughters, whom she calls her “support network.” Being present in the moment is the best way to ensure we have quality time, she says, adding that they love to ski and value the time they spend together as a family.

Superstorm Sandy offered a situation that allowed her to test the merits of this approach. Her family understood that she needed to continue working throughout the weekend in response to the storm: “They knew that in this crisis, my focus was to protect the firm and our people, and they gave me the freedom to do what I needed to do.” As the crisis subsided, her work team returned the favor, ensuring she could hand over the reins to be with her family. “Being present is the cornerstone of success, whether it’s work or family.”