Voice of Experience: Allison Nathan | Managing Director, Goldman Sachs

Allison NathanBy Cathie Ericson

Over the years, Goldman Sachs’ Allison Nathan has learned that although you have to be dedicated and proficient in most areas, you don’t have to excel in everything. “You have to focus on your strengths and interests and think creatively about finding opportunities to leverage them,” she says.

Reflecting upon her experience joining the research division, Nathan notes that she was one of the only people on her team that did not have a PhD in economics. However, she soon realized she had other strengths that would differentiate her and allow her to contribute to the group. Connecting the dots across research views proved to be one of them.

“It’s no coincidence that people tend to enjoy doing what they do well,” Nathan says. That knowledge led her to create an entirely new research product that has become a standalone brand.

Parlaying Her Knowledge into a New Product

Nathan joined Goldman Sachs as a first-year analyst in 1998, after earning an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a BA from Duke University.

Goldman Sachs had long been an aspirational firm for her, so she jumped at an opportunity to join. Since she had always had an interest in geopolitics as well as economics, she joined the commodities research team, which she found to be a great fit for those interests.

After working her way up in commodities research over 14 years, including being named a managing director, she launched a research product called “Top of Mind,” a publication that leverages both internal content from Goldman Sachs research analysts and external content from influential experts. In each issue, she and her team develop content that focuses on a specific market-moving theme, ranging from Fed balance sheet policy to trade wars to bitcoin.

“It was very rewarding to start out on a traditional path and then have the ability to create a unique opportunity that really leveraged my strengths,” she says. “I felt strongly this type of product was something we were missing, and while it was initially difficult convincing some audiences that there would be traction, the series has been consistently well-received for over five years now.”

Indeed, its success has allowed Nathan to expand Top of Mind into a thought leadership “brand,” and she is currently working on a fifth conference that is part of the publication’s evolution. Top of Mind forums are held periodically to bring the publication’s ethos of discussion and debate to life within a conference setting that features roundtable discussions with individuals from Goldman Sachs’ research division. The team also now produces a podcast series. “Offering content in different mediums has been an exciting aspect of the brand’s development,” she says.

Helping Others Build Successful Careers

Nathan has been a beneficiary of the women’s networks she has leveraged throughout her time at the firm. Recently, she has been active in Goldman Sachs’ Women’s Career Strategies Initiative (WCSI), which targets high-performing women associates to provide educational and networking opportunities. Through this program, Nathan has had the privilege of mentoring three women who have all recently been promoted.

She notes that mentoring is a powerful tool, and you should leverage your experience to mentor people who work directly for you as much as those with whom you have an arms-length relationship.

Sometimes it can be easier to work with those who aren’t direct reports, as you can be honest and know it won’t affect a day-to-day relationship, but it’s also important to invest in the women on your team, says Nathan. She also finds that while senior women tend to mentor other women, she encourages them to remember it’s also important to mentor men. “You have as much experience and knowledge and as much to offer junior people as the man sitting next to you,” she says.

While she finds that most women tend to anticipate a struggle with work/life balance, her main message is that you can have it all. “I have two kids and a husband who also works full-time. The key is that if you are good at what you do, you’ll find there are opportunities for people to give you the autonomy you need to achieve that balance.”

Much of her time outside the office is spent with her children, ages 7 and 9, but as they become older and more self-sufficient, she now has additional time to focus on other interests. To that end, she has joined the board of DreamYard, a Bronx-based non-profit that works with children to build pathways to opportunity through the arts. She says of this new experience: “I am excited to increase my involvement in DreamYard and help provide more opportunities for these talented students and their families in the Bronx community.”