“Don’t let society constrain your path,” she says, acknowledging that sometimes there is still a lack of support for women entering into the more male-dominated aspects of their industry.
“You have to express interest in new challenges, and remember that most good leaders want to hear what you want to do so they can help your career head the right direction. So be vocal about what you need, whether you’re looking for experience in leadership, global exposure in your firm or experience speaking in front of people.”
Finding Satisfaction in Helping Others
Dessner has spent 24 years with JP Morgan, starting on the floor trading FX options and emerging markets equities, then more recently moving into client-facing roles. Today she leads a group in charge of supporting asset management in the Americas.
“Given that I work in an investment team, my biggest professional achievement is helping people invest well and retire comfortably,” Dessner says, which includes working with them to develop an asset allocation that will deliver a secure retirement. “I am always thinking about the individual who is investing with us and focusing on delivering successful retirement outcomes.”
Given society’s changing demographics, Dessner finds that it’s even more important today than 10 to 15 years ago to help her clients maximize their savings, since many are not sufficiently prepared and need to understand that they can’t invest out of a savings gap.
Being Your Own Advocate For Career Success
Women don’t always raise their hands the same way that men do, notes Dessner. “I probably wasn’t as forceful as I could have been about guiding my career, and I’m lucky to be at an organization that understands how to help people grow a career. While I know I’ve been fortunate to have had that invisible hand guiding my path, that’s not always the case, and it’s crucial for women to advocate for themselves.”
To that end she advises that women build a network and make it part of their job to tend it, suggesting that women devote 10 to 15 percent of every week to ensure they are creating a broader network than just those inside their immediate team. “Keeping your internal and external relationships fresh will propel you forward.”
She also suggests that women not shy away from being candid—that letting colleagues into your whole self while you’re at work is an important part of being a leader.
While she used to feel hesitant to share struggles, as she feared they could show weakness, Dessner now sees that acknowledgement as coming from a positon of strength, proving that you can navigate challenges in your life.
It also brings you closer to your team, she says. “They know there’s a human they can connect with, and people appreciate that. It’s not about oversharing but connecting to people authentically. Rather than keeping everything inside, own the steps in your journey that have brought you to where you are.”
In addition, Dessner recommends evolving your skill set to make sure you’re up on industry trends—and then make sure you ask for what you’re worth. Those are the kinds of skills that can be cultivated in networking groups and in the past, she has served as co-chair of JP Morgan’s Women on the Move program which helps aspiring professionals make connections globally.
Any spare time Dessner has is devoted to her family—boy and girl twins, age 12, and she has found they are at delightful ages to explore activities together, such as travel and philanthropy. They also engage in interesting discussions—such as a recent one where she astounded them by explaining that women didn’t always have the right to vote. “This is an exciting age to parent, where it’s less manual labor and more about helping with guidance and shaping.”