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Voice of Experience: Heather von Zuben, Managing Director, Consumer and Investment Management Division, Goldman Sachs

Heather von Zuben
Armed with a degree from Columbia Law School, Heather von Zuben began her law career advising on mergers and acquisitions and investment management.

However, after an initial period in law, she quickly realized that she was truly interested in being closer to clients and commercial activity.

A Career Change Leads to New Opportunities

“I found the intellectual rigor of legal work very engaging, but I wanted to be closer to my clients’ commercial objectives and help them achieve their goals, so I embarked on a career change,” says von Zuben, global head of Client Portfolio Solutions within the Alternative Investment and Manager Selection Group (AIMS). “I ultimately pursued a role at Goldman Sachs because the people I met at the firm were so dynamic and had such impressive arcs to their careers. I was excited to be a part of that and learn from them.”

Von Zuben initially joined Goldman Sachs in the Alternative Capital Markets (ACM) Group, which is responsible for product development, pipeline generation and engaging with Private Wealth Management clients on alternative investments and private placements. She was named the head of the ACM Americas business in 2014. “ACM is a fast-paced environment, and during the decade that I was a part of the team, we adapted and grew the business through significant change in client demand and market dynamics,” says von Zuben. “It was a great place to start as it gave me insight across a broad array of alternative investments as well as exposure to many different parts of the firm.”

Last year, von Zuben was named to her current position leading AIMS Client Portfolio Solutions, a self-described “stretch role” that allows her to engage with and support institutional and private wealth clients across both alternative and traditional asset classes. “As an open-architecture, multi-asset class platform, we’re able to partner with a wide range of clients collaboratively to identify their opportunities and challenges and leverage our broad range of solutions to help them achieve their unique goals,” she explains.

One of von Zuben’s current focuses is Launch With GS – Goldman Sachs’ commitment to invest $500 million in women-led companies and investment managers. In her new seat in AIMS, von Zuben introduces clients to the Launch With GS initiative and resources available across the firm as they think about integrating diversity and inclusion into their investment programs. “We think investing in diverse teams is a compelling investment proposition because diversity of thought and background leads to better decision making, and can drive outperformance and growth for our clients,” says von Zuben. “When we’re discussing Launch With GS with clients, we also have an opportunity to engage on the firm’s broader diversity and inclusion efforts as well as our clients’ diversity and inclusion objectives.”

Seeking Feedback From Others to Grow

“I’ve benefited greatly from the guidance of many mentors and sponsors over the course of my career, and I put a lot of energy into paying that forward by mentoring and engaging with the people on my team and throughout the firm,” says von Zuben. “I love connecting with the amazing people who work here: getting to know them, what motivates them, and helping them think through how to achieve their goals.”

Von Zuben recommends junior professionals develop deep relationships with others, both within their own organization and on the client side, to solicit feedback, achieve their full potential and grow as leaders. “At the beginning of my career, I was focused on executing at the top of my game more than identifying ways I could help my team be more impactful. I needed to evolve my role from that of an executor to a leader,” says von Zuben. “As I sought feedback from colleagues, I realized the importance of making that transition and adopted leadership styles and qualities from senior individuals who I admired in order to help shape, develop and define my own brand of leadership.”

Today, von Zuben continues to mentor and develop programming for colleagues across Goldman Sachs in her role as co-head of the Firmwide Women’s Network, as well as serving on the managing director advisory board of the Firmwide Hispanic/Latino Network. Her advice to others seeking to grow in their careers includes:

  • Be Confident in What You Bring to the Table: “You have to believe in yourself before you draft others onto your team – don’t waste time doubting yourself; focus on all of the lessons you’ve learned and all of the challenges you’ve overcome to this point to give you the confidence to own your space, contribute to the conversation and drive the business forward.”
  • Focus on Your Mindset: “In a constantly evolving business, change, setbacks and uncertainty are inevitable. You can’t control what comes your way, but you can control how you choose to react to it. A positive, can-do attitude can help you stay motivated, move forward and identify new potential solutions in the face of challenges.”
  • Embrace Opportunities to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: “Make sure the work you’re doing continues to scale in terms of its impact. Take on new projects and responsibilities when they’re offered to you – even if they might be out of your comfort zone – to continue to learn and grow. ”
    Overcome the Need for Perfection: “Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to fail – if you’re waiting to be ‘perfect’ then you’re probably moving too slowly. Don’t dwell on things that don’t go your way – put your energy into finding a solution, learn the lesson for the future and move forward.”
  • Manage Your Brand: “Be deliberate and self-aware of your brand by seeking feedback from colleagues and executing on it in order to ensure that your perspective aligns with how others see your contributions.”
A Focus on Family

When she’s not in the office, you might find von Zuben cheering on her two daughters on a soccer or lacrosse field in or around New York City. “I spend every minute that I can outside of the office with my family,” she says. “We spend a lot of time exploring all that the city has to offer, from restaurants and museums to picnics or ice-skating in Central Park.” Both von Zuben and her husband are the children of immigrants, and they place a premium on traveling together as a family: “It’s important for us to take our daughters to see different parts of the world and experience different cultures to broaden their perspectives, plus we’ve had some amazing adventures together.”