After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a PhD, Thalia Chryssikou, now a partner in Goldman Sachs’ Securities Division, had initially expected to pursue a career in academia.
However, she wanted to explore other opportunities, and joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 following an internship in the firm’s Risk Department.
“While I love teaching and cherish opportunities to share learnings, I realized early on that working alongside smart, capable, energetic people is what motivates me the most,” she says. “After joining the firm, I appreciated the power and energy of a smart collective – ultimately, it’s not about an individual, it’s about what we all collectively are able to achieve.”
Discussing the switch from academia to financial services, Chryssikou also notes: “I fell in love with Goldman Sachs’ goal-oriented research culture the summer before completing my PhD. I had the opportunity to engage in innovative quantitative and analytical work, as well as experience the teamwork culture ingrained in the organization.”
Continuously Reinventing Oneself
“Over time, as the firm expanded into new businesses and grew its client footprint, my ability to keep reinventing myself kept me engaged at Goldman Sachs,” notes Chryssikou.
Today, Chryssikou is the global co-head of Sales Strats & Structuring across FICC and Equities, a 250-person team spanning different regions and client segments. She says of her team’s work: “Our focus is centered around three pillars: a) providing solutions for both institutional and corporate clients, either on the investing or financing side; b) curating market and industry specific content for our clients; and c) developing client-solution digital platforms to engage on both structuring and execution services.”
Describing how she expects the business might change in the future, Chryssikou references Apple’s transformative effect on day-to-day business: “At Goldman Sachs, we’re trying to bring financial professionals into the digital world by allowing them to simplify and scale their business services utilizing our content and risk management expertise.”
Chryssikou acknowledges the anxiety that technology and automation could disrupt existing industries and replace jobs, but says she believes it is an “opportunity, not a threat.” She goes on to note: “When I began my career, providing internal analytics to clients was viewed as disruptive – however, we learned that offering analytics was a significant value-add for clients. My team continues to embody that philosophy, allowing us to serve clients more effectively and spend more time developing value-add services.”
Working to “Support, Attract and Retain” Women in Technology
Working alongside another female co-head, Chryssikou has remained focused throughout her career on ensuring greater female representation within her team.
“When I began my career, there were very few women on the trading desk, especially in leadership positions – it was a male-dominated environment,” Chryssikou says.
“When I reflect on the journey we’ve made, and the current gender breakdown on our team, I am proud of the evolution my co-head and I have overseen,” she adds. “We’ve made a real effort to support, attract and retain female hires.”
Chryssikou acknowledges the need for ongoing focus – by both Goldman Sachs and society at large – to improve female representation in technology roles.
“We all need to invest in and encourage more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to deepen the pool of female talent,” she notes. “Technology is creating a level playing field where women can engage and excel.”
Have Clarity on The Mark You Want to Leave
Chryssikou recommends that others identify the mark they want to leave on their organization.
“Have clarity on the mark you want to leave and reflect upon how you want others to perceive you – do you want to be viewed as an innovator, business leader, detailed-oriented? Understanding how you are perceived by others – combined with tenacity and grit – will allow you to build on your strengths and continue to evolve in your professional career.”
Chryssikou also acknowledges the importance of actively managing your career in order to develop skills and work on projects that will help you succeed, as well as your team.
“Embracing your role with passion and commitment is important,” she says. “Diversity of thought and skillset is an imperative ingredient to a team’s long-term success, complementing the collaborative nature we seek across the firm.”
Combining Work and Family
When she’s not on the trading floor, Chryssikou is a mom to two sons – a 17-year old and a 14-year old. Reflecting upon her experience taking maternity leave, she says: “Goldman Sachs was an extremely supportive place to have children and my managers helped create an environment where I could balance my professional aspirations with our family needs.”
Outside of work, Chryssikou has continued to travel extensively with her family, collect contemporary art, and give back to her academic and cultural community.