The Greatest Career Risk is Not Taking One

career Risk

Same job…different country?  Not by any stretch of the imagination.

When SVP and TD Bank Head of Retail Deposit Payments Tami Farrow took a lateral leap professionally and moved across the pond to London, she ramped up a humming career another notch by growing people management skills and gaining exposure to a new set of markets and products.

Tami Farrow
Featured Mentor, Tami Farrow

Meet Ivy Exec’s Featured Mentor for June – Tami Farrow.  At TD Bank, Farrow is responsible for the management of debit and prepaid cards, as well as working on emerging payment technologies. Prior to TD Bank, she worked over 10 years in a variety of analytical roles at both American Express and PricewaterhouseCoopers Human Resource Advisory, and has lived and worked in New York, London, and Germany.

Farrow has reflected a lot on what makes a leader as she’d built her career from the ground floor up.  Besides considered risk taking and relationship building, she’s been a strong advocate for diversity in the work place because she believes convergence of diverse approaches leads to better products and results for customers.

Gayle Rigione, Ivy Exec’s Chief Community Development Officer recently had a chance to tap Tami’s thoughts on advancing careers and becoming a leader:

IE:  What should you think about when you’re evaluating new career options?

TF: If there isn’t a bit of a risk and you’re not going to learn something new, a job isn’t worth taking.  If what you already know/have done is a piece of your new job, that’s ok and you should build on your foundational strengths.  But new roles should have some element of “risk” built in…a stretch factor with an “out-of-your comfort zone” dimension.  The compelling thing about this?  Once you take a risk and prove to yourself you can do it, it’s tremendously confidence building.  And then you go from there and build on successes.

IE: You had a chance to work in London and Germany early in your career.  Do you think working overseas helped or hampered your career?

TF: I think that when you live and work in a different culture, it makes you appreciate what it’s like to be the “odd man out”…to be fundamentally different from those around you.  It makes you look at situations with fresh eyes.  Today, I intentionally structure teams to be highly diversified because I believe it fosters more creative solutions.  The convergence of differences in approach, style, experience, and perception delivers better products.

IE:  What types of things have you done to prepare yourself for leadership roles?

TF:  People are often in a rush to move up the ladder and get ahead, when a well placed lateral move can do more for your career than moving straight up.  A lateral move can give you more breadth across a company and across roles, giving you a deeper understanding of leadership at the same time.  The progression from individual contributor to leader takes hard work.  Your skill set has to change.  You have to develop the ability to trust others to do your work; trust other teams from other areas to deliver on your behalf.  You also have to learn to win them over.  You need to build critical influencing skills that help you be effective.  How to do this?…through on the job experience.  Of course you will fail.  Everyone fails sometimes.  You will find yourself wishing you could have done it differently.  So what do you do?  You learn from it.

IE: What role does networking play in being an effective leader?

TF:  Everything.  Developing strong give and take relationships across an organization is essential.  These are the people you call on and ask for help to get things escalated, to get things fast tracked, to make things happen.  Because these relationships are trust based you have to build equity with these people over time.  A strong organizational network can mean the difference between success and failure.

IE: Do you think women in business face a rougher road to the top?

TF:  What I see is that capable women often opt out at a certain point.  It is difficult to find the balance in their lives they need to sustain their trajectory, so they remain at a certain level.  And sometimes women can be their own worst enemies because they underestimate their abilities and pass up solid opportunities.  Here’s what I think women should do more of:  Find a really great advocate who’s a cheerleader from the sidelines, get past any reluctance to self promote, have a clear understanding of what they’re good at, find out what others think they’re good at, and network, network, network.

About the Author

Gayle Rigione is Ivy Exec’s Chief Community Development Officer. Gayle spent 15 years in diverse relationship management and senior management roles at MasterCard International, Arthur Andersen Strategic Services, and Bankers Trust Company. She earned her MBA from Columbia.