In this insightful interview, we have the privilege of speaking with Mary Mosope Adeyemi, an SEO London Alumna and an accomplished professional who has made her mark as an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs. Mary's journey is particularly inspiring, as she not only excelled in her career but also championed diversity and inclusion throughout her tenure. Her unique perspective as a non-Russell Group graduate and a Black woman in the finance industry brings valuable insights and advice for recent graduates. Mary's passion for helping others succeed is further reflected in her book, "Visible Strengths," which focuses on leveraging key skills to your advantage. Join us as we delve into Mary's background, experiences, and the principles she shares in her book.
SEO London: Can you tell us about your educational background and how you discovered your passion for finance?
Mary: In school, I was studying Accounting and Finance, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in that field. I was enrolled in a multi-major programme with minors in economics, statistics, and law. I was eager to learn and explore different areas of knowledge. However, during a summer internship at an accounting firm, I realised that it wasn't the right fit for me. I wanted to engage in data-driven analysis and explore the world of finance. And then, by serendipity, SEO came to my university. I got the details of the programme and I applied. I didn't even know what an investment bank was at that time, but I went for the interview and somehow got accepted. That's how my journey into finance began.
SEO London: Can you share your experience during your internships at Deutsche Bank and Bank of America?
Mary: My first internship was in M&A at Deutsche Bank in 2006. It was a challenging experience for me because I'm naturally introverted, and the environment was quite energised and fast-paced. I was exposed to various aspects of banking and gained an understanding of how everything connected. Despite the learning opportunities, I realised that M&A wasn't the right path for me.
Later, I had an internship in the portfolio management team at Bank of America. It was a smaller bank compared to the well-known ones like GS, Merrill Lynch, and UBS at the time. But it turned out to be a perfect fit for me. The role involved using financial information to make decisions, which aligned with what I wanted to do in finance. I had the chance to collaborate with different teams, including bankers, capital markets, legal, controllers, and technology. The experience was positive, and the people were supportive and helpful.
SEO London: We often talk about diversity in the workplace, what does that mean to you?
Mary: Diversity comes in different forms. In terms of racial diversity, there was a lack of representation at the time in Bank of America. I was the only black person or person of African heritage on the entire floor. However, there were other forms of diversity present. The regional and global groups were both led by women, which was encouraging to see. During one of our training sessions, I vividly recall encountering a remarkable lady named Marisa Harney, who held a prominent position in the US, possibly as the head of International credit or a similar role. As soon as she walked into the room, everyone's attention was immediately captured. Marisa Harney possessed an undeniable presence that commanded attention. In that moment, I couldn't help but acknowledge her with admiration, thinking to myself, "Alright girl, I see you."
There was also diversity in terms of age and socioeconomic backgrounds. Bank of America didn't solely hire from prestigious universities, so there was a mix of educational backgrounds. Additionally, there were people from different countries and varied life experiences, which brought a unique perspective to the workplace.
SEO London: As a hiring manager what are the key attributes you look for in candidates, and how do you approach diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Mary: Diversity and inclusion are interconnected. It's about embracing diversity and being open to different perspectives and experiences. Mistakes may happen along the way, but it's crucial to create an inclusive environment where individuals feel comfortable being their authentic selves. As a hiring manager, I focus on three main factors: interest, value, and fit. I consider whether candidates are genuinely interested in the job, how they can contribute value, and whether they align with the team and company culture.
SEO London: How important is it to hire from a Russell Group University, and have you felt disadvantaged not coming from a Russell Group background?
Mary: As a very senior person with a lot of experience, the university you attended matters only for a certain period of time from a hiring perspective. While having a network of people from prestigious universities and colleges like Eton, Cambridge, or Oxford can hold some value in terms of networking, it's not a significant factor later in one's career. After 10 or 15 years, nobody really cares about your university degree. What matters more is your experience, skills, and the results you've achieved.
SEO London: How do you view diversity beyond physical representation?
Mary: Sometimes when we think about diversity in any industry, we see it as physical diversity. There's still definitely a place for visible diversity. In the end, people want to immediately see people who look like them. We gravitate towards affinity and that's always a powerful thing in any organisation. But layered under that is diversity of thought. For example, how we think and what experiences we have. While physical representation is important, diversity of thought is equally significant. It's about understanding the different experiences and perspectives that individuals bring to the table.
Growing up in Nigeria, I had the privilege of not facing limitations based on my race, although I faced gender-related challenges. This lack of racial limitation gave me a sense of confidence and made it easier for me to navigate the workplace. However, I acknowledge that this may not be the general experience for everyone. Certain messages and experiences during childhood can have a lasting impact, influencing one's beliefs and sense of possibility. Gender diversity is another aspect to consider, as women may face limitations in certain situations. Therefore, diversity should encompass both visible and invisible diversity.
SEO London: Could you share the motivation behind writing your book, Visible Strengths?
Mary: I wrote the book because I faced challenges transitioning into the workplace. I realised there were unwritten rules and expectations that I hadn't been exposed to before. I wanted to help others navigate these challenges by providing guidance on how to capitalise on their strengths, contribute value, and communicate results effectively. It's important to go beyond simply doing the job and understand the bigger vision, while also being intentional about finding and applying one's strengths. By doing so, individuals can feel and be more confident, fulfilled, and successful in their careers.
SEO London: What are some key insights from your book?
Mary: The book emphasises three key elements to accelerate your career trajectory: capitalising on strengths, contributing value, and communicating results. It encourages individuals to identify their unique strengths and leverage them in the workplace. Adding value is crucial, as it aligns with the expectations of those who hired you. It's important to understand why you were chosen and what you bring to the table. Finally, cultivating a healthy mindset towards visibility is essential. This involves understanding the benefits of visibility and developing actionable strategies to showcase your work and contributions consistently.
SEO London: What advice do you have for individuals seeking visibility and career advancement?
Mary: Prioritise adding value before focusing on visibility. It's not about being the loudest voice, but rather about delivering meaningful results. Once value is established, then it's important to communicate your achievements effectively. Embrace your diversity and use it as an advantage. Learn from others, be open to growth, and continuously share your story and the positive impact you create. Ultimately, success lies in understanding what is expected of you and consistently delivering on those expectations while building your personal brand.
SEO London: What has had the greatest impact on you, either professionally or personally?
Mary: One of the rules I live by is the belief that there is no one like me. I walk into every room with the understanding that I bring a unique combination of thinking and experiences. So, the greatest impact on me has been the realisation that my uniqueness allows me to make a positive difference in the world and leave a lasting impact in everything I do.
SEO London: Have you had any life lessons that guide you? And would you like to share them with us?
Mary: The first life lesson I live by is being open to the exchange of ideas and perspectives. I'm always aware that even things I might not personally care about or consider significant can have a profound impact on others. So, I believe in sharing knowledge and experiences because it can be powerful and valuable to someone else. The second life lesson I hold dear is the belief in leaving everything better than I found it. This mindset was instilled in me by my parents, who always encouraged me to leave things better than I found them. I strive to be a person of value and contribute positively to my surroundings, ensuring that my actions have a lasting and beneficial impact.
SEO London: Lastly, can you tell us about your programmes?
Mary: Certainly! I have two flagship programmes. The first one is called "Secure the Bag" and I created it about two years ago. It focuses on accessing job roles and understanding the mindset of hiring managers. The idea behind it is that the more you think like a hiring manager, the more successful you will be in securing a job. It emphasises the importance of understanding what the hiring manager needs and how you can present yourself as the solution, essentially selling yourself as a product. The programme also guides participants in activating their job seeker mode, which involves optimising their LinkedIn profiles, networking actively, and letting people know they are looking for work. I believe that even your family and friends can be part of your network, so it's essential to communicate your job search intentions to them. It's about adopting a different headspace when actively seeking employment and ensuring all aspects are complete and aligned with your goals. The programme also covers analysing job roles, crafting tailored CVs, and creating compelling cover letters that tell a story of your experience and how you can contribute to the organisation.
The second programme is The Visible Strengths Accelerator Programme which is a 12 week programme for early career professionals who are ready to accelerate their impact, influence and income by learning how to capitalise on their strengths, contribute values and communicate their amazing results.
Mary Mosope Adeyemi's journey from an aspiring student and SEO London Candidate to an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs is a testament to her resilience, dedication, and unwavering belief in the power of diversity. Her book, "Visible Strengths," serves as a guide for professionals at all levels, empowering them to navigate their careers with confidence and purpose. Mary's commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace, combined with her invaluable insights as a hiring manager, make her a remarkable advocate for recent graduates. As she embarks on her next steps, Mary plans to continue spreading her message of empowerment and inclusivity, while also finding joy and fulfilment in her personal life. With her expertise and passion, Mary Mosope Adeyemi is truly making a difference in the world of finance and beyond.