I met Carla A. Harris, extraordinaire, at the Women and Business Conference. And trust me, she is all that and more. In case you don’t know who she is, let me give you a taste.
She is managing director and heads the Emerging Manager Platform at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. In her role, Carla provides investment advice to corporations, public pension plans, foundations and endowments. She was ranked as one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America and previously has been recognized by Fortune, Ebony, Essence and the Harvard University Black Men’s Forum for her leadership in the corporate sphere.
And she sings. Yes, indeed, she has sold out Carnegie Hall. Wow! Her albums, “Carla’s First Christmas” and “Joy is Waiting,” are filled with music to uplift the spirit. Again, wow!
Did I mention that she wrote a book? I am guessing she wrote “Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace” in her sleep. In it you will find Carla’s Pearls, those bits of wisdom that she discovered along her journey.
Let me admit that I had not heard of Carla until the beginning of my financial planning career when Martha McNeil gave me the book. I read it and reread it, taking copious notes because the nuggets of information seemed to empower me. I had planned to use them in my financial planning career, which crashed and burned in a matter of days, but that might be a story for another day. Anyway, the book is great for anyone in the workplace regardless of the career path. Thank you, Martha.
Since I read the book and had it with me at the table all dog-eared and stuff, I was able to “lip sync” some of Carla’s message. OK, maybe I read and reread more times than I am willing to admit, but at least I did not say it aloud. I just mouthed the words. I was sitting in the front row and she did look at me with a quizzical eye, so I think she knew what I was doing. Or it could be my imagination. You be the judge.
I took away from her message that I should be thriving and not just surviving. That is detailed in Chapter Four. I learned that I could train people to think about me the way I want them to think about me and it is not through hypnosis or alcohol. It is by cleverly weaving the appropriate adjectives into my conversations and following up with consistent actions displaying those same adjectives. And as a bonus, she taught us how to choose those adjectives. What an awesome branding strategy!
She stressed the need to take risks and not worry about failure because it brings the gift of experience. Equally important, we need to own our mistakes, learn from the lessons, pass those lessons on and move on. She even told us about one of her mistakes and how she handled the fallout from it. We needed to hear that.
When she said that no one achieves success alone, I almost stood up and shouted “AMEN, sistergirlfriend!” But I kept my composure and nodded my head vigorously. I have been saying that all along. We as women especially need to support each other and when possible nurture each other. We all could use someone else’s capital to get ahead. We need sponsors.
After her speech, I had the opportunity to chat with her for a few minutes. I asked her what were the things that she is most proud of. She told me that, personally, she is proud that she not only packed, but sold out Carnegie Hall. Professionally, one of the highlights is that her group handled the landmark $5.5 billion IPO of UPS. Again, wow!
She makes no apology for her success. She is proud of herself, as we all should be. There were lots of lessons to be taken away from Carla A. Harris. I can’t speak for anyone else at that conference, but I have a list full. Oh, and, yes, I am reading the book all over again, this time in Carla’s voice.
Doretha Walker, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston and South University in Savannah.
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