In the latest episode of Stellar Women, Mila and I have an engaging conversation with Jigisha Lock on being in the right place at the right time—personally and professionally—and the importance of amplifying each other’s voices. We also discussed why the standard definition of what a leader looks like and sounds like needs to change.
Check out this episode to learn about having transparent conversations with your peers, navigating career changes, and creating and developing diverse teams.
Head of Strategy and Strategic Projects, Sustainability, Research, Investment Solutions Technology
Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Mila Taylor: And I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech.
MR: Today, we are really excited to welcome Jigisha Lock to the Stellar Women podcast.
MT: Welcome Jigisha.
Jigisha Lock: Thrilled to be here.
MT: We're really excited to chat with you. We just chatting before we pressed record. You mentioned how the compliance industry right now is a really exciting place to be. So I want to jump into questions.
JL: Yeah, sure. Absolutely.
MT: You recently switched roles from head of global products, core compliance service to head of strategy and strategic projects, sustainability, research, and investment solutions technology, which is a mouthful. Why did you make the switch?
JL: I was looking for an opportunity that could combine my passion for sustainability and my strengths and interests in designing and executing strategy. I was thrilled to find a role that would let me do just that. I mean, sustainability as a space is growing. There's chaos in the industry in a good way because a lot of people are realizing the impact of good governance, diversity, and climate change. How do you bring that together into a cohesive strategy, enable it from a technology standpoint, and also have an impact not only on the overarching climate and corporate governance, but also, how do you turn it into a growth opportunity for the bank?
MR: It's really interesting. Diving a little bit deeper… when you're switching to a new role or sector, passion is key because you're going to be productive and thrive when you're passionate. But you also want to make sure it's an area where there is growth and there's high value to the firm. Whether in your current role or when switching positions or sectors in your career, how have you made those decisions in terms of which areas are going to flourish?
JL: I always tell everyone that I'm in tech by happenstance rather than a career choice. My journey so far really has been a mix of actual world events, my passion for travel, and all of that rounded up with a little bit of luck of being in the right place at the right time. My background's actually in finance and economics. When I was in college, I always imagined joining an M&A firm or a sales team at an investment bank. That was the goal when you're studying finance. However, when I interned at Merrill Lynch as a business analyst in the investment management division, I quickly realized that I actually enjoyed using my finance background to design business technologies. I noticed a gap early on for skillsets that would bridge the business and technical units and bring it together. So, over the next few years, I built my knowledge and analytical skillsets to become an SME in the asset management space. Around that time, I think this was around 2007, there was also a boom of international banks branching out into private banking in the US. When Credit Suisse offered me an opportunity to join the private banking division, I took it immediately and I worked on trading in options. As we know, the world changed in 2008. I still remember being at the office huddled with everyone else and watching the Dow Jones just crash by nearly a thousand points. All of this is happening and you're living through history. When that happened, there was actually a lot of introspection in the media and in the industry about, how did we get here? I myself wanted to understand risk management a bit better to assess, can this be prevented in the future? At the same time, I was actually getting quite restless with my life in New York. So in 2010, when I was asked whether I wanted to do a stint in Zürich, I grabbed the opportunity and I switched from private banking to risk management. And then transitioning from risk into compliance was a very natural move. I've spent the last few years analyzing building and shipping surveillance products globally. I moved to London in 2014 and I've been here ever since. I would say it's been a bit of scanning the horizon and marrying future trends to my interests and actively pursuing opportunities. And there’s a little bit of luck.
MR: I was in Zürich years ago and loved it.
JL: I absolutely loved Zürich. I always tell people that I've always been in the right place and the right city at the right time in my life. You know, it's stunning. It's beautiful. It's actually very diverse. There are 20-odd percent of people living in Zürich who are not traditionally Swiss. So you do meet a lot of expats. It's great for skiing. I never took up skiing, but I loved hiking and running. The cycling is really great if you like outdoor sports.
MT: I really like what you just said about being in each place at the right time of your life. That's a unique outlook and it's a really positive way to view things. Obviously, you're very talented, intelligent, and driven. I think that something that contributes to your success is that you have this ability to be present and say, “Okay, I'm here now doing this. How can I make the most of this situation?”
JL: I left India when I was 17, so I've kind of been a bit of a nomad. I went to school in the US. I didn't know anyone there, really. New York was great to get that drive and that ambition in me. Zürich was great to temper that and teach me a little bit about work-life balance. I learned new skills and traveled a lot. And London, I find, is a great balance of New York and Zürich. It has that pace. But at the same time, I get a bit more of that work-life balance. I think to be truly happy, you have to appreciate what you have.
MR: Switching gears slightly, when professionals embark on a new path or apply for a new role, we might suffer from this phenomenon often known as imposter syndrome where you question your competence or ability to do something. Is this something you've experienced throughout your career or life? What tips do you have for people that might be trying to combat this?
JL: My life has had several firsts. I was the first person in my family to leave India. I was the first person to work abroad and land as a 17-year-old in a new country to start a new life. When I moved to the US for my undergrad, I worked three jobs to fund my way through college, and I feel like I worked really hard to get where I am today. If I ever wonder whether I'm capable of the challenges ahead of me, I look behind and I look ahead. For any new challenge, I ask myself, do I have the skills for at least one of the three key skills that the role requires? If the answer is yes, then I can learn the other two on the job. Lastly, being a mom of two girls, I really want this to be the last generation of women that experience imposter syndrome. I want us to pave the way for future generations to have that inherent confidence in their talent and have a sense of belonging for where they are. I've tried to embody that in myself and the people that I mentor as well. I'm a mentor to a few women and that's what I try to teach them. You are where you deserve to be. You can validate that through your journey, reflection, and analyzing your skills and your capabilities.
MT: If you wouldn't mind sharing, where do you find that self-confidence from? I’m not sure if it's a love language type thing. When someone like a friend or a peer can look over and say, “Mila, this is actually really good,” that helps me and fuels me.
JL: I always tell everyone that I'm five feet tall on a good day. I'm quite small. I was often reminded growing up, not by family, but by the community, that “Because you are not tall, you cannot be a leader. You don't look the part. You don't sound the part.” And I just felt at some point, well, the parts need to change. I've been trying to make my story different to what was perceived. I always tell people to amplify voices. Amplify your voice, but more importantly, amplify the voice of somebody else you're working with if you think they have a good idea. You know, I read this really interesting article in the Washington Post that said when Barack Obama took office, less than a third of his top aides were women. Women literally had to elbow their way into meetings or risk being excluded completely. When they did manage to get in, their voices were ignored. And this isn't really because they weren't being loud enough or men were excluding them or anyone was excluding them. It's just that nobody realized that the culture had to change. So women banded together and adopted the amplification theory, which is whenever a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it and give credit to its author. Quite a few other men started noticing that and realized that they need to do more of that. They started amplifying voices. This forced everyone in the room to recognize the contribution and the contributor. They didn't let anybody else take credit for that idea. That inherently gave the women more confidence to start presenting more options, more ideas, knowing that they have a partner who will amplify their voice. When this happened in the Obama administration, by his second term, half of his aides were women. Recognition from an outside standpoint should come from you either amplifying your voice or you amplifying somebody else's voice. For a meeting, say to [someone], “Hey, I have this great idea. I'm not quite sure that it will resonate. What do you think? If you agree, can you please help amplify my voice?”
MR: As women, many of us have probably experienced like a Joe Schmo taking credit for Mary's idea. I think allies also giving credit where credit's due is crucial. So whether in your current team or your roles that you’ve had, have you had to have candid conversations with some of your male colleagues who want to be champions to give them the tools to do that? Have you experienced this?
JL: I had just gotten back from maternity leave after having my first child. There was a work event happening in Poland. Some of my other colleagues were invited, but I wasn't. My team is very, very inclusive. I'm very fortunate to have worked with really good people in my career, but I wasn't invited. So I just picked up the phone and I called the organizers and said, “Hey, why did you invite me?” And they said, “Oh, well, you're a new mom. We didn’t know whether you could make it.” In their mind, they were doing the right thing, but with the wrong outcome. And I just said, “Well, you can't make that choice for me. You have to give me the opportunity to make my own choices.” I've had some of those conversations with people who really have the best intentions and may not realize it. I'm a part of quite a few diversity and inclusion platforms within the organization. And I always say that if I see just women around the table, that's a problem. We all know a lot of times what the challenges are, so we need men to be a part of this journey and not be a passive recipient. There are quite a few organizations within Credit Suisse where men co-sponsor several initiatives. That's the change that needs to continually happen. We really need to sustain it and make this a collective mechanism through which we we’ve promoted change and diversity so we can have allies across the board.
MR: I love that. I'm part of inclusion and diversity efforts at Relativity. I'm a chair for Relativity Women of the Workplace. That’s something that we've been really striving to do in the last two years. We want to make it more obvious that we want men to come to our events and come to the conversation. We don't want to be preaching to an echo chamber. You need to have those allies come. So that's really, really great.
MT: The hard part of being an ally is sometimes having uncomfortable conversations. It’s saying like, “Hey, so we have this event. I don't know if I should invite you because I don’t want to put you in the position because you are a new mom. How would you like me to approach the situation?” It's taking that extra step to say that I’ve identified that you are a new mom and this might be a new role, but how do you want me to navigate the situation?
JL: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was one of the very few women and definitely one of the first few to have had a child. I recognized the fact that that would also set the precedent for others. I know for a fact that others have been able to have those conversations because I was the one to speak up.
MT: And it’s on the recipient as well to make that conversation inviting.
MT: Some people get nervous because they don't want to come off as offensive or rude. It’s important to make it a welcoming situation to have those types of conversations.
MR: You touched on this before. You have two daughters. You're a mentor. Looking back at yourself when you were in school or early in your career, what's something you wish you knew? What's a piece of advice you want young female leaders to know?
JL: I was actually talking to my husband about this earlier today. I wish I had a mentor early on. I wish I had somebody who taught me the ways of the world to contextualize my position at the bank, the value I bring, and how it impacts the wider world. It would have been nice to have somebody to bounce ideas off. That's why I've been very active in the mentoring space within the bank. I actually mentor both men and women. I couldn't really find good women mentors who I could look up to and who could be with me on the journey until l I joined Credit Suisse and I met this fantastic Swiss lady. She’s really my mentor right now. I wish I had that early on. That is one thing that I try to make sure that the incoming talent has.
MR: That's key. I didn't have one very early on in my career, but I feel that by doing this podcast, and Mila you can likely attest to this as well, it taught me about the importance of that. And I feel like we have a lot of mentors in different ways. That’s true too. It's for men and women. It's not only women. But I really like that that you said about the importance of representation, because if you only have male mentors, you don't really see female leaders in the space. It's hard to have something to aspire to or know that that's an availability for you.
JL: Yeah, absolutely. I was also talking to someone the other day. Representation matters so much. I want to be able to show to my daughters that I worked really hard to get where I am and so can you. I want to create that across our organization and push diversity and inclusion across the board and across our hiring. Credit Suisse, to be honest, is doing a lot in this space. We're really promoting inclusivity, not just on gender, but on religion and neurodiversity. It’s across the board. The most successful programs that I've been on are the ones that have had the most diverse footprint. I've personally and professionally benefited from diversity. Everyone can. That requires representation. You need to see that person doing something really well and say, “Let’s get someone like her. That person does it really well. Let's get someone like her.”
MR: It could be diversity in your careers or your background or just the way you think as an extrovert or an introvert or a DiSC profile. There's so many layers. Research shows that it does improve your team's productivity and the output which may benefit the company.
JL: It’s about diversity of ages, as well. I was talking to one of my colleagues today. He's the youngest member of the team. He brings a lot of value that some of us don't have that perspective on. So it's really across the board. If you have a group of 10 men who are all from very diverse backgrounds, I don't consider that to be a diverse team because you lack the perspective of women. Are they all the same age? I think there's so many dimensions of diversity. And the more textures you introduce to it, the more value you can get as a team.
MT: We’re definitely making headway in the larger corporate world. The first step was men and women. The second step was color of skin and appearance. And now people are realizing that diversity runs so much deeper. It's not just these things that we can see.
JL: Neurodiversity is fairly new. I forget what I was reading recently but it found that neurodiverse team members detected 50 percent more defects in their code versus a traditional team. So there's so many different layers that can only enhance your personal and professional life.
MT: Thank you so much for chatting with us. It's been amazing and insightful and wonderful.
JL: Thank you so much for having me. What you guys are doing is so inspiring. I wish I had the confidence and the talent to do what you guys are doing. It's opening up conversations and really creating a platform for people to come together and hear different voices. So thank you for that.
MT: Thank you. We're only as good as our guests, so we're very lucky to have you involved.
MR: We're merely the facilitators. And for Stellar Women, I'm Mary Rechtoris.
MT: And I'm Mila Taylor.
Both: Signing off.