Despite having the lowest board scores of any applicant accepted to Columbia Business School, Janet Hanson has risen to become one of the most senior female managing directors at Lehman Brothers.
Hanson talked about balancing her career and family life after college to a crowd of about 50 students at a Pierson College Master’s Tea yesterday. In addition to her work at Lehman Brothers, Hanson founded and currently manages the finance company Milestone Capital Management and the female networking organization 85 Broads, which aims to build connections between female business professionals.
“Because I was so passionate about women staying connected, I started 85 Broads, a play on words of Goldman Sachs’ address, 85 Broad Street in Manhattan,” said Hanson, who sold securities at Goldman Sachs for over a decade before rising to the position of vice president at the firm.
Hanson attributed the success of her organizations to her strategic partnerships and connections, while emphasizing the value of the Yale alumni network, which she said was the strongest in the country.
“You’re going to wake up one day and smile because you went to Yale,” she said. “You never, ever want to lose your voice or not have a way to stay connected.”
Many of Hanson’s family members, including her father and grandfather, attended to Yale, and her aunt graduated from the Yale School of Medicine in 1939, one of the first females to graduate at the top of her class, she said.
But Hanson was not always sure of her goals and passions, despite having family role models. She said she did not have much direction after graduating from all-girls Wheaton College, and it was only when she entered Columbia Business School that she figured out she was meant to work on Wall Street.
Hanson also touched on workplace romance. She said she secretly dated a coworker for three years before marrying him. She then became his boss four years later when they divorced.
At that point, she said she realized she was 34 and had a successful career, but no family.
“I’m going to be very rich, but I’m just going to be somebody’s rich aunt,” she said of her sentiments at the time.
While Hanson said she is satisfied with her professional life, she still sometimes finds it difficult to balance her career with her family.
“Despite being successful, I was incredibly lonely and seriously depressed,” she said. “I also didn’t get the whole being-a-mother thing.”
Hanson cautioned current students that the Wall Street workplace can be time consuming, so it is important to have back up options. She also advised current students about the importance of attending business school early on and practicing teamwork.
Hanson also gave several light-hearted examples of becoming business-savvy early on. She urged her daughter to buy stocks in Apple two years ago when her daughter’s friends all began to buy iPods. Hanson said she personally “made a killing” by buying Apple at $18 per share — Apple shares are now over $120.
Students said they enjoyed Hanson’s talk and were impressed by her successes.
“The amount of support she brings to women is impressive,” Fermin Caro SOM ’07 said. “It makes me wonder if there are male business networks that compare.”
Shivon Zilis ’08 said she was initially skeptical of Hanson’s message about female networking in the finance industry but liked her retelling of how she made it in the male-dominated environment.
“She made me excited about the opportunities out there for someone who wants to balance a career and family,” Tiffany Franke ’07 said.