Alumni Column



Yvonne M. Gyimah

In 2000, I graduated from Colgate with honors in Philosophy and Religion. For those who may wonder what one can do with such a degree, I offer a simple answer: anything you set your mind to.

Having first worked on Wall Street in 1998 interning with J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, I joined Goldman Sachs in its investment banking division, then moved over to fixed income. I was promoted twice and joined a new business unit, the Industry Sales Group. This unit focused on selling and trading fixed income securities to domestic and international accounts.

In August 2004, confronted with the offer of a third promotion and a long-term commitment to Goldman Sachs, I decided instead to resign and help start an investment firm focused on investing in private companies. This resulted in my traveling around the world looking for investment opportunities. As part of my job, I visited Africa, Europe, Greece, & Brazil. In the fall of 2005, I entered business school at Cornell University’s Johnson School. Then, in the summer of 2006, I interned at General Electric Capital Corporation in their private equity division. Clearly a degree in philosophy and religion from Colgate has opened many doors.

My travels and work experience over the past 10 years have resulted in a great deal of accumulated wisdom. Most of this has been the result of valuable advice on issues and ideas that I have received from friends and colleagues alike. In paying attention and learning from others, I have become more marketable in the global economy. Given my good fortune, I would like to pass some of this advice along to you.

Let me begin by pointing out the trait common to Colgate students and Alums alike: leadership. To be a leader you must first and foremost utilize your unique perspective and vision. Leadership is seeing what others miss. A leader must be focused not only on his or her own advancement, but also on that of others. At the same time, a leader must maintain the highest degree of excellence, ethics and integrity. Global leaders display empathy for others by consistently demonstrating tolerance and respect for differing world views. Such maturity enables you to embrace diversity, leverage differences and build synergies that will result in more successful, productive and creative communities around the world.

Leaders must also understand the financial elements of the global economy while keeping an open mind. To be a leader, you must establish relationships with a wide variety of people who may be very different from yourself. Leaders must know the competitive landscape as well as recognize in which area(s) he or she excels. At the same time, leaders must always be aware of those areas in which he or she can improve and strive to do so.

When you draw up your resume, think of it in universal terms. It should serve to present you and your abilities clearly to all who read it. While it should be kept to a single page, that page should speak volumes. Think of your resume as an advertisement of your “brand”-something to help a potential employer recognize who you are and how you can maximize the company’s potential.

Leaders must have a clear sense of self; they must be confident without being arrogant. Think of your preparation up until now as the first step in a logical progression. By knowing where you are today, you will be better able to focus on your goals of tomorrow. Remember, global leaders are accessible, responsive, enthusiastic, engaged and eager. They must communicate effectively.

Leaders meet deadlines. Or, sensing that a deadline cannot be met, they give notice in time for others to adjust so that valuable momentum is not lost. They extend appreciation to fellow workers and ask for honest feedback. Leaders are always re-evaluating their own skills, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. They learn from their mistakes. Try to think of every interaction as made up of a balance of verbal and non-verbal communication. For me, maximum communication is best achieved when I employ 55 percent non-verbal skills with 38 percent tone, speed and vocal volume. Only seven percent of what I am attempting to get across is delivered by the actual words themselves.

Leaders understand that success is about dressing in a professional manner, greeting people with a firm handshake and steady eye contact and using positive vocal qualities and facial expressions. Through careful preparation, they are always aware of the specific idiosyncrasies within the different global cultures and adjust accordingly.

Finally, leadership depends upon your ability to develop a global network. The more diverse your network, the more capable you are of achieving your goals. A large part of being effective is the way in which others perceive you. The more focused you are, the more you will be able to influence others and implement your ideas. This in turn allows you to maintain stability in times of change. By reaching out to others, you will make the most of every opportunity.

Since success depends upon your ability to function in an every changing environment, a strong leader is constantly reading in order to keep abreast of current trends. Try to learn something new everyday. By being aware of what is going on in world markets, Colgate students and Alums are better to spot trends and meet the economic challenges of the future. For your education at Colgate is just the beginning. Learning is a lifelong endeavor. Welcome to the global economy.