Career Lessons From Dina De Angelo

Career Lessons From Dina De Angelo

As a senior director at one of Switzerland’s largest banks, Dina de Angelo has shown that women can climb right to the top of the career ladder – even in a male-dominated industry. In her role at Pictet, she mentors the new set of bankers rising through the ranks. We asked her for the advice she gives those who want to emulate her success…

Find A Career That Allows You To Evolve
My career is part of who I am. I’ve been in finance ever since I came out of university at the age of 21, and I’m still in it. There has never been a point in my life where I’ve thought I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve found my place in this business and I’m very happy I did. To this day, I’m still very passionate about it, I still find a lot of joy in my role and it still keeps me evolving as a person. I’m constantly learning new things – and I’m never stagnant.

Be Visible 
When I’m working with my mentees, I talk a lot about visibility within the industry: making sure other people in the firm know who they are and know that they are here. I believe this is critical to success. Being visible doesn’t have anything to do with being loud necessarily; it means internal networking, getting to know colleagues outside of your team, and understanding your organisation and industry well. 

Think About Your Strategic Years
What are your high-growth years? By this I mean, which years can you make the biggest move of your career in? Figure that out and really make yourself visible during that period. You have to make your voice heard, hone your skills well, learn as much as you can, gain some perspective and take as much experience as you can. Experience takes time – especially in banking – and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. 

I had my children in my 30s, but these were also important years for my career. Some people decide to check out altogether when they’ve just had a baby, but I wanted to maintain my work ties and connections. I was clear with my employer what I could bring to the table during my maternity leave – and I did what I was happy doing. I was always on my email and, when important meetings were happening, I would come to town for them. I also stayed connected with my colleagues and with the market.

I think women sometimes underestimate the great role they can play in different industries, and that’s particularly true with finance.

My children are now teenagers and sometimes I ask them: ‘Do you ever feel like I missed out on something that you were doing when you were younger?’ They look at me like I’m crazy and say that I was there for everything. It sounds counterintuitive but, for me, those early years were when I was able to network more and be more visible. It was as they got older that they needed me more, and that suited my career.

Find Your Voice 
If you have a view on something, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinions, even if it’s just with your colleague who sits next to you. Get experience in stating what you believe in and don’t be afraid to say what you think about something. In every business there are monthly meetings, weekly meetings, staff meetings – whatever it is, be a part of it. Don’t just sit back and listen.

Don’t Underestimate Yourself As A Female
I think women sometimes underestimate the great role they can play in different industries, and that’s particularly true with finance. Half our staff here are female and I believe women tend to possess qualities that are really aligned with our business. To work in banking, you need a tremendous amount of patience, a good degree of strategic thinking and you need to be able to multitask. This business is one of the best careers for women because there is such a strong nurturing and educational side to our job. 

It’s true there weren’t a lot of women in banking when I started out, but things have changed quite dramatically and I never felt I was a lone female in this industry. Today, there’s a great number of women bankers and also female clients. Women are creating wealth at an incredible pace now and that has created a shift too.

Collaborate With Others 
I’m a collaborator. I try to collaborate with everyone – across business lines and within my business line. If I think one of my colleagues is better suited to a prospective client than me, I get them on board.

We all have to get over confidence issues to do this well – and it’s more natural for some than others. I think most women are able to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and admit that to themselves. With this knowledge, you can then surround yourself with a team that complements your own skill set. I think sometimes people are afraid to have others around them who display a strength that they themselves don’t have, but really that’s the best way to succeed as a team. 

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone 
We all have to step out of our comfort zone because that’s how we grow. People have skills they don’t know they have and the only way to tap into them is to try something new. Sometimes you succeed; sometimes you don’t. If it doesn’t work out, you have to accept the failure, move on and treat it as a learning experience

Learn From Others And From Your Own Mistakes
I think you always have to look back at your career. Consider what’s worked and what hasn’t, and put that all together to go forward. I’ve always taken the time to look back and question my actions: when did I do something well? When did something not work out? I also draw on experience from places other than the workplace. I use my life experience; I read a lot; I follow other people’s careers and I constantly ask for guidance – you’re never too old to ask for advice on things.

I think sometimes people are afraid to have others around them who display a strength that they themselves don’t have, but really that’s the best way to succeed as a team.

Help Others Succeed 
I do quite a lot of mentoring at Pictet and I speak to young bankers across the world. Our business is a very intimate and personal business, and there’s a huge responsibility on our shoulders. Once all of us are gone, there has to be a next generation that understands that significant responsibility. I’ve seen many of my mentees go through ups and downs. Watching them enjoy great success and helping them navigate the early days of their career is something I take real pride and joy in. 

Dress For Confidence 
I love fashion. I do a lot of public speaking within the bank and am often on the stage. When you’re in that sort of role, you want to feel the best you can on that given day. I’m a firm believer that what you put on can make or break you on any given day. 

I was never a suit girl. Early on in my career, when female bankers were only in suits, I was in separates and dresses and quite feminine things. People always made positive comments about how I dressed, and I came to see that a lot of people like to work with someone who isn’t in a suit all the time. Saying that, I do have a couple of suits: I have some vintage Ralph Lauren ones from years ago that sometimes I wear when the occasion is right. Finding a great dress is always a joy. I must say, I love to go to Zara, but I always have my Zara clothes tailored to make sure they fit well. I also love Emilia Wickstead, Ralph Lauren and J Crew for workwear. 

Make Time For Other Things 
I don’t know that I ever switch off. I’m quite known for being reachable all the time – that’s the nature of the business. But I am a commuter and on the train is when I try to look at other things, not just finance. I might read articles on fashion or medical research or anything else that allows me to branch off and expand my learning. 

Find out more about Pictet here.

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