Ten Questions

January 14, 2013 11:29 am

Lakshmi Bhojraj

Lakshmi Bhojraj

Lakshmi Bhojraj: "Be proactive about the causes you care for"

Lakshmi Bhojraj is Breazzano Family Executive Director of the Parker Center for Investment Research at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in the US. While in this role she founded the Women in Investing Conference, an annual conference for female MBA students and representatives of investment management companies, that aims to increase the number of women in the finance industry.

Her father has worked as a diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service and Ms Bhojraj had an international childhood, living in Turkey, India, Zambia and Austria, before settling in the US. She has an MBA from Johnson and has worked as an equity analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, now known as Citigroup.

The fourth Parker Center Win Conference will be held in November 2013.

1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

As a former equity analyst, I love that we manage a real hedge fund at Johnson and that I still get to pick stocks and manage a portfolio in my current role which keeps me connected to the stock market.

2. What is an average day at work like?

In the morning, I open up our portfolio, look at how our stocks are doing and discuss action items with the faculty director and relevant students. I meet students seeking advice throughout the day and am in frequent contact with alumni to keep them engaged. We also run several high-profile MBA events at the Parker Center that involve other MBA programmes in addition to our own, so a lot of my time is spent on planning and executing these events, a key part of which is cultivating relationships with our corporate sponsors.

3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?

A day isn’t a lot of time but it’s certainly enough to declare priorities. I would make the following my priorities: a strong ethics component to the business school curriculum and the recruitment of more women into the MBA programme.

4. Who are your business heroes?

‘Hero’ is perhaps too strong a word but I loved the comeback story in Steve Jobs’s career trajectory – both that of his own and of Apple, which were, of course, related. I also admire Christine Lagarde, current and first female head of the IMF, and a key player in the world of finance.

5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Be proactive about the causes you care for, rather than simply opine on them. For example, for many years, we were seeing a dearth of MBA women entering investment management and lamenting this trend in our conversations with recruiters and alumni. When I brought up the idea of starting an MBA women in investing conference to several investment management companies, they enthusiastically supported the idea and backed it up with financial support. I was gratified that the appetite to change the trend was really there and that it was just a matter of doing something about it. Win is now in its fourth year and has resulted in several female hires.

6. What is the worst job you have ever had?

As a teenager, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. While I was proud of working and earning my own money, cranky customers were an unpleasant part of the experience.

7. What advice would you give to women in business?

Identify your strengths and choose a career that plays to them. Once you’ve started working, focus on proving yourself and learn to speak up and be visible in your organisation. Join diversity groups, mentor other women and voice your work-life balance needs.

8. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I’ve worked in male-dominated environments all my life and so don’t find this disconcerting but believe the male-female ratio in the workplace has to be balanced for a variety of reasons. I try to put into practice the advice I would give other women in business.

9. What is your favourite business book?

The Big Short by Michael Lewis. I enjoyed reading about smart people that did great investigative work and made money in the process when everyone else was moving in herds.

10. What inspires you?

I love the Nike slogan: Just Do It.

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