Hard Work and Making It Happen
reflects on a successful career in investment management and how she got here.
Name: Amy Schioldager
Amy Schioldager honed her work ethic long before she arrived at BlackRock, where today she is Global Head of Index Equity. She worked during the day and weekends serving subpoenas in order to put herself through college, starting out at Mesa Junior College before transferring to San Diego State. “I was yelled at more times than you can imagine,” she says. “But it got me through college. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t put myself through school.”
Title: Managing Director, Global Head of Index Equity
Amy finished her education at Cal State Hayward. Although she began her undergraduate studies with nothing more than a general interest in business, an investment class sparked an unforeseen passion. “I switched my focus to a finance discipline and graduated with a degree in finance. I just loved the idea of markets, of managing money. Every day is a new day in the market.”
Post-graduation, she took a position at Wells Fargo Investment Advisors. “I didn’t start a professional career until I was a little bit older, because I took longer to go through college,” she says. “It took me eight years to complete my undergraduate degree. As a result, I was a little bit more mature coming into the workplace.”
That maturity served her well as she began managing clients. “I didn’t start off with a client view,” she says. “My focus was on the investments. But as I’ve grown my career, I have come to really enjoy the client and people aspect. Every client has their own unique challenge, their own unique needs in terms of investment planning and products that provide what they are looking for.”
Amy’s team now numbers about 90 people. “If you manage people well, they will manage your business well,” she says. “I think about the people on my team all the time. Are they in the right job? Can I help them grow their careers? Whom should I promote? Do we have the right mix of people?” She holds regular teas to get to know her associates and analysts better. “I want to give them access to me and a chance to ask questions,” she says.
Inviting her team to tea is Amy’s way of helping them build a network and develop their career. “I hate to make statements about gender,” she says, “but I do think women tend to undervalue a network. You don’t have to go out for drinks. You can build your network during the workday. Have coffee or lunch with someone. Have mentors and peers you can go to for advice. It is literally part of your job.”
Amy is also an advocate for asking for what you want. “People sometimes assume that their boss will know what they are working on and when they are ready for a promotion,” she says. “Be vocal about what you want. Let your supervisor know how you’re contributing to the team. As a supervisor, if I understand how someone thinks, and what they do well, I can help them figure out how to further their career.” At the same time, she counsels patience. “I didn’t get any of my promotions the first time around,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait and let people see how you respond.”
Amy also recommends accepting challenges and opportunities that may seem off-putting at first. After a successful period managing international equities, she was asked to take on domestic equities. She hesitated, as the domestic equities team was facing significant challenges and frustrations at the time. “What I was being asked to do was going to be messy and uncomfortable,” she says. “I was eight months pregnant at the time, and they wanted me to take on this challenge as soon as I returned from my impending maternity leave.” Her manager asked her to reconsider. In the end, she accepted. “It ended up being one of the best things I had ever done. I loved working in the markets during the time zone, and I enjoyed maneuvering and fixing challenges that were new to me.”
Today, Amy is at the helm of index equity for BlackRock. She came to BlackRock via a merger with Barclay’s in 2009. “I completely stand for the product I deliver,” she says. “You need to believe in what you do and the people you are working for. I think it’s hugely important to have index equity funds. They play a very big role in the investment community, for institutional players, but also for individuals like you and me. There’s a real value in having index equity products available to the public.”
Amy’s initial passion for market dynamics hasn’t waned a bit over the course of her career. “Today, you watch a company like Facebook,” she says. “We know it will go public someday and it’s fascinating to watch it grow out of nothing. The markets are always evolving. Whatever happened yesterday, the opposite or something unexpected might happen tomorrow.”
Despite her busy schedule and focused attention on the markets, Amy also manages to make time for her family. She has a few rules that she adapts as her children’s needs evolve: she never travels on her children’s birthdays, and for awhile when they were younger she made sure to keep Halloween free as well. On their first day of school, she reschedules any morning meetings so she can be there to see them off. “You have to draw your own line and know what’s important for you,” she counsels.
She also makes sure to set aside time for herself. “I schedule my workouts,” she laughs. “I put them in my calendar every Sunday for the coming week. Otherwise they won’t happen.” When asked how she juggles the competing demands of work and family, how she stays attuned to the needs of her team and keeps herself in balance at the same time, Amy responds quickly. “You have to stay nimble,” she says. I think it’s important to understand that your environment changes and what worked last year/month/week may not work tomorrow. “At the end of the day, most things come down to a gut feeling. You go for it.”