ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: ISEULT CONLIN (CAS ’09)

Iseult Conlin, CFA, is a 2009 CAS graduate who majored in Economics and Psychology. She is a US Institutional Credit Product Manager at Tradeweb where she focuses on product development, strategic initiatives and client acquisition.  Tradeweb is a leading, global operator of electronic marketplaces for rates, credit, equities and money markets, and serves more than 40 products to 2,500 clients in 60 countries in the institutional, wholesale and retail markets. Every day, Tradeweb facilitates more than $630 billion in notional value traded.

Iseult joined Tradeweb in 2018 after almost eight years at BlackRock, where she most recently served as an Investment Grade Bond Trader. In that role, she spearheaded the firm’s electronic credit trading efforts and market structure advisory, alongside trading a variety of credit products. Prior to BlackRock, Iseult was an Economist and Fixed Income Strategist for Latin America at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Iseult was named to Forbes’ Finance 30 Under 30 List in 2016, and was recognized by Markets Media as Top Fixed Income Trader in the publication’s Women in Finance Awards in 2017.

5 Things I Know Now:

1. Uniqueness is an asset. Stay weird
When I was younger I was always trying to fit in. To me, that meant thinking the same way, dressing the same way, enjoying what I thought I was supposed to enjoy…but I was just imitating what other people were doing. I hid the quirky things about me that made me different deep inside.

It wasn’t until college that I realized my “weirdness” is actually an asset and that uniqueness in thought and approach is actually a positive quality. In my career, I am constantly bringing new perspectives to existing problems and challenging the status quo, standing up for ideas I believe in even when most people disagree. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have achieved as much success in my career so quickly if I hadn’t embraced that weirdness and found the confidence to bring it to the table.

Weird is cool. Weird is memorable. And following the rules doesn’t push us to be better. Your uniqueness as a person makes you exclusively you, be yourself. I particularly like this quote from John Lennon – “it’s weird not to be weird.”

2. Hearing is different from Listening
One critique that always stuck with me was not truly “listening”. My manager at the time made the point “when I ask you a question, you’ve already come up with an answer before I’ve even finished my question.” This led to the realization that even though I might be hearing the words, I wasn’t truly listening to the meaning. These are two very different things.

Someone once said “hearing is through the ears, but listening is through the mind.” Hearing is a sense that helps you receive sound waves, whereas listening is accurately interpreting the message transferred by the other person. A lot of people go through life only listening in the context of our own world view and end up interpreting what they hear in that narrow construct. Being truly open-minded  to understanding what someone is really saying is an important skill. It may take time, patience and self-awareness but it makes the difference in life and especially your career. Hearing is something anybody can do, listening is intentional.

3. There is power in observation
I spend a lot of time observing people. Watching how people interact, how they present themselves, what they are motivated by and how they treat others around them— can be a career game changer. If you notice a leader in your business, or conversely someone you don’t want to emulate, watch them. If they are successful (or unsuccessful) there is probably a reason. Curiosity and an awareness of others – and how you relate to them – can really inform the right approach.

4. It’s never as bad as it seems in the moment
I’ve cried in the bathroom at least twice, though luckily, not at my current employer. It happens, to everyone, men and women, just starting out in their career and even more established and it’s OK. You are human. Don’t beat yourself up when it happens. You will get through it and when you do, you will be stronger for it.

The first time I cried was because I made a major trading mistake. It wasn’t something I could control but I did not catch the mistake either. We found the error 10 days later and it ended up costing the firm money. My boss was not particularly gentle about it and I was yelled at. It made me realize that I didn’t have a true grasp of what had happened. I made a point of learning from my mistake. I checked and double checked my work and asked questions if I was unsure. Now those checks are second nature, and while it’s a hard lesson to learn, the lesson was invaluable.

5. When you don’t know, say you don’t know
Never fake it until you make it. I detest that saying. Set your ego aside and admit when you don’t know something. Then go look it up and become obsessed with the topic until you fully understand it. By nature we want to please, so often times, people come up with an answer even if they know it’s not entirely right. Admit you don’t know everything and you‘ll learn in the process. Plus, pretending can diminish your credibility: people read through “faking it” really quickly. Respond with “let me confirm and get back to you” instead and come back with a timely answer. Admitting you don’t have enough information, but know how to get it, is a much stronger trait and imperative for leaders.

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