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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Carla Harris Shares Pragmatic Advice for a Successful Career

Bridgewater’s Women’s Influence Network recently hosted Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, Carla Harris, as part of the firm’s celebration of Women’s History Month.

In a session moderated by Bridgewater Client Advisor Melody Rollins, Harris shared “Carla’s Pearls” with the Bridgewater community — a series of pragmatic suggestions for anyone aspiring to greater heights in their career. Drawing on over 30 years of experience, Harris encouraged the audience to cultivate forms of “currency” that every individual, regardless of seniority, has the ability to control — one’s relationships, performance, and authenticity.

Harris said one of the most consequential aspects to a person’s career is the relationships they build with people who have visibility into their work. She described this as “relationship currency,” which is important because “your ability to ascend in any environment will be a function of somebody’s judgment.” By establishing a rapport with others, a person enables their colleagues to speak to their success in meetings that can dictate work assignments, raises, and promotions.

Harris defined a second kind of currency — “performance currency” — as “delivering what is asked of you, and a little bit more.” She said that people who successfully accumulate performance currency early in their careers will gain a positive reputation, receive raises and promotions, and most importantly, are likely to attract a sponsor. She continued, “if you have great performance currency in an environment, it raises your level of visibility so that a sponsor may be naturally attracted to you.” Defining a sponsor as a person who “is spending their valuable political and social capital on you,” Harris emphasized how they, too, can be a critical part of an employee’s ability to advance.

She ended with her view that authenticity is the most distinct competitive advantage any employee can have, noting that “no one can be you like you can be you,” and that many people can forget their own value. She recommended that members of the Bridgewater community lean into their authenticity by identifying adjectives that describe who they are and then conveying those qualities throughout all of their interactions.

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