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Women, Work, Jobs and Advice: A Talk with Janet Hanson

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In conversation number two with 10 women who are changing the world and rocking their fields, I bring you Janet Hanson. There are more than a few words that can be used to describe the founder of the global women's network 85 Broads, I will choose entrepreneur extraordinaire, fearless leader, mother, survivor and friend. Read on for advice about starting a new career, starting over and learn about what women can do to help other women.

Tell us a bit about 85 Broads, why did you feel the need to start it?

When I was at home in the early 90's with my two small children, I felt completely "disconnected" from my friends and colleagues at Goldman Sachs. I was a full time stay-at-home mom and it was very very hard. I thought it was sad that women who had had extraordinary careers at GS didn't have a way to stay connected to the women who were climbing the ranks at the firm - that is why I founded 85 Broads - to "reconnect" women who were at the firm to women who had left but who were passionate about helping GS women succeed. I also founded 85 Broads so that women could learn from each other's experiences - both good and bad. That is also why we wrote "More Than 85 Broads" which was published in 2006. I penned the first chapter and the other chapters were written by some of the most extraordinary, trailblazing women I have ever met.

Is 85 Broads only for women, can men join?

We are about to launch 100 Guys Who Rock! This will be a group of men who want to support 85 Broads. We have some "phenoms" who have been supporters for over a decade - Joe Gregory, Pete Kiernan, Mark Schwartz, John Whitehead, Guy Muzio, Keith Ferrazzi, and many other great guys who "get it."

How do you manage such a large global network?

I have an amazing team of brilliant young people who work with me in Greenwich [Connecticut].

How do your experiences at Goldman Sachs and running Milestone Capital Management fit into your work at 85 Broads?

Both were extremely entrepreneurial experiences. I joined GS in 1977 - there were about 1000 people at the firm worldwide. I was in Fixed Income Sales and Trading - the atmosphere was absolutely electric - we all felt incredibly lucky to be there. MCM was the hardest thing Jeff Hanson and I ever did. We built an asset management business from scratch. It was an insane thing to do but at our peak, we had over $3 billion in institutional assets under management. We had never managed money before, although I had spent two years working with some very smart people in Goldman's Asset Management Division. The guys who built Milestone's tech platform back in the 90's were willing to go "into the lab" with me to figure out how to launch 85 Broads as a virtual network. I think it would be fair to say that we were ahead of the curve in understanding how massive technology was going to be in allowing powerful global networks like 85 Broads to exist.

In May, The New York Times had an article about women bullying other women. I know more than a few women who could relate. What does 85 Broads do to help women learn to dispel any animosity that may arise between co-workers, bosses and their subordinates?

It's the T-WORD: TRUST! Women have to learn how to trust each other - it's just that simple. Bullying anybody is for losers - you're just picking on people who most likely are not in a position to "retaliate." Joe Gregory, the former President of Lehman Brothers, said something to me that I will never forget - he said: "Janet, if women aren't willing to work together and help each other, why do they think men will want to help them?" I never ever forgot that.

When you need inspiration where do you look?

My two spectacular kids. They are my absolute sunshine.

If you could give young women, like myself, at the start of their careers three pieces of advice, what would it be?

1) You can never be a true leader if you don't practice leading every single day. Every single day you have to make a series of decisions - your core values are your ethical compass. I was passionate about Goldman's core business principles - and I was passionate about the people who had built the firm who were my heroes and my role models. You must learn to "lead by example." It's that simple.

2) You have to be passionate about your work or in other words - you need to have a "love of the game." I absolutely loved the fast-paced environment on the trading floor - I couldn't wait for the day to start - I always came to work ready to hit the ground running. That, all by itself, can make a huge difference in how you are perceived by management. The folks I worked with loved how passionate I was about our clients and about the firm. I was absolutely juiced every day I walked through the front door of 85 Broad.

3) Your word is your bond. If you blow people's trust, you are finished. When people tell you something in confidence, that means they trust that you understand what confidentiality really means. If you can't be trusted to keep something in confidence, you will never ever make it. Managers will never trust you. This is the easiest thing to get right but it takes tremendous discipline. Most young people learn this lesson the hard way which is truly unfortunate.

4) Deliver on what you say you're going to do. Managing expectations -whether your boss's or your clients, is a critical skill to learn early on in the game. If you say you're going to do something, then do it. If you are over your head, get help. As we use to say at GS, don't ever hide bad trades in your desk drawer -ever.

Many young women out of college and graduate school are looking for jobs and have been looking for months. What is your advice to them?

We just formed a fantastic strategic partnership with Doostang, a career community for young professionals. Mareza Larizadeh is the Founder of Doostang - he is a tremendously smart guy and has been wonderful to work with. Doostang really understands "client service." The ROI on being a member of Doostang is very high. It's critically important that women study hundreds of "real jobs" so they can get a sense of where job growth is really coming from. That is the true value of a site like Doostang. It's what we have always called "reading the ending first." You have to know who's hiring and what areas are booming so that you can navigate accordingly.

What is your advice to older women who are re-entering the workforce after a hiatus or have just been laid off?

Find the smartest young people you can to help you figure out how to use a computer. Lack of computer skills is what is going to hold older women back - I would include myself in that group. If you don't know how to create an excel spreadsheet or create a powerpoint presentation, you are seriously handicapped. I would take a ton of classes to get up the "tech curve" before applying for any job.

I've been speaking to many of my peers. Many of them have been feeling that maybe they should be looking for jobs in fields that they are not too interested in because their field may be experiencing industry-wide hiring freezes. Is this smart?

Yes. And the reason I say that is because this is not a great time to be "idling in neutral." The key is to work with smart people - period, end of story. And these gals should join 85 Broads because there are literally hundreds of alumnae from their colleges and universities in our network who they can connect with. Or they can search our database for women who are in a career path that they are interested in pursuing. We created 85 Broads so that women could leverage each other's relationships - I might have a bigger rolodex than most young women who are just starting out which is why 85 Broads is so unique - it's all about learning how to get as high a possible return on new relationships that can help you get ahead and stay there.

You have been through and survived a lot - breast cancer and divorce. Through it all you have been quite candid. Would you share what those experiences have taught you?

It has taught me that there are no guarantees in life which is why you have to live every day as if it was your last. As my 50th birthday approached in September of 2002, I told my friends that "I didn't want to be 50." I almost got my wish. Three weeks later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was when the wheels started to come off the cart. For the next two years, I bounced from one wall to another. I had a bilateral mastectomy and just a few weeks later had my ovaries removed as prophylactic defense against ovarian cancer. Then I had skin cancer on my face, chest, and leg. Over the next few years, I was put on a lot of "competing" medications. Some days I was happy, some days I was suicidal, and some days I would unleash a torrent of anger over things that were, in the larger scheme of things, meaningless and unimportant. In essence, I didn't really know what was happening to me except that I was increasingly out of control.

I was working at Lehman Brothers, running 85 Broads, and still involved peripherally with Milestone Capital. I was also trying to be a good partner, daughter, sister, and most of all - mother. Jeff was my wing man - we both worked like absolute dogs. But over time, he grew weary of Lehman Brothers and 85 Broads and Milestone. And then he grew weary of me.

By 2006, I was increasingly spun out - it was just way way too much stress. After going to Alaska for two weeks to see if the polar ice cap was really melting, Jeff moved to our lake house a few miles from our home in Bedford. He was sick of our life and he was sick of me. I was in an absolute free fall as I didn't understand that Jeff was in the process of morphing into "the new Jeff" and that he was mentally "detaching" himself from his own family. He was also involved with a former girlfriend from college which made transitioning from his old life to his new life a no-brainer. He is now living in NYC somewhere - we actually don't even know where he lives. However, Mer, Chris and I are determined not to waste our lives grieving over Jeff. "Team Hanson" is no longer the four of us, it is just the 3 of us. We are fiercely committed to surviving and thriving, no matter how great the challenge.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for joining 85 Broads and for giving me the opportunity and the honor to be interviewed. You rock!