As a mentor, Morgan Stanley MAKER Leslie Walters helps women flourish yet says she gets back so much more than she gives. That’s what she loves most about her job and volunteerism.
A wrought-iron sign on Leslie Walter’s wall spells “believe.” A gift from a colleague in the Princeton, N.J., branch she used to manage, the Amish-crafted piece hangs in her office in Tacoma, Wash., from where she now oversees Morgan Stanley’s Tacoma/South Sound Sub-Complex, including 40 Financial Advisors who manage $6.3 billion in assets.
For Leslie, that sign a daily reminder that “you have to believe in yourself. It will give you the energy and strength to do the things you really want to achieve.”
That advice is what this branch manager and mentor always shares with others, including countless women in finance and business. As one of the cofounders of the first local chapter of Women at Morgan Stanley (W@MS), she elevates the industry as a career ground for women and supports those already working in finance. Through networking and teambuilding events, she, Sara Asatiani and others have brought women together to build their confidence and empower them to do things they never thought possible, even beyond their careers, like running their first half marathons in Disney together. What started out as a small group of women in Seattle has expanded to some 40 chapters around the country and is now known as Women in Wealth.
You get back more than you give.
Even before the formation of the women’s employee networking group, Leslie created numerous Northwest region women’s meetings for idea sharing and personal growth. She also brought women together in her work as a conference planning committee member for the NJ Conference for Women.
In addition, she volunteers for the Milgard Women’s Initiative at the Milgard School of Business at University of Washington-Tacoma, a mentoring program that “helps women flourish after graduating with their MBAs,” says Leslie, who learns so much by participating in the educational program that she often feels “like I’m the mentee!”
Unsurprisingly, that’s what she loves the most about volunteerism: “You get back more than you give.”
In fact, that’s also what Leslie most enjoys about her job. Every day, she finds opportunity to give to others in her role helping advisors and their teams build their practices. She meets “people from all over the country” and feels “privileged to work with so many passionate, inspiring people.”
An obvious outgrowth of her caring for others is her being asked to join the Pacific Coast Diversity Council and play an important role on its Talent Development subcommittee, on which she is “very excited to serve.”
Looking back fondly on her childhood, Leslie remembers her hard-working parents making sure she and her sister had everything they needed and a solid foundation of faith. Her mom, a teacher, and dad, an engineer, “were passionate about their jobs and gave me my work ethic,” says Leslie, who went to church with them every Sunday. “I know we’re here to love and care for others.”
Her mom always insisted that “with books, you can be anything and go anywhere.” So, whenever Leslie needs inspiration or help with something in her job or in life, she reads.
A math major at Bates College, she knows “the sum of all the little parts is who I am.” With her degree, Leslie landed her first job in insurance, doing liability calculations for pension plans. When her husband, an engineer, was hired by Boeing, they moved to the Seattle area, where she joined Smith Barney, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley.
At first, she was a pension specialist, traveling from branch to branch across the Northwest. “I got to see 50 different branches and what branch life was like,” says Leslie, who grew particularly fond of meeting “the amazing people inside every one of those buildings.” When she learned of the Firm’s leadership readiness program, she put her “name in the hat” in hopes it would be her break to “launch into branch management.”
That hope became a reality when she was asked to manage the Silverdale branch in Washington. She did so for about three years, then moved to the Princeton branch in N.J., then came back to Washington to manage the multiple branches in her complex.
Now a mother of two herself, she’s grateful for her “wonderful [grown] boys and very supportive husband,” who stayed home with them once the travel for her career became demanding.
Shy at first, Leslie learned to listen, and listen well, given her natural curiosity. “Listening, learning how to help others, and showing them you care is what management is all about,” she insists. “It’s about putting others first.”
Forcing herself out of that shell to meet and connect with others, Leslie reflects on how important it is to “learn to speak up and share your story.” She had to believe in herself, like her parents always did. “Having people who believed in me made me feel that much stronger, especially when things get difficult,” she says.
That’s why she advises her mentees to “build your network of supporters. It’ll give you strength when you’re unsure of yourself.” She also advises them to “be inquisitive. Talk with everyone you can. There’s so much we can learn from others.”
Recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a distinguished group of women and men of accomplishment, all nominated by their peers, Leslie is honored. “Being a MAKER is such an incredible privilege,” she says. “MAKERS believe in themselves, and they encourage other women to do the same.”
Adds Leslie, glancing up at that “believe” sign on her wall: “MAKERS work hard at putting others first in all they do. While it might seem like you’re in the backseat, you really get true pleasure out of putting others in front of you.”
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