From farm to Phoenix sub-complex, this Morgan Stanley Branch Manager is a MAKER, a mentor and a marathon runner who raises up others around her and shares her career advice.
After being named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of accomplished women nominated by their peers, Stefanie was humbled by the honor. Yet she sees the distinction as a way to take more action. “It recognizes the work I’ve done raising up others around me and making positive change,” she says. “But it itches at my desire to do more. I have more to do and great resources around me to collaborate with so we can impact even greater positive change and create more opportunities.”
She points to the entire class of MAKERS she was privileged to join that year, and those who came before her. “I’m inspired just talking to other MAKERS and seeing their power and support for each other,” she says. “If I can learn something from another MAKER and bring that back to my community, that would further our collective success.”
Achieving career honors wasn’t something Stefanie thought much about while growing up with a farm near Redwood Falls, Minn. But what she did learn at a very young age is that “hard work equals reward,” she says. Her job, with her brother and sister, was to pick up field rocks for hours after the spring crop planting. “Doing manual labor taught me a lot,” Stefanie reflects. “I learned from my parents to work hard, work smart, and you’re not entitled to anything.”
While Stefanie also worked as a babysitter, lifeguard and swim instructor, it was finance and economics that attracted her when she started thinking about jobs while at Minnesota State University, Mankato. An internship and later full-time position at a local bank put Stefanie on her way to a financial career. She applied for a trading and service position at a brokerage firm, got the job and was relieved when she passed her Series 7 and 63 exams and was able to retain the position. After five years with that firm, in 2006 she took a position at Morgan Stanley in its Scottsdale branch. “I loved being a resource to everyone and the ‘Jack or Jill of all trades’,” she adds. “When somebody had an issue or a problem, they came to me.”
It didn’t take long for her Complex Manager to see how well Stefanie was thriving and notice her intellectual capacity. He asked Stefanie direct questions about her goals and “really got me thinking about other opportunities within the Firm,” she says. “He uncovered a desire to do more that I didn’t even realize I had,” she explains. “He saw more in my future than I did.”
She moved to the operations side of the business and became a Branch Service Manager. Two years later, the Complex Business Service Officer position opened up. “Once again, my manager was knocking at the door, asking, ‘What more would you like to do? Where do you think your career is going?’” With a little encouragement, she applied and got the job.
Today, Stefanie is Executive Director and Branch Manager of Morgan Stanley’s Phoenix subcomplex in Arizona, overseeing 40 Financial Advisors and $5.1 billion in assets under management (as of September, 2022). Looking back on her career, she knows it’s “priceless to have a mentor, someone who can look deep within you and see that underlying desire to do more, tap you on the shoulder and let you know you’re doing a great job.”
Outside of Morgan Stanley, Stefanie finds time to give back to help others. Learning about the Women’s Enterprise Foundation during a Saturday morning coffee with a friend six years ago led to her involvement as a board advisor then a board member. She’s also a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Maricopa County, another volunteer opportunity introduced to Stefanie by a friend. “My friends and family know my passion for helping children and desire to be a parental figure and mentor in a child’s life,” says Stefanie.
After completing several interviews, training, and background checks, she was assigned a 12-year-old girl from the foster care program. “As I have given to her, she’s also given back to me,” says Stefanie of the girl she calls “one of the most resilient, positive children I have ever met.” After spending so much time in the system, “she still smiles and bounces back in the face of disappointment.”
Stefanie’s other accomplishments include having earned a patent for helping develop personal trading software that monitors activity in the accounts of research analysts and portfolio managers and compares it to that of their firms. This is her “proudest moment professionally.”
Personally, she’s proudest of running the Boston Marathon not once but twice. The first time she ran it was through a charitable organization. The second time, she explains, she had to train and qualify. “Being at the starting and finish lines of that race are moments I won’t ever forget,” she beams.
Her secret to professional success, says Stefanie, is the fact that she’s a relationship person. “I believe in hard work, but to effectively manage, connect, coach and mentor someone, you’ve got to learn what’s in that person’s heart and what makes them tick,” says Stefanie. In fact, her advice is to ask questions of your mentees that reveal their values.
She also urges others to “get comfortable being uncomfortable. Looking back, when I was most uncomfortable, that’s when I grew the most. So, welcome the uncertainty and change. Don’t shy away from it.”
In work and in life, she adds, mistakes are okay, “but you’ve got to learn from them and understand the lesson they provide. I wish I knew that earlier in my career.”