To succeed in business and in life, says Amy Oldenburg, who heads the Emerging Markets Equity team at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, you need stamina and strength to overcome obstacles that come your way and flexibility to learn new skills to deal with future challenges. Oldenburg knows something about tough situations. A few years ago, she climbed Mount Rainier in Washington State and endured a 20-hour summit day. After a 2 a.m. wake-up call for a 6 a.m. summit sunrise, the climb down involved navigating a melted path that required constantly adjusting to the changing terrain.
“My experience running marathons and mountaineering has been key to navigating and enduring the long-term nature of the investment business, the volatility of the markets and the international travel that’s essential for this role,” she says. Here she talks more about how that commitment has helped her succeed in her more than 20 years at Morgan Stanley.
I oversee investors based in New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai and Riyadh who manage over 15 international and emerging market investment strategies. My time is focused on developing top-performing investment teams, launching new and unique investment products, and managing all elements of a global investment business.
There is no such thing in this role. You need to be flexible, because the job description constantly evolves, and the business day and the markets we cover cross many time zones.
I started my career working for a tech company and I thought that I would do that for the rest of my life, until the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. I found my way to Morgan Stanley and over the last 21 years have realized that my appreciation and interest in tech and innovation has become my superpower, not a loss.
It helped to be open to new challenges and actively meet new people within the firm. As a trader, I showed I could talk effectively with portfolio managers about trading and markets, so I was soon given a position that was more client-facing. I have since held many different roles across the organization. The opportunity for internal mobility and my efforts at building my network of relationships across the organization were key to preparing me for my responsibilities today.
There’s a healthy level of competition on the Emerging Markets Equity team, and many of us have some sort of sports background, which I don’t think is a coincidence. I also think participating in sports helps prepare you to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Since joining Morgan Stanley in 2001, I’ve held roles in FX trading, portfolio management support, and product development and strategy before joining the Emerging Markets business.
Technology is an increasingly important part of that business. How do you see its role evolving in what you do?
To have a competitive edge, we need to not only embrace new technologies, but be in the forefront of developing them. Part of that involves a shift in mindset as far as who we hire and what their skillsets are. All industries must accept new competition and possible disruption, and this business is no different. By making sure our employees are advocates and sponsors for innovation, we are better able to adapt as trends change.
Be curious and commit to a life of continuous learning. Our markets and our business have changed so much over the years that you must adapt and learn the latest tools and technology in order to succeed. Also, experience builds on itself. It’s hard to rush the process. Appreciate every experience as an opportunity to learn what you like and don’t like. Sometimes the next opportunity comes in a year, other times it may be three or four years. Don’t get caught up in following a specific rubric or timeline—life is hard to predict. Keep yourself positioned to get lucky, stay opened-minded, offer help, be kind. The best opportunities will pop up in the most unexpected places.