Megan never thought her background in humanities would prove such a valuable asset in the world of finance. Now a Vice President in Investment Banking, Megan originally honed her negotiation and relationship-building skills while working for a large global religious organization, directing their economic development projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. After graduating from Drake University with degrees in philosophy and accounting she was thrust into negotiations with local officers many years her senior, in a part of the world where women typically didn't have a voice. "That experience helped strengthen my voice and gave me a backbone," Megan recalls.
At Morgan Stanley, Megan works with multinational industrial companies, helping them identify opportunities to strategically grow and access the capital needed to build their business. She also continues to focus on creating opportunities for women through her work with the Morgan Stanley Women’s Network, a growing group of executives at the firm committed to ensuring that women employees feel connected and empowered.
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and completed my undergraduate degree at Drake University. After graduation, I spent a few years working in economic development across Africa, Asia and Latin America before attending business school at The University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business. I wanted to make a career switch to traditional finance, specifically investment banking.
I interned with Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking group in San Francisco and started my career with the firm there following graduation, about four and a half years ago. I relocated to the firm’s New York Investment Banking team just under three years ago. My husband, who is also in finance, and I are avid travelers. We've been throughout Central America and Asia as well as recent trips to Iceland, Russia and East Africa.
I was working for a large religious organization as their Global Program Director for International Development and Humanitarian Aid. We worked alongside many of the large international non-governmental organizations focused on sustainable economic development and disaster response. The local impact of my job was tremendous, but I discovered how challenging large-scale change can be in developing economies.
But then I saw how large, multinational companies were putting capital to work. Just by building their businesses, they were able to shift the equilibrium by providing jobs and stimulating local economies, boosting the livelihoods of the people who lived there. I wanted to change the scale of what I was doing and work in a position to impact some of these larger corporate institututions to create change. I realized that business school would provide the right retooling needed for a career in banking.
In Investment Banking, our clients are corporations. We work alongside our clients to help them access capital markets through debt or equity transactions. We also provide M&A advisory services—one of Morgan Stanley’s core strengths. In M&A, we help our clients think through their business portfolio—identify what types of businesses are most strategic or profitable, advise on the buying or selling of businesses, and strategically plan the allocation of capital to grow the business and return to shareholders.
We have a range of clients, from very small private companies to highly diversified, mega-cap public companies. Each relationship is unique, which requires us to leverage a wide spectrum of technical and soft skills to provide those clients with the best advice.
You build your toolbox over time. Coming in, I think a positive attitude and a willingness to run hard is the most important. As an Analyst or Associate, you're the Grand Central Station of everything that happens with your projects. You need to make sure you have the right things coming up the tracks and are responding to things coming down the tracks, while managing all the structure in between. That requires a lot of diligence and attention to detail, and a lot of organizational capacity. Over time, you develop skills in public speaking, negotiation and strategic thinking.
In terms of education, I lean on my accounting background more than my religion background in this job. But dealing with people and understanding different types of people is something you pick up in the humanities. When we think about our team, we want to make sure we have the right balance of people. We look for people who have analytical rigor but also the maturity and communication skills to manage difficult processes with the client and internal teams. Finally, I think a lot of people in Investment Banking thrive on the excitement and intensity of the job. When there's an urgent situation or crisis moment for a client, that's when we as bankers add the most value.
I've gotten a lot of recent advice to speak up more—that my opinion matters. As a Vice President, you're still pretty junior in the grand scheme of things. You're working alongside very senior bankers with decades of experience, and you tend to defer to their expertise. But lately, I'm being told that my opinion is valued. It's a safe place where I can inject my voice, and I think that speaks to the culture of the firm.
Every year, the bank hosts a women's conference for Associates, which brings together Associates from New York and our regional offices for skill building and networking. A few of us helped to plan the inaugural conference a few years ago and it has continued since. Additionally, the co-heads of Investment Banking host an annual women’s dinner with all the women in Investment Banking. It's an amazing opportunity to build your network with junior and senior women across the firm.