Amy chats with Chuck Self, the CIO, COO, and CCO of iSectors, LLC, about his experience being an investment manager and a multi-faceted leader. He shares where he finds community in the space as a Black man and more.
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate. really excited every single time we come to you with See It to Be It. But as you know–you should know, anyway, unless you’re a first time listener–this is not the Zach show. Right? We have different series on the Living Corporate flagship podcast, and if you didn’t know, I’m about to tell you who the host is – Amy C. Waninger. Amy, what’s up?
Amy: What’s up, Zach? How are you?
Zach: Oh, boy, let me tell you something… it’s hard out here, it’s hard out here. I’m exhausted.
Amy: It is hard out here on these streets.
Zach: It’s hard out here on these streets for real. Like, it’s ridiculous. I don’t know, I don’t know. But, you know what, I’m thankful, and I think the very reasons for my exhaustion go into why I’m really excited and thankful for Living Corporate as a media network, and I’m thankful for you and your contributions here. You know, I didn’t even come up with the name or the format or the idea for your series. So how about you tell us a little bit more about See It to Be It and what it is?
Amy: You bet. Well, first, I got to tell you a little about me. So, you know, it’s funny to me that I am the host of a Black podcast because I am a white woman from Southern Indiana, and the reason I wanted to do this show is because where I grew up there were not a lot of people who went to college and stuck around, and I didn’t know what people did that had college educations and, you know, professional jobs, careers. Most of the people I knew worked in factories, worked in retail, you know? I thought the finance majors were the tellers at the banks. I thought the people with engineering degrees drove the trains. And I’m not even kidding. This is, like, really what I thought. And when I went to college, I had no idea what kind of jobs were going to be out there for me, and I got to thinking, you know, “There are a lot of first generation college students,” a lot of first generation professionals, Zach, like me and you, you know, in your target demographic for Living Corporate, and I thought, “Man, wouldn’t it be great if we could show young people, young professionals and college students, what are the options out there, you know, depending on what you’re interested in and what really gets you going?” And so I wanted to create a series where, you know, young Black and brown professionals could see themselves in the future in all these different roles, because I think it really matters to have role models that look like you that come from where you come from and that you can identify with. And so that’s what we’re trying to create here.
Zach: And so then let’s talk about that a little bit more. So, like, who have you been talking to on the See It to Be It series?
Amy: Oh, my gosh. Well, I’ve talked to a lot of people in the insurance industry because, you know, that’s where I come from, right? A lot of people in insurance. And it’s funny because, you know, you walk down the streets of your neighborhood, or, you know, in my case it was a gravel road, right, I didn’t see people being underwriters and actuaries, or the president of a bank, or, you know, chief diversity officers of hospitals, or, you know, people who are, you know, high powered consultants, or, you know, I recently interviewed someone who is a foreign language speech coach who lives in Taiwan, and I think she grew up in Philly. And so, you know, there’s just all these jobs out there that who knew, right? Who knew?
Zach: It’s crazy. I mean, as someone who’s been, like, listening in and, like, really been enjoying See It to Be It, I’m just so taken aback at the vocational diversity, right, of your guests. So let’s talk a little bit about who the guest is today.
Amy: Sure. So today’s guest is Chuck Self, and Chuck works at a company called iSectors. Now, I didn’t know much about iSectors and I didn’t know much about Chuck’s job before we started talking, but, like, if you’ve got a–I always call ’em “my money guy,” right? Like, it might be a guy, it might not be a guy, but I always talk about my money guy, and I give a cut of my paycheck to my money guy, and my money guy invests it for me, and he invests in a lot of different funds, right? Like, mutual funds and–I don’t know all the stuff, right? I’m just trusting that my money is going somewhere good. And if you’re like me and you don’t understand that, you’re about to understand a little bit more because Chuck actually is the guy that sets up these funds.
Zach: That’s so cool. You know, we talk about wealth management and/or building wealth and financial upscaling and education, but again what I really appreciate about–and we’re gonna get into the interview in a little while, but what I really appreciate about folks who are really in the space is that they break it down. They make it approachable and accessible for you, and so I’m really excited about folks listening to this, but before we get there, we’re gonna TAP In with Tristan. So check this out, this is the flow, y’all. We got intro, talk a little bit about the guest, we’re gonna TAP In with Tristan. After we TAP In with Tristan we’re gonna get into the interview, and then we’ll be back. See y’all in a little bit.
Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week let’s talk about some of the reasons you weren’t offered the job after your interview. Are you landing interviews but not being offered the job? If so, believe me, you aren’t alone. Since an average of 3 – 5 job seekers are offered interviews for open positions and only 1 person can get the job, most people don’t get offers. In working with people who’ve been in this exact spot, I’ve learned some common reasons why. The first reason is that it really has nothing to do with you. There are so many reasons you didn’t have a chance to get the job from the start. Sometimes there is an internal candidate they have already settled on, but their company policy requires they interview external candidates during the process. Other times, you’re coming in late in the interview process, and the hiring manager has already made a decision on which candidate they want. Sometimes situations change the company’s direction and focus, so they decided not to move forward with hiring for that position. Throughout this process, we have to accept that there are just factors that are out of our control. The second reason is that you need to develop an interview strategy and/or brush up on your interview skills and etiquette. Have you ever just winged an interview? Most of us have, but that’s not helping your chances at all. Take the time to prepare by researching the company and the people you’re interviewing with to find ways to make connections and develop good questions. Also, something may be off with the way you’re presenting. Maybe you didn’t dress for the occasion, your body language is off, or you’re simply distracted, fidgeting, or not providing enough eye contact. It’s important to practice interviewing with a coach, friend, or family member to catch some of these errors. If you don’t have anyone available, set up a camera, record yourself answering practice interview questions, and then watch the video to see what changes you might need to make. The third, and possibly one of the more common reasons you aren’t the person getting the offer, is that you haven’t reflected on your experience enough to tell the story of your career adequately. Many of us are so caught up in the day to day of our jobs that we often don’t readily recognize the impact we make, which means we tend to have trouble conveying it to others. You have to take the time to build up your story bank of answers that showcase you as the best candidate for the role. By telling good stories about your experience, you can paint yourself as the solution to whatever problem that company is trying to solve by hiring this person. Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list of what might be going wrong in your interview process, but they are some of the top reasons you may not be making it through the process. If this is a common occurrence for you, you might want to find a coach or someone you know who is a hiring manager to help you identify what changes you might want to make to increase your chances of landing your ideal role. Thanks for tapping in with me this week. I look forward to talking to you next week! This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.
Amy: Chuck, thank you so much for joining me on See It to Be It. How are you today?
Chuck: I’m doing well, Amy, how are you?
Amy: I am doing great. It is so nice to meet you. And, you know, a lot of my guests I have known prior to our interview, but you and I connected because of the interview, and so I’m really excited to learn all about you. As I’m sure you are as well.
Chuck: Thank you.
Amy: Just start by telling us–first of all, you are Chief Operating Officer, Chief Investment Officer and Chief Compliance Officer at iSectors, LLC. Can you tell us what iSectors does? And I’m assuming since you have three job titles they’re paying you three times, right?
Chuck: [laughs] Yeah, three times. A relatively modest amount.
Amy: Okay, perfect. But if you could kind of break down what each of those roles looks like for us, then I can kind of dig in from there. Sound good?
Chuck: Yeah, sounds great. So iSectors is located in Appleton, Wisconsin, so we’re in the frozen north, and our goal is to try to get financial advisors to outsource their investment management processes to our firm. Financial advisors have a wide range of responsibilities in order to serve their clients, and the investment management part is something that for relatively modest fees they can outsource so that they could spend their time doing the financial planning work that is so important in a financial advisor relationship. They can spend time getting new clients, which, you know, that’s always good, and then they have to run their businesses also. So we find that financial advisors, in order to grow, have to decide to do what they do best and outsource the rest, and we’re there for them to do that on the investment management side. As far as my roles are concerned, they overlap in many ways, so they’re not quite distinct. But starting with the most important, Chief Operating Officer. Chief Operating Officer acts like the president, I run the firm on a day by day basis. It’s my main job, and I have the employees of the firm all report to me. So I’m involved in all aspects of the firm, obviously the investment side but also marketing, operations, personnel, and everything it takes to run a successful business. The chief investment officer is the person who has ultimate responsibility for the investment management processes that goes on in the firm. We have 21 different allocations that financial advisors can choose from, and so what we do is we have a constant schedule of reviewing the allocations, trying to make sure that we have the best securities in them at all times, and then obviously at the end of the day we hope that we have performance that’s pleasing to our financial advisor clients. Remember, our clients are financial advisors, not the actual end clients. And then Chief Compliance Officer is probably the least fun of the job but also very important. We are regulated. We are registered investment advisors with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and because of that we have filings that we have to make on an annual basis. So if anyone went to the SEC website, they could see those filings for iSectors, LLC. And then we–as time goes on throughout the year, we also have to have internal records to show that we are in compliance in case the SEC decides to come in and audit us. So we have a major compliance manual, we have compliance throughout training to make sure that our clients are getting the best ideas before we personally take advantage of and other things that have to do with compliance. So it’s really a fun job because it’s so multifaceted, and I never get bored.
Amy: I would imagine. That’s a lot of responsibility. And how many people does your firm employ?
Chuck: Well, the iSectors part of the firm has four of us. We also are allied with a local wealth management firm called Sumnicht & Associates, and so we get services from them. First, it’s payroll or accounting, and both firms are owned by the same gentleman, Vern Sumnicht, and so we try to be as efficient as possible. And again, even in our firm, we do what we think we do best, and then we outsource almost everything else to either our sister firm or outside firms.
Amy: Very good. And so the people that report to you are all investment managers, is that correct?
Chuck: They’re investment managers and they’re marketing people. So we have people that–it’s important, obviously, tp have people to do the research on the investment side, and again, because of all my roles, I can’t spend full time doing that, so it’s good to have that capability internally. And then people have to learn about us, and we have to distribute our strategies to financial advisors, so we have people that are dedicated on that side. And then of course in this day and age that also includes social media and websites. And so it’s a fun thing to be part of.
Amy: Yeah, marketing is becoming more multifaceted every day, with every new social media channel that becomes available, every new meme, every new niche, but I want to talk a little bit more about the financial side. How did you get involved in this work to begin with? Did you, when you were little, you always wanted to work in investments? Were you checking the stock symbols in the paper every day, you know, from early on, or was this something that you found later in your life?
Chuck: Well, I knew about the stock market because I’m a numbers person, and of course I grew up at a time where there was no internet, and so the daily newspaper was interesting to me, even at a very young age, and the two most interesting parts of it were sports and business because those were the parts of the newspaper that had numbers in it. So I learned how to calculate batting averages as far as sports are concerned, and then when I was old enough I actually took books out of the library to understand what the numbers meant in the stock market. But it was just something that I wanted to know, and actually my undergraduate degree was in accounting, so I was planning to be a CPA eventually. Tried it for a little bit and decided that’s not what I wanted to do, and I was able to get an MBA from University of Chicago, and my MBA was in statistics. And so again, I have a pretty good numbers background. I was very fortunate because I could never have afforded the University of Chicago at the time. It had this outrageous, outrageous tuition of $5,500 in 1979, and–
Amy: That’s one credit hour now, right?
Chuck: Yeah, yeah, right. I just finished writing the last check for my last daughter for graduate school, so I know how much it is.
Amy: Oh, congratulations.
Chuck: Yeah, now I get a pay raise. But anyway, the only way I could have afforded that was to get a scholarship, and I was very fortunate that The Northern Trust in Chicago gave me a scholarship and actually a little extra money to spend, and they took care of the housing and everything. And between the two years I went full time they gave me an internship. So when I did this internship, they put me in the trust department in the investment area, and I decided I liked that, and so after I finished school I started at The Northern Trust, and I’ve been in the business for almost 40 years since then.
Amy: That is wonderful. And so when you were coming up in this work, what kinds of environments were you in? Were you in a lot of welcoming, receptive environments? You know, I have this image, having worked in IT and worked in insurance, that I’m imagining–and please correct me if my stereotypes are wrong–that folks in this field are probably very introverted by and large, right, that it’s just very heads down and, you know, maybe not–you know, they probably don’t throw parties when people join and that sort of thing. So can you just talk a little bit about the work environment and kind of your experience in that?
Chuck: Well, people that get attracted to the investment field, you know, like the numbers, they like immediate feedback, because you get it every single day. And ultimately, you still have to be quite focused if you’re going to be very successful in this field. There are tracks in the field in which you could just sit in your office and sit behind your desk and, you know, come up with great ideas and make it from there, but for the most part, the people who do the best have a combination of this deep ability to understand the numbers and what they mean and then be able to translate it to clients and communicate it to others, and I found very early on that I was good at that. I didn’t know I was good at it until I did it, but, you know, I always thought that, you know, worst comes to worst, I should be talking to someone like I was talking to my grandma about things went on. And so even people who were not at all averse to the stock market or the bond market and they were able to get money, I was happy to be serving them and making sure they understood, as well as they could, what was going on in their investment portfolios. And so I’m a major introvert, as you might imagine, with an accounting and statistics degree, but I taught myself that I had to learn how to market, and we can talk more about that, but it is important to understand what the most successful people in your field, what they’re like, and their skills that they have, and then try to have a complete set of skills.
Amy: Yeah, I loved what you said about you didn’t know you were good at it until you did it, and I think for so many of us that’s true, right? We have no idea until we’re thrust into the deep end of the pool how well we can swim, and I think that’s just such a beautiful takeaway for our listeners, that, you know, it’s worth a shot, you know? If you know in your heart that you’re really interested in half a job, you know, maybe you’re really good at the other half too and you just aren’t tried and true yet.
Chuck: Yeah, I think for most people it’s having the ability to think broadly about what causes success in whatever field they’re in, and this is a field in which you have to have a wide range of skills, because not only are you dealing with things that are very serious to most of your clients, which is their money, and you’re also doing things with the money that you have no control over–you don’t have any control over the stock market or bond markets. It’s not a manufacturing type of ability. And so because of all that we are very good with jargon and so on, so you have to learn how to translate that to people with different levels of knowledge, and I was fortunate that early on I could see that, and so I did things that weren’t natural for me that eventually allowed me to be successful.
Amy: That’s great. Now, you mentioned how marketing has changed in the face of technology, but how has the investment management piece changed? Because I would imagine that the technology, artificial intelligence, predictive modeling, big data, deep analytics, that’s all really had an impact on your work as well. Can you tell us a little about that?
Chuck: Oh, yes. Well, obviously, the use of computers has changed the field significantly. When I was an intern in 1980, there was one kind of personal computer on the whole floor of The Northern Trust, in the research area, and I got to work on it. I had a programming background in languages people don’t care about anymore, like BASIC and Fortran, but I was able to–I knew how those type of systems worked, and that’s why they put me there. And so, you know, no one had computers at their desk. You had one machine on the floor that was your lifeline into what was going on in the markets. And so it was slower. I think that would be the right word. The whole process was slower. I’m not saying that was good or bad, but it was. And so as time has gone on, the use of technology in all aspects, whether we’re talking about the research side, the portfolio management side, trading, the technology has ballooned. I have a little speech that I talk about. In the 1950s with the first fathers, and they were all men, of modern investment management were writing their PhD papers. A lot of times, the way they did what they did was because they didn’t have computers, and that–your cell phone has more computing power than all the computers at the University of Chicago at that time, and so it has made a huge difference. And because of that, again, this is this thing about being why, to extend that you stay with the technology, technology literate, show up with social media accounts in my case, so that, even if you don’t like it, per se, it’s just the reality of the business, and so you have to be proactive and be able to be on the front line of technology to the extent that you can.
Chuck: At age 60, I got an award as being one of the top 50 bloggers among financial advisors by Investopedia. So, you know, if I could do that at age 60, then anyone in the audience should be able to stay at the edge of their technology requirements.
Amy: That is fantastic, and congratulations on your award. I know, as a blogger myself, it is difficult–you know, even when we’re dealing with facts and figures and research, it’s difficult to put yourself out there and that way, and the more introverted we are the scarier that can be, and so I applaud you for, you know, stepping outside of probably what was your comfort zone at that time, but it sounds like you’ve been rewarded for it in many ways. So tell me, what’s one of the things that, when you were coming into this work, you maybe didn’t expect or you had a misconception about that, now that you’re on the other side, right, now that you’re not working for the man but you are the man, that you’ve come to appreciate or that has surprised you now that you’re on the inside?
Chuck: Well, everyone has bosses, so I have a man also, but it’s part of what I’ve already mentioned. I didn’t really appreciate how important marketing was in the investment management field. Certainly when you see articles in the paper or on websites, whatever, it all looks like it’s numbers and manipulation thereof, research and, you know, trying to put together portfolios, but fortunately, early on, I learned that marketing is what makes the world go around. And that certainly is still–it was the case in investment management, and it’s still the case today. In fact, probably more so than it was back then. And so I decided “I have to learn how to be able to be out there,” so I joined Toastmasters and did the Toastmasters route and became a competent Toastmaster, one of the designations, and was the president of my club at one point, and I did that solely–it wasn’t really to help me a whole lot. At that time I was still a junior person, and I would go along on the marketing trips, but I realized that I was going to have to learn how to do it, and so it helped me a whole lot. And today I have to represent the firm in many venues. I’ve been on Fox Business News and Bloomberg Radio and so on, so you have to be able to look the part of being competent and to be able to get your point across to the audience. And then of course, just even in one on one presentations or speeches, and we can get this coronavirus out of the way maybe I’ll do speeches again, but in any case, if you are not able to succinctly and directly be able to make your points, then people won’t listen to you. So that was the biggest surprise to me.
Amy: I love what you said about Toastmasters especially. I am such an advocate for people joining Toastmasters, starting Toastmasters clubs where they work if they have a large enough company. It’s good for so many reasons. It’s good for, you know, organizing your thoughts. It’s good for learning to be a leader, giving and receiving feedback in a graceful and generous way, networking with peers inside your company, outside your company, inside and outside your industry, learning about the things that other people do and the opportunities that might be available. There is just so much that happens in those meetings, and it’s hard to quantify all of that on the outside, right, if somebody hasn’t experienced it for themselves, but I think, you know, if you really want to grow in your career, 1. you have to be comfortable speaking to groups of people. There’s no role where you can lead effectively where you don’t have to speak to groups of people confidently. And 2. the leadership skills you can gain in that Toastmasters organization, just in your local chapter, just by running a meeting, or, you know, setting up an agenda, just those small steps toward leadership can have huge returns on our careers, and so it just thrills me to hear other professionals endorse Toastmasters, because I think there’s no better experiential learning for the money for the time investment than Toastmasters.
Chuck: Yeah, it’s very efficient, and it’s very important that, especially if you’re an introvert, that you learn. You know, maybe you’re not gonna go speaking or on broadcast media or whatever, but like you said, you’re going to–if you’re a senior person in your firm you’re going to make presentations, both internally, externally. And it also helps as far as leading others I think they have more confidence in you if you’re able to express yourself well, and so it’s imperative that introverts do it. For me, at least. And again, we have a company Toastmaster club, and so it was relatively easy to do over lunch, and it changed the trajectory of my career.
Amy: Absolutely. And I want to go back too to what you were saying about marketing, I know so many people who say, “I want my work to speak for itself, and I want to do a good job, and that should be enough,” and I’m gonna guess, Chuck, that you are of the opinion that you have to do good work, but doing good work in a dark room where no one knows you exist probably isn’t gonna get you very far.
Chuck: Yeah, yeah. I was gonna say the work could speak for yourself, but if it’s only your ears or a few ears that hear it, it’s not going to make the impact that it will otherwise. And really this is all about impact, impact that the more that people are aware of your work and the more that it helps drive the revenues of the organization you work for, then you get rewarded for that. That’s just the way it works, and so in order to have the maximum amount of impact, you have to be able to show your work wherever you can and to whomever you can, and then hope to get the return. With social media, you know, I put a lot of stuff out there, and I never know which things are going to really hit or not, and last year on LinkedIn I did an article on why gold is a better diversifier than international bonds, and, you know, it’s kind of a nerdy thing, but I know that that was my number one article last year. And again, I think it’s because not a lot of people had written about that, but you just never know. So unless you put yourself out there in many different ways, you don’t have the opportunity to strike gold, so to speak, using what I just said, and, you know, be able to have an impact on your clients or customers’ lives.
Amy: Absolutely. I think people need to understand that, and so I want to just restate a little bit what you said and sort of my take on it. A lot of us are taught, a lot of us growing up are taught, you know, “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.. I don’t know if you ever heard that when you were a kid. I got that one a lot.
Chuck: Oh, yeah, or “Stay in your place.” When I was growing up as an African-American that was used often. You know, “Don’t try to get ahead of yourself.”
Amy: Yeah. And, you know, as a young woman I got, you know, “Just be nice.” “Just be nice. You’re supposed to be nice all the time.” Like, what does nice mean? I can’t always be nice. Sometimes I have to tell the truth. Um, you know, and “Don’t take up so much space.” Like, we get that a lot, right, as marginalized people. Like, you’re supposed to fit in this tiny little box to make everybody else comfortable, and then what do they do? They say, “Well, you gotta think outside the box.” Well, I do that and then you mush me back down in there. So…
Chuck: Yeah, you want me in the box again. Yeah.
Amy: Exactly. So I want to be very clear about this, because what I found is that for folks who are marginalized in some way, be it because of race or ethnicity or gender or immigrant status or disability, you know, a lot of times we are kind of expected to or rewarded for staying quiet, and we sort of come up with this socialization that we’re supposed to be more humble than the average bear. And, you know, so I’ll hear from people “Well, I just want my work to speak for itself. I don’t want to get places because of who I know,” and I say, “Look, if it’s your work product all by itself against Chad’s work product, social capital, fraternity network, sponsor, mentor, boss, you know, his social media account, him patting himself on the back, him having five other Chads patting him on the back,” right? If your work alone is going up against all of that, there’s just no way you can compete. And so we just, you know, like you said, if we want to have the impact that we all know we can have because we’re good at what we do, people have to be able to see it.
Chuck: Yeah. And actually you’re helping those people by giving them the options to know what it is you can provide to them. And so the financial business, the investment management business is a pretty cutthroat business. Again, you know every day where you stand, and everyone else tends to every day know where you stand, so it’s important, you know, that you’re competent. But on the other hand, you want the world to want to gravitate to your work because you have the best work that you know of, and that’s the way it’s been for me. I do a lot of other things, you know, hobbies, whatever, and on those things I don’t feel I have to be the best. It’s just things that I enjoy. But for this, I want to be the best, and I want other people to know that we’re the best so that they could take advantage of the great things we do.
Amy: That’s right, because when you’re serving your customers and your clients at a higher level, you’re not helping anybody if you keep that lie hidden.
Chuck: Right? That’s correct. Yep.
Amy: Oh, Chuck, this is fantastic. Thank you so much for just opening up on this, this whole conversation about, you know, about putting yourself out there, it’s so important. In just the few minutes that we have left, I wanted to ask you… so as an African-American in the financial services and investment management industry, where do you go for a sense of community?
Chuck: Well, it’s funny, because when I started in this business I started in the bond side of business as a fixed income person, and there were two institutional African-American fixed income persons in all of Chicago. We knew who each other were, and that’s the way it was in the early 80s. It was very much a majority business. Women had started to come in and made impacts. I worked for a woman that made major impacts at The Northern Trust, and so that was great. But, you know, there were there were only two African-Americans in the whole investment group at The Northern Trust, and then there was only one other bond guy. So people that are coming through today have so many more places of support, and those that want to either be financial advisors or be involved in financial advisors can look to the Association of African American Financial Advisors. It’s AAAFAINC.org, and they have great programs and a major convention every year. This year is gonna be in Washington, D.C., and also it’s a great program for young people that want to get into this business and to get them involved in the organization. When we run our conference, all the nitty gritty is done by college students that are studying financial planning. So that’s where I go, and I’ve been involved in many different levels. One point I was on the board, but now I’m still involved in some committee things. And these days, there are more and more organizations like that, that you just got to find where they are. And as an African-American, it’s really a different experience to walk into the convention and, you know, 90%+ of the people are African- American when you’re used to being one of one or two or three that are there. So it’s people you can go back to, when you have questions on what you should do, there’s probably someone else that has experienced that. So looking for those organizations are important, and I know there are a lot of great women organizations and Hispanic, you know, to whatever interest group that you would like to associate with, search out those groups.
Amy: That is great advice, and it’s a common thread through these interviews that people find community in their associations and the professional societies to which they belong, and, you know, I think it’s important for young people and young professionals to know that these things exist. I spent so many years having no idea that these things existed, that I could go to these meetings, that I could just show up and somebody would, you know, would hand me a cup of coffee and invite me to sit down. Like, I had no clue for almost two decades of professional work that these things existed. And, you know, I was a first generation college graduate. I mean, you know, so it was just a lot of, like, just figuring out how the world works, and I love that this has come up in almost every interview. “Just go to an association meeting. Whatever it is, just show up, because that’s where you’re gonna find, you know, your people.”
Chuck: Right, right, whatever group it is, and, you know, even if you have to pay for yourself or take your own personal time, it’s so worthwhile, the network you build. We have 1,900 people in our LinkedIn group in that association, and I feel that if I, you know, had to find someone in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I could search through the group, find someone in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and call them up, and they would be happy to talk to me, even though they don’t know who I am, and so that’s great to have those connections, when people who are historically marginalized may not have the kind of connections that others have.
Amy: Absolutely. And, you know, mentors–like, onsite mentors, right, local, the mentors that we that we all should have at work, are probably doing the best they can, but for people from identities that have been marginalized, people from groups that are underrepresented, a lot of times those mentors come from a dominant cultural perspective, right, and their advice, while completely well-intentioned for the most part, often is not all that great, right? Because they’re coming at it from a certain perspective, and they don’t realize what works for them doesn’t work for everybody else.
Chuck: Yeah. In fact, that’s a really interesting point, because you do have to sift through that advice to determine what applies to you and what doesn’t apply to you. You don’t always know what that is, and because they’re on the inside, there are things that you should learn from that advice. But like you said, having your group to take those bits of advice and say, “Hey, that doesn’t really work this way for us,” I think is very important.
Chuck: An example of that is I think most African-American investment managers don’t like participating in casual days as much as being dressed up. You see that I’m in a tie, and I like working in a place that I have a tie, and it’s just one of those things that we try to look the best that we can, and people in the majority group accept us more if we look as professional as possible. So, you know, it’s little things like that that can make a difference.
Amy: Yeah, and you guys can’t see me, but I’m literally in sweats today on this call. So I’m feeling a little underdressed, I gotta tell you, but I work from home. I don’t work in a suit and tie office anymore. But, you know, it is true. I mean, I think that there are certain–you know, the policies that are meant to be more inclusive sometimes end up backfiring on us because the policies exist, but they can only really be utilized by the majority or, you know, by the power structure that’s in place, and I think the dress code is a perfect example of that, right? Some of us can dress down more than others and still be taken seriously and seen as professional, and so thank you for pointing that out, because I think that’s something that’s probably lost on a lot of white folks in corporate America. Certainly a lot of men.
Chuck: Well, and men too, and I think there’s a reality that women don’t have the opportunity if they’re a professional to dress down as much as men do, because then otherwise they think you’re, you know, someone’s administrative assistant or something like that. So, yeah, it is something that you have to be very careful about and get advice from your group.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I was actually told in a job one time that I would be more effective if I wore makeup. I really don’t know what that has to do with it, but okay. And the sad thing was that I wasn’t told that directly, I was told that indirectly because my boss had told someone else that I would be more effective if I wore makeup. [?] Sometimes I don’t wear makeup. I’ll go years at a time without wearing it, and then I’ll get in a zone where I won’t leave the house without it. But none of that should hinge on what my boss thinks I should be doing with my face.
Chuck: Exactly. But, you know, that’s just one of those realities. And you have to make a decision, “Am I going to just stick to my guns no matter what, or are there some things that I’m doing, even if it’s not what I really want to do, because I want to get to the top, I want to break the seal?” And, you know, it’s just part of being, you know, not in the majority group.
Amy: Absolutely, and I think, you know, it’s good to have a place where we can be honest about those kinds of trade offs, because they are real. They have a huge impact. You know, they impact not just our financial potential, our earning potential, but they also impact ourselves, right, and our feeling of our own integrity, whether we’re showing up authentically, and so, you know, I think this is where those associations come in, right? Because then you can have conversations with people who are experiencing that too and say, “Look, I really–you know, I want to show up the way I am, but I don’t know if I can do that in this environment. What does that look like? And how do I balance that? And how do I, you know, get my head around, you know, what’s right, what’s wrong in this situation?” Chuck Self, thank you so much. This was such a rich and rewarding conversation, and I am so thankful that we hit each other’s radar and we were able to make this happen. Thank you so much.
Chuck: Well, thank you, Amy. It’s been very, very fun, and hopefully we were able to talk about some subjects that are going to be of interest.
Amy: Yeah, and hopefully we found some some young numbers people who cannot wait to join Toastmasters so they can get in line for your succession plan.
Chuck: I’m looking forward to seeing them.
Amy: All right, sounds great. Thank you so much.
Zach: Yo, Amy, that was a great conversation with Chuck. I’m curious, like, what stuck out to you the most as you think back about that conversation that you had?
Amy: Well, you know, this guy’s got three job titles at iSectors. He’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Investment Officer and Chief Compliance Officer, and I guess I didn’t realize that Chief Operating Officer meant president. I mean, this guy’s running the show over there, and I think that’s really cool for people to know, that here’s a company where, you know, Chuck’s the dude, right? And I think it’s awesome that we have access to the insights and to the experiences of people who are doing, you know, not just amazing work, but at the highest levels.
Zach: I agree. I think one thing I continue to be impressed by and encouraged by is seeing folks that look like me in these highly, highly, highly powerful, influential spaces and roles, right? And the thing about it is, like you just said, like, Chuck, he holds these officer positions, like, three of them. Like, that’s power. That’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of formal power, and it’s a ton of influential, informal power when it comes to just how he navigates in these spaces and just the insights that he holds. That’s just a lot of competency just to wield, right, at the same time, and I’m curious about even–you know, maybe one day we can have him back to kind of delve into how those various competencies–like, how they feed into each other, right? How does him being the CIO, the COO, and the Chief Compliance Officer… there have to be, like, some significant challenges with that. Those are big roles.
Amy: Absolutely. But, you know, what really gets to me about that, though, is what must it be like to be an employee in that organization, and specifically, you know, a Black or brown employee at iSectors knowing that the guy running the show at your financial services company looks like you, right? ‘Cause it’s one thing to sit where we sit and say, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Like, you know, “That’s something I could aspire to,” but what does it feel like on day one when you’re getting, you know, orientation in the new company, and you see the org chart, and you see Chuck right at the top?
Zach: I mean, I really can’t imagine that. I’ve never experienced that in my career. And I would say what’s cool about the discussion with Chuck and the folks that we have on here is that, you know, my hope and my real expectation is that Chuck and others like him are actually lifting as they climb, right? Like, it’s not like, “Oh, I see you up there, but, like, I’ll never be able to talk to you,” or, you know, “I really can’t engage you for real advice,” or “You’re not someone who can really help me,” because I’m gonna tell you, if I had to choose between seeing somebody that looked like me that was up there but who didn’t care about me or just seeing a white person up there, I’d rather just see the white person, because emotionally–ugh, no. The letdown is, like, really, really real. Like, and we talk about this a lot, like, within Black spaces around just, like, man, it hurts when you see somebody and you think “Oh, yeah, you know, like, you look like me, and there’s only, like, four of us here, so of course you’re gonna care.” It’s like, “Eh, maybe not.” But with that being said, like, shout out to Chuck. Really good conversation. Amy, great job.
Amy: Thank you so much. And I want to invite the listeners, if you enjoy the show, if you want to support Living Corporate, the best way to do that is tell a friend about us. And another way is to head over to your podcast app, Apple, you know, iTunes podcast, whatever you use, and give us a five star rating and review, because this helps new people find us and it helps build this podcast community so more people can be inspired by stories like Chuck’s.
Zach: Y’all heard it here. Y’all heard it from Amy. Shout out to you, Amy. Shout out to Chuck. And we’ll catch y’all next time. Peace.
Amy: Keep climbing.