Careers Career Advice from Three of the “Leading Women in Hedge Funds”

Career Advice from Three of the “Leading Women in Hedge Funds”

July 10, 2017

The Hedge Fund Journal recently named the 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds and proclaimed “women have attained the highest echelons right across the hedge fund industry.” We’re proud that we had more team members named to this prestigious list than any other firm.

Tania Reif, associate portfolio manager at Citadel, manages a discretionary macro/FX portfolio at Citadel and draws on more than 15 years of experience in academia, banking, and the hedge fund industry. Lisa Schirf, chief operating officer of the Central Data Organization at Citadel, helps to provide comprehensive data management and data science solutions to our investment teams. Sarah Illingworth, trader at Citadel, focuses on trading Asian and G10 interest rates, as well as FX instruments. We sat down with all three to hear about what has helped vault them into leadership positions and what advice they have for those who will follow in their footsteps.

Congratulations, Tania, Lisa, and Sarah, for being named as three of the top leaders in the industry. Let’s go back to the beginning. What initially inspired each of you to pursue a career in the financial markets?

Tania:  I grew up in Venezuela and lived through a number of devastating currency and banking crises. That experience led me to seek to understand the reasons behind these crises and motivated me to come to New York’s Columbia University for my PhD in Economics. Upon graduation, I decided to pursue an opportunity in the International Monetary Fund and, in time, I followed my interests to the private financial markets.

Lisa:  I remember sitting down with my parents for breakfast and looking through the newspaper. I was always curious about the financial section and wondered what all those numbers meant.  So I would read the financial section and try to understand what I was reading. Curiosity led me to explore and love the financial markets.

Sarah: I loved economics while at university. I especially loved macroeconomics. It was so interesting to me to think about how macroeconomics impacts the financial markets. In essence, the financial markets uniquely challenged me to connect dots between events and outcomes.

What experiences helped you succeed early on in your careers?

Tania: Diligent and persistent work in pursuit of my goals has been always important. However, seizing the opportunity to learn from a number of wonderful mentors along the way was equally helpful. I try to take advantage of any situation where I can learn from smart people, particularly those who complement my skills. Finally, I remind myself it is ok to make mistakes as long as I learn from them.

Lisa: Similar to Tania, I made it a point to take full advantage of the opportunities that were in front of me. Specifically, I let curiosity drive the responsibilities I took on. I was curious about how data and technology could be used together to solve complex problems. I’m quite thankful for realizing the importance of defining an individualized purpose for the skills you build.

Sarah: I also had great mentors early on in my career. Mentorship is absolutely critical to setting the foundation for success later in your career.

Why did you decide to join Citadel?

Tania: For me, Citadel offered an opportunity to strengthen and broaden my skills as a hedge-fund manager. By offering to expand the breadth and volatility of my portfolio, it allows me to diversity the risk under management and grow my trader skill set. I also very much appreciate the support of the team of great capable people that surround me.

Lisa: The meritocratic culture of Citadel was a major draw. I really liked that everyone is a “doer” and appreciate the opportunity to be challenged to perform at a high level over time as well as to take on a commensurate level of responsibilities.

Sarah: I was attracted to Citadel’s long track record of success. My aim was to become a leader at a leading hedge fund.

What are the top leadership skills you draw on in your position?

Tania: I have learned to see mistakes as stepping-stones for growth. That mindset allows me to be fluid and creative when facing challenges. As long as I learn from my mistakes, I can move forward stronger than before.

Lisa: I would put creativity at the top of the list of skills I tap into when I succeed. It takes a high level of creativity to approach complex, cross-functional problems. Communication skills are also critical. Managing a cross-functional organization like the Central Data Organization requires a lot of communication with diverse audiences. It takes well-honed communication skills across the team to provide clear messages to the right audiences at the right times.

Sarah: I’ll nominate clear communication as the top leadership skill in this industry. Financial markets move fast and clear communications allow us to take advantage of opportunities in this environment.

Finally, what advice do you have for other women who are moving into leadership roles in the industry?

Tania: Persevere through tough times and enjoy the good ones. Share your views boldly along the way.

Lisa: Focus everyday on performance. Performance is what every firm values.

Sarah: Be yourself. It takes too much energy to try to consistently emulate others. Use that energy to apply your specific strengths to a leadership role.

The full 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds Report is available through the Hedge Fund Journal.