Member Spotlight: Lisa & Teri
Each quarter, TMA NOW helps you get to know your fellow TMA members. 2016 will introduce you to Lisa Stern, JD, MBA, managing director at the DAK Group, and Teri Stratton, managing director at Piper Jaffray.
How did you get involved in TMA?
Lisa: I joined the DAK Group, a middle market investment bank, five and a half years ago to build out the firm's distressed investment banking practice. I have been in the distressed business for 25 years so TMA was the logical place to go to network and grow my relationships in the mid-Atlantic region.
The TMA New Jersey Chapter was so warm and welcoming. I went to events regularly, got involved on
committees, and then in a few years was tapped to be on the New Jersey Chapter Board. The TMA New Jersey Chapter nurtured me as I got more involved. In my experience, if you work at the networking and do well at getting involved, you naturally become more visible in the TMA community.
Teri: Mette Kurth was on the Board and invited me onto the committee for the Turnaround Awards. The TMA community is very welcoming. For the past two years, I have been the co-chair of the Capital Forum at the Distressed Investing Conference. Teresa Kohl is also a very vocal supporter of TMA NOW and is active in sharing information about NOW events. If you are starting in this industry, TMA is a very comfortable place to be.
TMA NOW will be focusing on the following topics in 2016: Leading Change, Successes and Failures, Mentorship/Sponsorship, and Earning the Role. Have you had experience in any of these areas that made a strong impact on you?
Lisa: I believe everyone needs a mentor along the way; you cannot succeed without one. Having a mentor helps prevent getting lost in the sea. At the bottom level there are many more people and then as you move up the pyramid, the space gets narrower. When you have a mentor/sponsor, you have a champion in your corner. Just doing a good job is not good enough.
Even if mentors/sponsors are not present in your firm, there are other avenues where you can access mentors/sponsors, such as TMA. To that end I serve on the TMA NOW Committee for the NJ TMA Chapter. When I was a young associate, women mentors were much less helpful than men mentors as the women felt in competition with other women. Being in the male-majority TMA community, women in the community need to lead the change and support their fellow women.
Teri: I have worked for large organizations that have formal mentor/sponsor programs, and I believe having mentors/sponsors is important to anyone's career, but it is especially important for women. My best mentors have been both people I have worked with and people outside my industry. It is helpful to have mentors/sponsors inside your industry as they can understand what you're going through and provide honest feedback and advice. All in all, women have to take a chance. You cannot sit outside the "boys club", complain about it, and not do anything about it.
In your opinion, what's the most exciting/interesting trend or event happening in the turnaround and restructuring industry?
Lisa: The DAK Group has seen a consistent flow of deals in the past few years because we transact business across the credit spectrum from high growth to deeply distressed. The distressed space had been a bit soft over the last few years. Currently there appears to be a sharp increase in activity in part fueled by a pickup in oil and gas and retail filings.
Teri: Personally for me, there is excitement around oil and gas. Piper Jaffray recently purchased Simmons & Co., which is based in Houston. I have been learning a new sector of the industry which has been fun. It has also been interesting as there are no women bankers at Simmons & Co.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
Lisa: Being a good listener is very important in every aspect whether with a client, peer, or mentor. You learn more if you listen really well. The more you listen and learn, the more likely you are to achieve your goals and be successful.
Teri: There have been a couple of pieces of advice that have made an impact on me. The first one is do not ask permission. Women tend to ask permission and men do not. For example, do not tell your colleagues you are leaving the office early to be at an event for your kid(s). As a woman, you may receive the "Oh, again?" response from the colleagues. Just say you are leaving the office early for an afternoon meeting.
The second best career advice I've received is develop your own business. Many women take inside roles and support the men bringing in the business. To be viewed in a different light, bring in your own business. By bringing in your own business, this also provides the freedom to develop your own schedule; you do not have to wait for the boss to tell you what to do. I started bringing in my own business as an associate. It can be intimidating, but if you begin in a comfortable environment like TMA NOW events, it does get easier. When you are successful in developing business, you are earning the role. It's not right, but women have to show their qualifications to win the work.
What would someone who only knows you professionally be surprised to learn about you?
Lisa: I have my JD in addition to having an MBA. I went to law school first and am admitted to the New York bar. My first job was at a hedge fund and while at that job I decided to go back to school to get my MBA. As a young investment banking associate I made a name for myself because my law studies made me comfortable with documents and legalese which many of my peers were not. Another surprise is that I was born in France.
Teri: I love music and attend approximately 30-50 concerts a year. I'm interested in all types of music and love attending the big blow out shows as much as going to a piano bar. Even when I'm traveling, if I have a free night, I will try to go listen to music.