What makes you so unique in your industry?
Heidi Steiger: “It’s a combination of things. First, I’m an only child which makes me the ‘super-achiever’ type: succeeding makes me happy which is a trait of the classic ‘only child personality’. Secondly, I’m a woman in a man’s world; thirdly, I’m a right-brainer in a left-brained financial world.”
“I think in pictures and even see numbers as pictures. And last, I’m an entrepreneurial spirit in a corporate environment. Yet despite having a very creative mind, I’ve managed to be very successful in a world rooted in figures, percentages, and data. It’s probably this idiosyncrasy which has helped me introduce a fresh way of thinking into the industry. Ever since I entered this world, in fact, I’ve been advocating change. It hasn’t been easy – being a woman on Wall Street – but I’ve always been determined to be as successful as my male counterparts, without letting success change intrinsically who I am and what is important to me.”
Your entrepreneurial streak: nature or nurture?
“For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to earn my own money. My father was a huge influence in this. He had emigrated to the US from Germany and was himself an entrepreneur: he imported china and crystal from Europe and sold it to, amongst others, Tiffany’s. When I was just eight years old, I would help him unpack crates in the warehouse. And by the time I was 14 – but looking 21 – he would take me everywhere with him. In fact, people regarded me as his business partner! By 15, I knew almost as much of the business as he did. Then my father became ill and asked if I wanted to continue the business. I desperately wanted to go to college, however, so I asked him to sell it. In hindsight, I can see that I have my father’s DNA. If anyone was an entrepreneurial spirit – it was him. I also inherited his open-mindedness: of his two best friends, one was gay and the other black. And I’m talking early 1960s here; before the civil rights movement. These two values – entrepreneurial spirit and open-mindedness – permeate throughout my private and business life: they’ve made me the person and leader I am today.”
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