Engage with what scares you — it’ll grow your business

Sheryl Hickerson believes so strongly in the power of networking that she decided to build her own community of women in financial services. Hickerson serves as CEO of Females and Finance, but she stumbled upon her career in financial services quite by accident. 

“Believe it or not, I faxed my resume to the wrong number,” she recalled. “A financial services company called and said, ‘I think you’re looking for something else — but we’re hiring.’ That was my start.”

Females and Finance, a private membership online portal where financial services professionals can share valuable insights, has gained nearly 5,000 members in less than two years in operation. Hickerson’s growth mindset comes from being naturally inquisitive and boldly engaging with new opportunities.

Hickerson staunchly supports conferences such as the InvestmentNews Women to Watch Summit, where she will be a judge this year, and finds such forums essential to connecting with other women who can offer the latest ideas in practice management.

Nominations are now closed but a full rundown of the Women to Watch Awards can be found here. To register for the event, click on this link.

At one conference she spoke at in the past, Hickerson recalled, “I was at an event with 300 advisors. As I was standing behind the lectern and I looked out, I only saw four women. I thought, how can there be 300 people and only four women here?

“I don’t remember seeing a single person of color, and we’re in San Antonio, so that just seemed very odd to me,” she added.

After a male speaker made a sexist joke, Hickerson emphatically pointed out that she manages the money in her household. “I remembered walking down and thinking, ‘I’m going to change everything.’”

This experience led Hickerson to build Females and Finance.

She went on to say, “At Females and Finance, we’re very big on women and networking. We speak about topics such as, how are you getting the most out of your conference dollars when you’re going? Are you getting the most out of your classes?

“Ensure you’re getting the most out of the ‘hallway time’ because that’s where a lot of the business and activity is done,” she said. “Do you have vendors that you want to meet and make eye contact with so that you have good connections there? Make sure you create a plan to do so.”

Hickerson identifies three types of attendees at conferences: “There’s the really go-gos, the slow-gos and the no-gos. There are some younger individuals that tend to stick together like Velcro. They are the no-gos. This group will attend a conference and they just stick together, not engaging, and it really works against them.

“If you don’t go out there and be your own person, you can’t succeed,” she said. “Conference organizers need buddies for people that are new to the profession because it is a little daunting. It’s kind of like going back into the lunchroom when we were kids and we didn’t know where to sit.”

“Then there’s that middle group of people who are in their ‘slow go’ phase where their business is generally working, and things are going right,” she said. “To this group I advise you to go out of your way to go listen to speakers that you wouldn’t normally listen to.

“I think that the third group is the vintage folks, those who are very experienced and seasoned. To that group I say, go out of your way to invite people to your table. People that would never come up to you themselves,” Hickerson said. “I always ask, ‘Are you looking for a seat?’ They always are. I just made space for this person, and it’s such a welcoming way. It’s a better approach than sitting with the same people or gabbing with the same people you’ve known for 20 years. You’re going to do that offline in any case. I need to ask fresh new faces to come and sit at the table.”

She likens this support to the tourist ritual in Jamaica at Dunn River Falls. To facilitate walking through the falls, tourists create a human chain, holding the hand of the person in front of them and reaching back to hold that of the person behind. It anchors people, creating reassurance and balance on both ends.

Allyship is an important component of growth and success that Hickerson believes is found in action.

“If I’ve traditionally been a part of the problem, how do I reverse-engineer that into being a part of the solution?” she asked. “What does that look like? What could I be doing more or what can I be doing better to show my support?”

To register for the event, click on this link.

Baron Discovery fund manager shines spotlight on Repligen, CyberArk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *