India Gary-Martin: The Finance Trailblazer Who Went Beyond Wall Street

India Gary Martin Speaks On Career Advice
India Gary-Martin, Former Wall Street Executive.

Wall Street was merely a starting point for this financial trailblazer, as she ventured far beyond its confines, shaping a career that defied expectations.

Meet India Gary-Martin, a former Wall Street executive. From her early career days to her current role in multiple industries, her journey is a testament to more than just a resume. It's a narrative of a bold career full of diverse roles and experiences.

Embarking on an interesting journey, we explored India's professional life, discussed her success-driven career, and traced her unique path as she went on to become the Global COO for JP Morgan's Technology and Operations Business. Here are some highlights of our enlightening conversation with India Gary-Martin.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and career journey?

I started my career out of college in investment banking, so I went directly to Wall Street. I joined the tech training program at Morgan Stanley, where I learned how to code. So that’s where I started: coding in investment banks for sales and trading businesses.

I started at Morgan Stanley. I was there for about four and a half years. Then I went to work at Deutsche Bank. At that time, Deutsche Bank was only a German retail bank. It was just starting to become an investment bank and had opened in the US. They bought a bank called Bankers Trust, which is no longer there. It kind of got consumed by Deutsche Bank. And that is what sent me to my first expat assignment because I went to London to help do the integration of those two banks in Europe.

India Gary Martin Speaks on Professional Development
India Gary-Martin at the Excelerate Her Summit.

So at Deutsche, I was in London, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Hong Kong. I came back and then thought, you know, [I thought] I've been at Deutsche Bank now for 10 years and wanted to kind of make a big career leap. So I went and took a big job at Lehman Brothers before the bank failed. I left about a month before, but I went to another failing bank. Still in the UK, called Royal Bank of Scotland.

Then, one day, JP Morgan came and knocked on my door and asked me to build out a location strategy. I did that for seven months and then became the COO of the technology and operations business globally for the bank. I had this really interesting trajectory of opportunity. Which led me to things. I didn't necessarily have an absolute plan. I knew I wanted to be in a global environment. I also felt that, frankly, being in the US as an African American woman at that time, my journey was going to be harder.

Self-doubt is common among young adults. How can we overcome these self-limiting beliefs and gain confidence?

I always say this, and it is true of myself—I think that we all have self-limiting beliefs at some point, and often, I mean, they come and they go. It's not something any of us ever fully get over. When you find yourself in new situations, it's very easy to kind of put up the barriers and be like, “Oh, that's something I don't know and don't understand.”

But, I believe the difference between people who are really successful and people who aren't is that people who believe they can really do it. A lot of it's belief. A lot of it's believing that you can, and that's the difference between success and failure—knowing that no matter what comes at you, you're going to be okay.

As someone who splits their time between being a board director or advisor to multiple companies, as well as being a member of the coaching staff for the McDonough School of Business, what advice would you give to younger students on seeking out opportunities?

So one of the pieces of advice I would give you is that it's okay to do the thing that you're doing really well now without feeling like you have to do 100 others to differentiate yourself. Early on in my career, I became obsessed with being known for being amazing at what I did. And when you do that, it opens the door for opportunities. You don't need to create [opportunities] because people will come looking for you. And I'll give you a really great example of that.

India Gary Martin on Career Advice for Young Professionals
India Gary-Martin, Portfolio Board Director & Senior Advisor.

When I was in my first year out of university and started working at Morgan Stanley, I noticed that in the offices, they always wore suits on dress down Friday. And I'm thinking, well, I want to be in one of those offices. I needed to understand why they still had suits on. I never asked the question, but I did say to my dad that there were people in their offices, and they had on suits.

I don't know if he knew, but he said do what they do. Long story short, maybe a month later, there was a client meeting, and they needed an analyst. I was the only one who was dressed, and I got this exposure that I would have never gotten had I not. If you're amazing at what you do, people will recognize it. So, decide what you want to be known for, and go hell for leather on that thing.

Has your career path deviated much from your expectations since you were a student at the university? If so, when and how did things change?

I would say I didn't have a plan, to be completely honest. You know how companies will come to your college and do interviews. Morgan Stanley was one of the companies that came to my college. I wasn't interviewing, I went with my friend, and this lady asked, “Are you interviewing?” I said “I'm just here with my friend.” I wanted to go to law school, so I had no intention of doing it. 

At first, I did my legal internships in college; however, I was super bored. I was like, I can't do that. I didn't know what I was going to do. Then I changed and did history pre-law as my major.  I thought I just didn't know what I wanted, and it is okay not to know exactly what you want to do. Just go out and explore things and find what you like. I can guarantee you the thing you start out doing is likely not what you'll end up doing.

What advice would you give to students who aspire to climb the corporate ladder?

It kind of goes back to something I said earlier, which is to be really good at what you do. I was having this conversation with my son. He's 25, and he's like, “Mom, how do I go and differentiate myself?” As an entry-level person, your job is not to do all your ideas. Your job is to do your job and learn your craft.

What you have to understand as an early career professional is that the deliveries that you make on the job are something that somebody else needs to do their job. If you don't deliver it on time or don't do it, then you're impacting somebody else's ability to do their job. It's a chain in the corporate world. 

India Gary Martin's career advice
India Gary-Martin, Founder at Relucent Learning.

If you're an analyst and you're asked to do a report, that report is being used for something else. It is not just a report, and so if you're late, or if it's not good, then you're impacting a whole chain of things that need to happen. So I always tell young people to do what they're asked to do specifically and do that thing really well because then people know you know how to follow instructions. They know that you have good work quality and know that you're going to be on time. 

All your great ideas are wonderful, except you're dealing with people with 20 years of experience who probably thought about all those great ideas. They're asking you to do this for a reason. It doesn't mean that your thoughts aren't valuable. Just don't let those things get in the way of the deliveries you need to make.

Based on your previous experiences, what do you think makes a good leader? How should students and younger professionals try to build those skills early?

I asked the woman I'm still friends with to this day why she hired me into Morgan Stanley, and she said that my confidence was a thing. She knew that in that environment, they really wanted people to be confident. 

I had the curiosity, the intellectual curiosity to ask a lot of questions, and it wasn't because I understood the industry. It was because I was seeking to understand how I might fit in. At that age, you have your grades, your way of showing up, and somebody who takes a chance on you. Also, experience. There's no substitute for experience. Having experience is really important.

As the 2019 Entrepreneur of The Year by the National Association of Female Executives, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in 2023?

Being an entrepreneur is not only about having a good idea. It's also about ensuring that the thing that you think is a great idea is something other people are interested in and that you can make money from it. It is not just about you; it's also about timing. There's timing because there is a buying cycle, and they say that people have to see something 12 times before they're prepared to buy it if they don't know it. So I say that it's being realistic and honest with yourself about whether or not the thing you're selling is what people actually want.

Also, being well capitalized. It's cute to think that you can do things without money and that you'll just make the money. It's great, but there are very few who can make it without doing anything else fresh out of university. Most people end up having to have another job on the side, and that is okay. I'm not crushing anybody's dreams. I'm just saying that being an entrepreneur costs money. So you have to make sure that either you have money or that you're making money, or you'll end up being nowhere.

What are three books or podcasts you would recommend and why?

I'm gonna have to go off the top of my head. So, okay, my favorite books—“Holding Change” by Adrienne Maree Brown, and that's about how you manage change and workplaces. Change is always happening, and we come in with an idea of how something should go and when change comes, we are all like crying. So “Holding Change” is one of them. 

Then, “Who Moved My Cheese?” - which is good too. It’s a great short read. It’s similar, about change, but about goals that are often moving. And how do you keep up when your organization is often changing? Because that is going to happen. So having tools like “Who Moved My Cheese” is great for that. 

And one more— “Our Iceberg Is Melting.” These are all more business-y books like how you travel through business spaces. 

Our conversation with India Gary-Martin was both enlightening and inspirational. Her journey from the bustling epicenter of finance to exploring new horizons is a testament to the possibilities that lie within the professional world. 

If you want to connect with India Gary-Martin and explore her work, reach out to her via LinkedIn. And for more from India Gary-Martin and her company, visit her website: Relucent Learning.

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