Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michelle Morris and I am many things – an experienced finance/investment management professional, a mother of two Millennials and a tireless diversity advocate. Currently, I am an investment analyst within Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management division and I conduct investment due diligence on private markets investments.
Please tell us about your career journey.
My career journey has spanned thirty years and has included being a municipal finance investment banker, institutional sales professional, and a corporate strategy and M&A professional, before returning to the investment management industry in institutional sales and my current role in Wealth Management. My journey has certainly not had a linear trajectory, however, on a cumulative basis, my career experiences have made me well rounded and have allowed me to develop both subject matter expertise as well as sound business judgment.
How has your background influenced your success?
I think of my background in two ways – first my educational background and professional experience and secondly, being a woman of color, which often has been a lens through which others have viewed me and attached to me their particular perceptions of my background. My success as a professional in the financial services industry is something that I consider to be a work in progress, because, I still believe that there are too few women and people of color in the critical positions of influence within the financial services industry. So success remains a goal to be achieved, not only from a personal perspective, but as it relates to promoting the success of young women and people of color who are in the early stages of their careers.
Please tell us a story about a time when you applied one or more of the P.O.L.I.N.G. principles.
When I think of the P.O.L.I.N.G. principles, each of them resonate with me, so it’s difficult to choose only one. However, “Priorities” and “Others” are two principles that I believe represent my identity and personal values. Within the Priorities principle is the notion of perseverance and be true to your vision for yourself; both concepts reflect how I view my core principles of my career journey. I probably used these principles in almost every aspect of my career, from persevering through seemingly challenging obstacles like when someone early in my career thought I was an administrative assistant, when I was newly minted Harvard MBA alum. But since I was the first analyst of color ever in the group that I worked in at the former Salomon Brothers, I had to remind myself of my personal vision and persevere despite the perceptions that some people had about my background and capabilities. With respect to the “Other” principle, I have always tried to help others achieve success by listening and offering my counsel and more importantly, by being a proactive advocate for others. Hopefully, I have been able to create positive impressions about others with people who have been in influential positions to recognize others’ capabilities.
Please talk about a specific incident where your background was the central issue and how you dealt with the situation.
I can’t think of a time that I was told that my background has ever been the central issue, as some of the challenges that I have faced have been much more nuanced. I think it’s important to emphasize that generally, I have approached adversity and challenges with a strong mental framework that is based on my intellectual and personal confidence, my sense of personal identity and my faith. Everyone faces challenges in their careers at some point, so although being a woman of color has just amplified those challenges, I realize that the only option to move forward and continue being a trailblazer.
Also, can you cite a person or people whose stories shaped your approach to your life, career and outlook?
One of my dear friends, Pamela Carlton, President and Founder, Springboard – Partners in Cross Cultural Leadership, has been someone who has been one of my role models because she also was a successful investment banker, a mother, and a board member of a leading NYC hospital, and she has held leadership roles with preeminent educational institutions in the U.S. Pam epitomizes the pursuit of excellence in every endeavor and she achieved success on Wall Street before the phrase “diversity and inclusion” was coined. After her Wall Street career, Pam shifted her focus to an entrepreneurial path and is once again blazing new trails. She has influenced my outlook regarding my career and motherhood, because I saw that she looked like me, shared my personal family values and was successful. Pam has led by example throughout her career using her formidable intellect, superb judgment and “reach for the stars” vision and she has and continues to inspire me.
Finally, what does community mean to you?
I think of community as a circle of relationships, so one can belong to many communities. I think of a community as having a diverse membership that has as one of its core principles, supporting and advocating for its members. I am fortunate to belong to many different communities, including my family, my friends, professional colleagues and other groups with whom I share a common interest. My fundamental belief is that strong and impactful communities have to be cultivated through sharing ideas and purposefully engaging in a manner that values diversity on all levels.