Q&A: Carol DeNatale, COO, Americas Investment Banking, Merrill Lynch

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"The key to success is understanding the type of work you like doing, then being open to opportunities that come your way."

Could you tell us about your career path?

I graduated in 1988 from Fairfield University, where I was a finance and economics major. I worked at what was then Chase Manhattan for two years as a financial analyst before going to Columbia Business School, where I got my MBA in 1992. I joined Merrill Lynch right out of business school, starting in the corporate treasury department, where I did capital and strategic planning. I worked very closely with the financial institutions group in investment banking, which I later joined, and was promoted to vice president.

Through relationships I developed in the treasury department, I was approached when an opportunity opened up for a business manager position in investment banking. I moved into a business management role in 2000 and assumed my current role two years ago.

Your experience suggests networking is a vital career tool, even if you stay at one organization.

Opportunities presented themselves to me very much as a result of relationships I developed in my time here. For me, networking has been more informal in the way I keep in touch with people or maintain relationships. But I'm also very open with people and have never been shy in asking for new responsibilities or opportunities. You have to be open to meeting people and getting to know who has access to information.

What do you do every day?

My job really is a very diverse role. I help make sure we're managing our business consistently with our objectives. I think of my job as if I'm running a small business within a large organization, as I handle everything from how to approach the market, to human resource development, to finance and compliance issues.

I usually get in around 8 a.m., and work until 7:30 or 8 p.m. Between 8 a.m. and 6, I spend a lot of time in meetings with bankers, addressing issues in their respective groups, whether it's about how to approach a certain client situation or how we allocate resources. In the evenings, I sit down and analyze data and make sure I understand trends in the business. That said, no two days are alike.

What advice would you give someone looking to succeed in your industry?

The key is understanding the type of work you like doing, then being open to opportunities that come your way. It's important to be honest with yourself about what it is you like to spend time doing, and researching the positions that might be a good fit. Don't let someone else define your career for you. And, of course, it's important to network.

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