Goldman Sachs managing director for Latin America Agostina Pechi believes in hardwork and consistency. Along with these two traits, she also stresses that if you want something, you have to be vocal about getting it and wanting more responsibility to get it. This is how to build a thriving business.
According to Agostina Pechi, you have to let your management know the work that you are putting in for the company. Mentors and sponsors “who can vouch for your work are extremely valuable,” too, she adds.
Agostina Pechi earned her degree in Economics at Torcuate Di Tella University in Argentina in 2006. After that, she went to London to work for Deutsche Bank “in their emerging markets group.” Her job took her to Latin America, particularly Mexico City, and then to New York, landing on the company’s Latin American coverage team. The constant travel and changes in supervising style gave her the skill of adaptability, which is “what she believes to be an important skill for success.”
In 2013, Agostina Pechi went to Goldman Sachs. Her experience in Latin America was vital, as the company asked her to “build a Latin American coverage team.” Her efforts have led the team to expand coverage to “smaller market countries.”
Aside from her work at Goldman Sachs, Agostina Pechi gives back to the community through her involvement with Project Art, “a program that uses space in public libraries for children in under-resourced areas to meet and make art.” Today, Project Art is the “largest arts-related after-school program in the United States.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Agostina Pechi: In my opinion, it is our culture, values and our constant focus on improving ourselves to better serve our clients. Our firm is constantly encouraging managers to innovate and to focus on core targets. As the world has evolved the organization has really pushed us to focus on climate transition, diversity and inclusive growth.
As an example, during the pandemic which is something very recent, we realized that the most vulnerable sectors in the emerging market were struggling. The company came together to think of innovative ways to help those sectors. We are not a regional bank and we are not necessarily locally present in the jurisdictions where we do business. But we developed deep partnerships with regional and development banks. Hence, we were able to make accomplishments towards impact-oriented initiatives, including lending to SMEs’ and women owned businesses, despite not being physically present in some of those countries in Latin America.
We have also expanded our reach locally, through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women program, which started in 2008. The program focused on development of women through instructor led training. However, this year in April during the pandemic, we launched it online on Coursera for free, in Spanish and Portuguese. Managing Directors like myself are engaged in these mentorship programs to help women entrepreneurs. I feel that the firm moved very quickly to adapt and give back which is very much in line with our cultural values. This is what makes the firm unique and one of the reasons I love to work here.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Agostina Pechi: I think we’ve heard the phrase, “It’s a marathon not a sprint”. It’s cliché but there is some truth to it. For me, human connection helps overcome stressful situations. I simply invite a friend or a colleague over for a coffee and spend time chatting.
Apart from this, I recommend the following to my colleagues and mentees;
1) Indulge in nonwork related activities, something you feel passionate about to do in your free time.
2) Establish a healthy routine, including exercise and proper sleep.
3) Try not to handle multiple tasks at once. Focus on the things that are truly important. We are less successful when we try to do everything at once — things end up falling through the cracks and the result is just mediocre. By prioritizing and staying focused we can be more productive.
4) Learn who you are, what you value, and focus on your strengths.
5) And lastly, feel empowered by the impact of your actions. This empowerment energizes us to keep going. I think that’s been my formula. Taking action and achieving outcomes at work has helped me to find more energy to keep going.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Agostina Pechi: I have had multiple sponsors throughout my career and I am grateful to all of them. But if I have to choose a particular person, then that would be my mother. Even when we went through difficult times, when my father got really sick with cancer and he passed, my mother was always there for me.
In fact, both of my parents made incredible sacrifices for me to be able to go to university including giving up their savings. Back then in Latin America it was not common for women to go abroad so young, but my parents encouraged me to keep going. Even when I had thoughts of giving up it was their reassurance that I was doing the right thing that allowed me to continue to grow. That was the key.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Agostina Pechi: In my opinion, delegating is one of the key aspects of a leader because it helps build the confidence of the employees while at the same time building trust. Trust is critical in order to effectively motivate and mentor. As leaders, if we are able to inspire our team, they will go that extra mile to achieve results.
This collective effort not only results in superior outputs but also empowers the team as they strive to achieve both their personal and professional goals.
A person’s time is finite. As a leader, delegating also helps me focus on strategic efforts, leaving the day to day activities to the team. The team members soon develop into leaders and the cycle would continue, building a great organization.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Agostina Pechi: There are several reasons why delegating is challenging.
- Sometimes organizations don’t set the right incentives for managers to delegate and there is a perception that in order to be credited fairly one needs to do things on their own. However, this turns out to be counter-productive as the manager is not able to focus on strategic planning.
- Delegating is also hard because it requires an investment of time and energy to select the right people, and working with them to set challenging yet achievable success criteria.
- Trusting doesn’t come naturally to everyone, many times we are so insecure that it becomes difficult to trust others. There would be many situations where we feel that we can do a better job rather than delegating it. This would impede our growth and it also impedes the professional development of our team.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
Agostina Pechi: To ensure that an organization incentivizes the culture of delegating, leaders have to clearly discuss goals, growth aspirations with their middle management team who in turn should clearly understand their roles and responsibilities as compared to that of their associates, i.e. direct reportees. If performance is tied to team growth, then automatically the middle management will work towards building a strong team and confidently delegating tasks to them. This will ensure that the associates do the same, creating a path for them to become managers, which results in the overall team growth.
To ensure that the time, energy and resources are utilized properly, I encourage my team to work on their tasks confidently. I empathize with them, understand their challenges and recommend alternative steps. I also give them their space and let them show what they are capable of. I like to keep an ‘open door policy’ and always be approachable.
And in order to ensure that we are able to trust our team completely, we have to invest in training, recruiting, and mentoring. Sometimes we are so busy we feel that going into the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done and explaining to our team members seems like a waste of time. But doing this is absolutely necessary and it requires practice.
So how do we ensure that we as a team are performing at the highest level much like an athlete, but with everyone having their style and pace? One example I always give my team when I think of pivoting into being better, is to compete against oneself. I tell them to think that each of them is on a treadmill, and that they are free to increase or decrease their ‘own’ speed. I would be there to provide guidance on whether they are on track and whether the team as a whole is on track. This way, they can make progress based on their own targets, personal situations and skills, without disrupting the overall team culture and constantly be comparing themselves with the person sitting on the adjacent desk.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Agostina Pechi: First of all, thank you for having me and giving me this opportunity to talk about my experience and to answer some very interesting questions. Well, I am not sure about a movement but I can certainly think of some ideas that will help bring about significant changes. So, while thinking about diversity and inclusion I have been noticing all the unconscious bias which exists amongst us.
There are a lot of studies on how we empathize with people who look like us and behave like us. So, one of the things which I think would have a significant positive impact is providing training on how to identify and tackle unconscious bias in a more systematic way. This would ensure that corporations are able to meet their diversity and inclusion goals, at the same time reducing workplace discrimination. It’s important to make people understand how unconscious bias prevents us from getting to more diverse groups, and I think we will be better employers, better colleagues and better neighbors when we realize this.
We can always start small like,
1) Schedule round tables with clients and colleagues to discuss inclusion and diversity.
2) Schedule training with experts on the matter to generate awareness and help managers improve their selection criteria when they hire laterals or think of promoting team members.
3) Create the right incentives and measure manager performance taking into consideration metrics such as diversity, culture carrier and community engagement.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Agostina Pechi: For more on Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program, please visit us here. You can also follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this.
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