Sharon Walsh, VP Technology Management, Fidelity Investments
15th November 2022
This week Sharon Walsh, VP Technology Management, Fidelity Investments and WMB Diversity Ambassador recognises that as a female leader in technology she is, by default, “a role model for younger women. It is important I show up, advocate and pave the path forward for those around me and for those that will come after me.”
Can you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at Fidelity?
In 1994 I moved from Galway to Boston. I had received a U.S. visa, so I decided to decline my college placement and go for it. I took a one-way ticket to see what America had to offer. The original plan was to go for one year, but one year turned into twenty! I enjoyed living beside extended family and making new friends. I spent time travelling and deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up! Three years later, I started my career with Fidelity. I have had so many opportunities to move around the business and grow both my experience and career over the years.
I even obtained my college degree, and most recently my masters, while working full-time at Fidelity.
When the desire to move home to Ireland kicked in, I returned with my husband and three children to Galway. I was able to continue working for Fidelity, which was a real blessing! My personal and professional journey has been unique. This has made me the leader I am today.
My current role at Fidelity is Vice President of Asset Management Technology. This is an organisation within the business overseeing 260+ associates in Ireland. My teams are responsible for delivery of key technologies for Fidelity’s investment businesses.
What is the best part of your job… And the most challenging?
People are at the heart of Fidelity’s business, as they should be for any business.
Regardless of what product or service you are delivering, you must have a strong focus on your people.
I get the most enjoyment and fulfilment from helping people grow and achieve. I pride myself on being people-centred in everything I do. From coaching, motivating, supporting career development and life-long learning, I try to give people my time as much as my guidance.
My role at Fidelity is a global role. Supporting consistency across Fidelity’s global operations requires me to bring my voice to many conversations that affect our approach.
When leading a diverse team, it is important to recognise that we do not all start from the same place. We must acknowledge our differences and adjust our approach where necessary.
Sometimes that is challenging, but it is important to ensure equity for all.
As a WMB Diversity Ambassador, what does DE&I mean to you personally and as a leader?
I am a female leader in technology. This by default makes me a role model for younger women. It is important I show up, advocate and pave the path forward for those around me and for those that will come after me.
DE&I is everyone’s responsibility. As leaders, we need to be deliberate in our focus and actions. For me, DE&I makes for better decision making. It stimulates higher engagement. It helps businesses generate new ideas. It means greater impact in both work and the community.
Self-awareness is critical. I continuously strive to question and mitigate my own hidden bias.
Research (Linkedin Global Talent Trends) shows that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. Do you agree?
Soft skills are equally, if not more important, to hire for than hard skills. Hard skills are job-specific and can be learnt through work experience. Softer skills, such as listening, or patience, enable our ability to relate to and work with others. It is the combination of these skills that enables a successful career. Softer skills are often more difficult to teach and learn, but they are extremely important for us all to master. One of the best ways for us to understand how soft skills measure up is to ask for feedback. Ask a wide range of people too! Managers, colleagues, direct reports or even your family and friends, they will often give very honest feedback. That can really help focus you on where you need to develop (if you are ready to hear it!).
Through years of coaching, I have learned that it’s not about pitting these two skill types against each other: They are both equally important. We all need a mix of hard and soft skills to advance in our careers.
Do women need more flexibility than men?
We have certainly heard and read more on flexibility since the pandemic than at any point I can remember in my career. People in general have come to value greater flexibility in working arrangements. Flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all approach. I believe it needs to be in response to each situation. As a personal example, I work, and my husband stays home. This may have been considered non-traditional in years past. But it works for us. In today’s world, what works for each person or family situation is all that matters.
While I do recognise women often bear the burden of childcare and other responsibilities, it is important that we don’t make flexibility specifically a women’s issue. For many years I have enjoyed the benefit of working a four-day schedule each summer. This type of flexibility has allowed me to spend valuable and irreplaceable time with my children and family.
As leaders, we need to work towards hybrid arrangements and provide individuals with flexibility. Both men and women need control of their schedules, according to their personal priorities. This requires leaders and companies alike to show creativity in response.
Please share a quote or mantra that will inspire others on their career path.
Despite progress, there remains a lack of women in leadership positions. So, the best advice I can give other women is to
lead authentically, have a good understanding of yourself and your priorities and if you can’t see an obvious path for leadership in front of you, go out and make your own.
The person who has influenced you the most.
I’ve heard this question asked and answered many ways. For me, I struggle to choose just one person that has influenced me the most. Everyone we meet in our lives has something to teach us. We just need to be willing to observe, be receptive to listening and open to learning. You have something to learn from everyone you meet. From each encounter, you’re building a toolkit of life experience that is unique to you. You will be continuously influenced. That does not and should not stop at any point of defined success or accomplishment.
It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to – Jean-Luc Godard
Introducing our Diversity Ambassadors 2022. You can find out more here>>