Spotlight Conversation Lisa Dieter | NAWBO
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A conversation with Lisa Dieter of Morgan Stanley about her unsung hero, green smoothies, and who she “nerds out” with every chance she gets

LISA M. DIETER, CFP, Vice President, Wealth Management, Financial Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager, Morgan Stanley
NAWBO Chicago Member in: 2008-2009, returning in 2015

What's your background story?

Whew this is broad! My undergraduate degrees are in math and music. I figured if I got degrees in the subjects I was most passionate about, things would work out. My default (or backup) plan was to be a high school math teacher. However, once I got to my junior year of college and saw what being a teacher really looked like, I figured out it was not for me. The constrictions of working for the government and the limited earnings potential were just not exciting. With the help of a career counselor I found a sales/management training program at Bank One. After spending three years in retail bank branches I decided to do something more entrepreneurial and become a financial advisor. This was really scary at the time because it's a commission-only job, and I was walking away from a decent base salary. I've never looked back – I love the freedom of my career and the flexibility it gives me.

Any morning rituals that pave the way to a power day?

Transcendental meditation, smoothie with greens, and just slowing down and being in the moment. If my morning feels rushed, often that tone carries through the entire day. "Rushing" probably only buys me 5-10 minutes anyway so it's not worth it. Sometimes I feel like we are all in a constant unspoken "busy-ness contest" as in "I'm the most busy person here!" A good morning for me is when I deliberately and mindfully opt out of this contest for the day.

If you won an Academy Award, who would you thank?

Probably all of the mentors and amazing role models I've had over the years. I take courage and inspiration from people who are unabashedly and unapologetically themselves, even when I don't agree with their views or what they have to say.

How has NAWBO opened doors for you?

Most recently I had the opportunity to help coordinate our Empowering Through Leadership panel at Kirkland & Ellis. I worked closely with the presidents of three organizations: NAWBO, the Richard Linn Inn of Court & the Women's Bar Association of Illinois. Those relationships have already proven valuable in terms of opening up doors to speaking opportunities and new partnerships.

Is there a blogger, news source or podcast you won't miss?

My go-to news source is probably NPR. I love, love, love NPR. It's where all of us intellectual over-thinkers can "nerd out" together as adults. I also read the Skimm every morning – it's super-fast and I get all of the essential headlines with a tinge of pop culture.

March is Women's History Month. What figure in history comes to mind for you?

Probably my mom. She worked in IT back in the 70's when there were no women in IT. (Her major in college was math because computer science didn't exist yet! Oh, and by the way, her father's coworkers asked him why he was "wasting money" sending a daughter to college.) At the height of her career she had more than 100 people reporting to her and she worked at places like the American Hospital Association and TransUnion. She used to be in charge of purchasing hardware and software and would bring her assistant and team (all male) along with her. The sales guy would inevitably treat one of the men as the decision-maker, even though my mom was 100% in charge. My mom's assistants would try (tactfully) to help out the salesman by saying things like "What do YOU think Sharon?" every time the sales guy directed questions toward the men. According to my mom, the sales guys almost never picked up on it – I think it just didn't compute that a woman could be in charge of buying millions of dollars' worth of IT products. Sharon Dieter might not be in any history books, but she represents the women's rights movement to me.

It's funny because although our careers are very different in some ways, our reasons for pursuing them are the same. My mom knew that technical skills were very black or white, which makes it hard to be underpaid. You either know how to program in a particular language or you don't. It's not like a "softer skill" like HR where the outcomes (and what contributes to them) are fuzzy. In my business, everyone gets paid on exactly the same scale. Either you can bring in accounts and assets, or you can't. It's not possible to be paid 70 cents on the dollar as compared to a man because the commission schedule is the same for everyone.