Supercharge Your Career with Arielle Patrick

As part of the Ladies Get Paid Book Tour, sponsored by Comcast NBC/Universal, Claire Wasserman, founder and author of Ladies Get Paid, in conversation with Arielle Patrick, Chief Communications Officer at Ariel Investments, discuss how she’s supercharged her career and skyrocketed to become one of the youngest Black C-Suite executives on Wall Street.    


Claire Wasserman: Was it always your go to get into the C-suite? 

Arielle Patrick:  Oh gosh, not even close. I will say that the best advice that I ever got from a mentor, this was, very early in my career, was that flexibility is the key to success because you never know what will come your way. What I took that to mean was that the possibility of failure which of course seems so huge to all of us is actually equal and possibly outweighed by the fact that we could be 10 times more successful than we expect. Unless you’re receptive to that possibility and open to energy and opportunities that come your way, you’re never going to see it.


I started my career very focused on what the next level was, working as hard as I could, busting my behind to get promoted but also learning as much as I could. Then what I realized was that the pressure I was putting on myself wasn’t productive. It was actually counterproductive. This happened probably when I hit 27, and it’s funny that once I started shifting my thinking thanks to the help of an incredible therapist, a beautiful family, and tons of great friends, I was able to skyrocket.


The world opens up when you’re receptive to seeing what’s possible. I think I was unable to see what was possible because I was so focused on what was in front of me and my 5-year and 10-year and 15-year plan. I could not tell you what my five-year plan is right now, all I know is I’m focused on being the best I can be where I am right now.


Claire: Talk to me a little bit about that micro like what were the questions that you were asking people who had roles that you were maybe interested in pursuing?

Arielle: I would say I made a really concerted effort from a very young age to be a sponge and I think that a big reason for that was that I always knew that I was good at many things but I couldn’t necessarily imprison myself with a super detailed plan yet. What I did was I would make an effort to introduce myself to and meet with and listen to as many people from as many walks of life as possible. In fact, I certainly wouldn’t have expected this but Melody Hobson, who’s my boss, was one of those people.


I met her five, six years ago and I recall sitting down with her. I was incredibly nervous, we were at the Saint Regis having coffee, and she asked me at the end of our meeting, “What can I do for you?” I remember later that night, she sent me an email that I should have framed that said, “I’m honored to be in your orbit.” I thought, “Whoa. How is that possible because I’m honored to be in hers!?” we became people who respected one another and watched each other’s work over the years and when there was a time to switch things up at Ariel Investments, and take another look at how we were handling communications, I was the first person that came to mind. It certainly wasn’t because I was marketing myself or focused on a particular goal.


I say that to say be a sponge, listen, watch, notice, learn. That’s the best way to understand what you’re capable of because you don’t know what you don’t know and I do think that people get very focused on specific career tracks, and actually completely cheat themselves because they don’t learn as much as they can about what else is out there.


that the mentor-mentee relationship is a bit of an antiquated model at least in my mind. I think you have to treat it the way you would any relationship, it should be mutually beneficial and so if you don’t see synergy or an opportunity for you to add value, you shouldn’t be having these conversations.


We have to migrate from calling it mentor-mentee to relationship. It’s a person in your life. The way you would treat a friend, you should treat someone who you brought into your life. I think I will try to teach ‘mentees’ of mine. I keep using quotes because I don’t like to view them that way, that they’re my peers no matter what the age difference, no matter where they are in their career so what are you bringing me? Please don’t just reach out when you want to ask me for something, there’s nothing worse.


Claire: What tactical things did you do to achieve such accelerated growth at both Weber Shandwick and Edelman? Anything popped to mind that you feel like really helped accelerate you?

Arielle:  I think hindsight is 20/20, which is deceiving, but if I look back, I would say I realized that some of the best people that I admired that excelled in all parts of their careers, were people that one, never lost sight of who they were and relied on their instincts, but then also two, were the most well researched and studied people in the room. One doesn’t work without the other. You can’t just work off of your gut and your personality and your gravitas and make it to the top without being again, the most prepared. You also can’t really rise to the top by just being the person who knows the most and is most studied.


You have to focus on building relationships, leveraging those and really being a person that people want to work with, and being a leader who cares about people and brings empathy to the table every day. I will say that when I first started in my career, I over-indexed on being the most order to get to middle management and then get through middle management to leadership, it’s the EQ that really kicks in. 


Claire: What was your most significant year in your career where you felt a change or momentum? Maybe it doesn’t have to be a year, but maybe an experience where you felt, “Ah, this is pivotal in some way for me.”

Arielle:  I think the year before I turned 30. The whole year that I was 29 years old, I was so fixated on what turning 30 meant; it was this looming deadline that I determined meant so much. It was torture, I put myself through hell, I was very focused on looking around and saying, “X percentage of my friends are already engaged or married or having kids, and X percent are already CEOs of their startups and X percent have done XYZ,” and telling myself that there was a checklist.


When I [eventually] unfettered myself from that thinking, the world literally opened up. 29 was the best year of my life, I met the love of my life, we’re marrying in August, I got promoted, I made some really interesting connections, I came up with a new idea that I’m still brewing on, I deepened relationships with friends;  I also shed some friends that were toxic.I [also] started getting back into running, which I forgot was something that I really loved and was a huge stress reliever. I’m now in the best health of my life, which I don’t think I would’ve been able to do if I hadn’t worked so hard on identifying and fixating on why I was feeling so much pressure to achieve in such a narrow way by 30, and taking a more holistic look at what a life is was really helpful.


Claire: How do you be both present at work dealing with all that stress but also stay grounded? Is there something that keeps you calm throughout all of this?

Arielle: I have tons of tips and tricks. One of them is here on my desk, it’s my gratitude journal, which I keep. It’s not consistent, but I try at least once a week to write down something that I felt gave me a moment to feel grateful or set an intention. I usually do that on a weekly basis. Let’s see what my latest intention was, to remember that I am kind, powerful, and strong. That’s what I wrote yesterday. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of that.


I always tell people, “You have to treat yourself the way you would your best friend.” We always beat ourselves up in a way that we would never do to a friend. The way that I used to speak to myself, I wouldn’t dare to my mother, to anyone I knew. It’s about changing the language that you’re using to talk to yourself. It really opens up a lot of possibilities and I honestly would say my work has been going so much better since I started focusing on that.


Claire: I always say, “We sometimes expect that our work will speak for itself when we really need to be speaking for our work.” We need to be doing it consistently, not waiting until it’s the time to discuss your promotion. Do you have examples of how you did that throughout your career?

Arielle: I used to have a very large tracker,in Excel, which had detailed moments where I drove business from a dollar perspective, dollars in the door, but also more qualitative things like mentorship with other colleagues, new initiatives internally and externally that I helped drive. I would save emails and good feedback from clients because you need those receipts as well


I would have a meeting every week with my manager and I would bring that document. Sometimes we didn’t go over it, sometimes we would talk about other more critical or acute matters, but it was always there, it was always printed and it was given to him. He had that at his desk for a matter of days and couldn’t avoid looking at it. Then by the time quarter-end or year-end happens and we’re talking about reviews, there’s no surprise all the information is there and you’re not waiting to have that daunting moment where you have to write your self-evaluation,trying to recall every single thing that happened.


this tracker also helps you have a conversation starter to say, “Hey, can we go over this list of projects that I did over the past X amount of time. Do you have feedback for me? What could I have done better?” I manage a ton of people now and I don’t always have the time to set up that  meeting; it’s up to you as the direct report to get on that person’s calendar. 


Watch the entire conversation with Arielle Patrick here.

 A big thank you to Comcast/NBCUniversal for sponsoring this series.


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