Article by Carolyn K. Van den Daelen, Managing Partner and Chief of Staff, Quorsus

Serious international diverse business team people and african female leader boss discuss financial result review paperwork, being an allyWhile the VP elect is shattering glass ceilings state-side, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally is still only 29% – the highest number ever recorded.

Well, that’s not high enough for Carolyn K. Van den Daelen, Managing Partner and Chief of Staff, Quorsus. Here she shares her top tips on how to move on up.

At the start of the year, after nearly a decade moving up the ladder to senior leadership roles at one of the largest derivatives exchange operators in the world, I decided it was time for a change. Little did I know at the same time a global pandemic was also deciding to turn the world on its head. As fate would have it, shortly after the world went into lockdown, a couple of people I knew were launching a new consultancy firm, providing strategic services to financial institutions that sounded in line with my own ethos and experience. After reconnecting on various Zoom calls given the inability to meet in person, I agreed to join as not only Chief of Staff, but as a Managing Partner.

While I had become comfortable over the course of my career being one of the few if not the only woman in many of the meetings I attended, I realised that being the only female Managing Partner gave me a new sense of responsibility: to share a vital point of view representative of the female contingent of the consultancy. This perspective has been particularly useful to those who are no longer junior, but not quite making it to the senior echelons of the business. Here are my top tips to move up the ranks of a business:

Feel and act as if you are already where you want to be

There are many excellent articles and studies that have been written about “imposter syndrome” and its prevalence amongst women in the corporate world.  It’s comforting to know that it is a common occurrence and its helpful that this concept is being incorporated into the collective workplace lexicon.  However, I believe it can also easily become a crutch if you let it. In this regard, specifically remind yourself every day that you are where you are in your career – on an upward trajectory – for a reason. You got there on your own, you did the work, you put the hours in, and managers don’t reward their staff members with promotions for no reason.  Own your success and know you are there because you deserve it.

Don’t underestimate the importance of boundary setting

Early in your career, it is important to not be afraid to take on work that may be slightly outside your comfort zone and to put your best foot forward when working on such initiatives. Those who excel in their roles by saying “yes” to new projects often become inundated with work because they are reliable, trustworthy and they always “get the job done.” However, as you grow in your career, it is vital to set boundaries regarding what you can and cannot do from a practical perspective.  If you continue to say “yes” to work that is outside your job description but beneath your current skill set, do not be afraid to speak to your manager to ensure you are doing the type of work that is appropriate for your level and that challenges you.  If you continue to say “yes” to jobs that could easily be done by more junior staff members, you risk being treated like a junior staff member.  Be open and honest with your manager about your workload to ensure its right for you and where you want your career to go.

If something doesn’t feel “right,” trust your gut and say something!

Its very easy to doubt yourself early on in your career. After all, you may be working alongside colleagues with years more of experience than you, those with more advanced degrees or training or even known experts in your given field. This may lead you to question whether you speak up in the next meeting with your manager (or even your manager’s manager!) and contribute your view or opinion.  However, fight that resistance and speak up.  Remind yourself that you were hired because you bring a desired skill set or acumen and your views are valuable.  Trust your gut!

My fellow partners and I at Quorsus know that a company’s culture starts at top management level, and we take that responsibility seriously, working hard to shape an environment we can be proud of and all our team is proud to contribute to. Even though a culture starts at the top, it can only thrive if everyone is on board. For that to happen everyone needs to feel empowered, heard and supported no matter who they are or where they are in their journey. I hope these tips can help you on the way.


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