In celebration of TXWSW’s ten-year anniversary, we are featuring women in senior-level positions in finance that have made a difference in the lives of their colleagues and community. Be sure to join TXWSW in each of our chapter cities for our 10-year anniversary celebrations.
We recently interviewed Sharmila Kassam, Esq., CPA, the Deputy Chief Investment Officer at the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) based in Austin, Texas and learned more about why she started her career in finance and how she’s giving back.
Define career success.
“Career success for me is having risen up in multiple industries to reach successful levels in each to move an organization forward. It’s one thing to master one industry, but I have been in venture, technology, legal and now finance worlds, allowing me to see solutions that often are missed by those that have limited business exposure.”
How did you choose finance as your career?
“It was not my first career, but I got here as fast as I could. Honestly, I see myself as an accomplished corporate professional who chose this industry because it provides new challenges and intellectual stimulation well beyond most jobs. I think I chose an interesting path to start by joining a public pension, which is a unique place to start because you’re driven by a mission to make investment earnings for state employees relying heavily on your success and striving to manage professionals by motivating them with new challenges and fostering growth opportunities in a progressive culture.”
Share your best career advice.
“Lean in to situations that make you uncomfortable. I think everyone has heard that statement, but I want to say it differently that if you are truly confident in your skills and aptitude use that to your advantage to continue to learn when it’s something you honestly don’t know as well. Very few people take this path and they limit how far they can go.”
How have networking groups like Texas Wall Street Women helped your career?
“I have been introduced to some amazing women who really have become friends and peers that I don’t see enough (I need to get out of the office more). I can rely on this network for business advice, career advice and just help with keeping my sanity. I have met many women from different roles that some have similar challenges of finding positive networking opportunities as there is never enough time, but I feel members of TXWSW find time for each other. ”
What is your advice on giving back and helping the next generation of women in finance?
“I’m still trying to find what more I can do. I try to get back to women who seek me out for mentorship, and I hope I help. I also think I encourage women to use their perspective on the world, often different from men, to challenge the status quo while staying confident when it’s not always easy that it will eventually be appreciated because better decisions are made when there is diversity in thought. I always want to do more to share what I’ve learned.”
Do you know a phenomenal woman making a difference in finance? We encourage you to nominate your mentors, friends, and colleagues so that we can celebrate their achievements and success by sending their name, and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.