During Stephanie Cohen’s first 15 years at Goldman Sachs, her career ladder didn’t look much different than that of a typical investment banker.
Cohen, 41, joined Goldman Sachs in 1999 as an analyst and worked her way up in the investment banking division to managing director in 2008 and partner six years later. She has worked on historic large corporate deals, including Chrysler’s repayment of a U.S. government loan, which marked the automaker’s comeback after the 2008 Financial Crisis.
But in July of this year, she scored a seat on the bank’s most elite decision-making team, a 33-person management committee appointed by new CEO David Solomon. She is one of seven women named on the committee and is 10 years younger than the average man on the team.
Since the start of this year, Cohen has also transitioned from investment banking to serve as the bank’s chief strategy officer, leading a team that decides where the bank should pursue new lines of business.
Last weekend, Cohen joined a panel at this year’s Girlboss Rally in New York, a two-day event to foster networking and learning among women entrepreneurs, to talk about career, money and life. Here are her five best pieces of advice on work and personal finance for professional women.
Use Your Difference as an Advantage
“There weren’t a lot of investment bankers that looked like me. When I walked into a board room, they’d expect a very tall man, but instead they’d get a relatively short woman. You can use that as something that bothers you, or you can use that as a point of differentiation.
For example, one of the things I learned early on was that when I was on big conference calls with lots of people, everyone would know when I spoke because I was the only woman.”
You Don’t Have to Be Exactly Like Someone to Be Successful
“If you work in a company and you want to become the CEO or the CFO, when you look at the person who has the role, and you might think, ‘I’m nothing like that person, so I can never do that.’
Instead, I found it really helpful to look at a broad group of people and look for things that I like or relate to. By doing that, you can actually, authentically be the person you want without assuming that you have to be someone else.”
Reduce Excessive Spending and Set Up Automatic Savings
“Make it easier to make the right decisions. For example, there’s a bunch of statistics showing that if you give people the option to invest in a 401(k) plan, many people won’t do it. But, if you make the enrollment default and you have to opt out if you don’t want to do it, more people end up investing in 401(k).”
Don’t Let Social Media Drive Your Spending Habits
“You’ve got to figure out what’s important to you and what you really want to spend money on. You should spend money on things that truly make you happy.
The best way to do this is to have a long-term view. For example, when I am 60 and look back, what might I need the most? It could be meal delivery services, paying for working out, or makeup and clothes. It doesn’t have to be one thing or the other; it’s about making spending decisions consciously rather than scrolling on your phone and thinking about what you should spend on.”
Talk About Money and Investments With Friends
“What I’ve noticed at Goldman Sachs is that men tend to talk about investment opportunities amongst each other. Some of that could be due to the fact that there are fewer women in venture capital and fewer women founders. But I’ve also noticed that when women start talking to friends about business ideas, they actually want to help each other.”
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Cohen became a managing partner at Goldman Sachs in 2008.