The Coffee Chat (#31)
My conversation with Nisha Haran - Vice President, Private Credit, Adams Street Partners, Global citizen and mom to a 2 year old daughter !
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Hi there 👋🏽
I am currently experiencing extremely conflicting emotions.
Today Baby T completes 2 years around the Sun. The last 2 years have been intense and beautiful. Seeing her grow and blossom into an energetic, loving and chirpy toddler fills me with so much joy and happiness. (What I wrote after year 1)
At the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has tragically plunged countless lives into chaos. I see images of parents trying to protect their children in a war zone, of young children hugging their dads good bye, of childhoods being decimated. It makes me angry, sad and anxious.
For now, this war is far from over. However, I live with the hope that for the sake of our children the world tomorrow will be better than what it is today.
If you can I would urge you do donate to UNICEF: Protect Children in Ukraine
☕ Now, on to today’s coffee chat…
Meet Nisha Haran
I was introduced to Nisha via a Decks and Diapers reader (Thank you Cisi) who mentioned I had to feature Nisha in this newsletter as she “has got one heck of a career and one beautiful life.” I am so glad this introduction was made.
I had an absolutely wonderful time chatting with Nisha and getting a peek into how she thinks about work and motherhood. I am so excited to share this chat with the rest of the world.
Below is my conversation with Nisha …
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
Hi I am Nisha. I live in Manhattan with a wonderful husband and adorable 2-year old daughter named Mia. I currently work on the investing side in private credit. It is always hard for me to tell people where I am from as I've moved around a lot throughout my life. My family lived in Chicago, Mexico, New Jersey, Netherlands and eventually settled out in California.
I graduated undergrad back in 2011 and decided to move into banking as I was fascinated by the financial crisis and wanted to learn about how to determine the credit health of companies, how to evaluate company financials, etc.
My husband is a banker too and we met while working on a deal!
Through the influence of my husband and the social circle I was in, at some point I decided I wanted to transition into investment banking (leveraged finance) to get a broader exposure. It also felt like a good time to go back to school and pursue an MBA and post that I ended up joining Credit Suisse’s leveraged finance team.
The funny thing is, right before I joined the team, I randomly took a pregnancy test. And it turned out I was pregnant.
I was like oh my god how am I going to start a job in investment banking being pregnant!
And I was pretty scared but at the same time I said that if I don't do it now, I never will.
Fast forward, nine months later, we had the baby. Her name is Mia and she is an adorable sassy little girl who is almost 3 now!
Oh wow so what was your experience like starting a new IB job, which is pretty demanding, while also navigating pregnancy?
It was hard.
As it turns out, I also had Hyperemesis gravidarum during my pregnancy, so I lost 19 pounds. During my lunch break I would go to have an IV shot so that I could get some nutrients in my system because I couldn't eat. And so that was hard, navigating the new job with a challenging pregnancy.
What was also hard was convincing myself that it was okay to take my full maternity leave - first of all I was the only woman that was not an analyst in the group. Then no one had ever been pregnant in the group before, so it's not like I really knew what to do. On top of that I didn't know anyone in the investment bank that had got pregnant. So it's kind of something where I didn't really know how long to take off but I decided, you know you have your whole life to work, but you're never going to get those months back with your child. So I took my four months and then came back to work.
What I think what hardest part was dealing with what you felt would be people's perception of you!
Tell me more about that - the people's perception bit?
The reality is that even today, many people haven’t been exposed enough, so they've kind of been in these situations where mom is the primary caretaker while dad is the professionally oriented worker. And so if they see a mom, they identify them as being the caretaker versus the career oriented person. And as a woman who is a mother and cares about her career, I kind of felt like I had to overcompensate to some extent.
That part to prove that you care about both and dealing with people's unconscious biases were a lot harder than the actual balancing of the kid and the job!
I totally get it, dealing with the perception and the questions is what is the hardest...
Totally - I found some of those questions personally offensive. Because a lot of people would ask the question, “oh, do you see yourself coming back to IB after you have the baby?”
It was crazy how I kept getting these questions while my husband, who was in the exact same job in the exact same industry, never got those.
What struck me was how, for most people, they didn't recognize that there was something offensive here. If someone's malicious about it, you're like, oh, they're just trying to be mean. If people are just almost ignorant, then you know that there's a more fundamental problem that we as a society have.
People talk about work. People talk about being moms. People always approach these as they are really separate ideas that cannot overlap, but the reality is that these two aspects of your life are really important and they actually mingle a lot more than you think. Being able to navigate that becomes really hard if people have no idea how closely connected these need to be and you cannot separate the two – you can be a mom and also flourish in a high demanding, male dominated industry. We really need more role models.
In the group I worked in at the bank, I do not know of any other woman who has had a baby and is around about my age. The few women in investment banking that had children took off a few years and then came back, or they completely left investment banking.
So it becomes hard, but also means that women like you and me feel some responsibility to pave the way for others that want fulfilling careers, but a certain lifestyle that also lets them experience motherhood.
Oh, for sure. I am curious though ...Investment banking is a very demanding profession. How have you and your husband managed this demanding career while raising a child?
We basically have a really organized schedule. We try to be as efficient as possible. So I gave up coffee breaks with my colleagues. I also have blocked some Mia time in the evening where I am with her and then after putting her to bed at 8:30 pm; I literally then work till whatever hour it takes to get the job done well!
The stuff that I specifically gave up on are all these things in society that people are very judgmental about - like oh, you should make your own food and it should all be organic and you need to do everything from scratch and I said, I'm just going to have someone else make the food, buy it from them because I'm not going to waste my time cooking when I can be with my kid.
Or pumping. Mia stopped breastfeeding at eight months. And I just stopped pumping. People were like, Oh, don't you want to pump? and I'm like.. Well, I can either work, spend time with my kid, or pump. So yeah, I'm giving up on pumping.
What helped me make these choices was that I love what I do on a fundamental level. I found my work really interesting. I think if you're unhappy professionally, it is even harder to make these choices because at that point you're doing everything that is draining your energy.
Ultimately these are choices that you have to make and be comfortable with the trade off. One cannot have it all!
Great advice. I do feel becoming a parent makes one wiser. After you became a parent, are there any other new beliefs, behaviors or habits you adopted?
I think the most important one is that like I used to always struggle with needing validation from people and I work in an industry where you are not always provided that validation.
And then becoming a mom, you are certainly not always provided that validation. And so it becomes tough for someone who needs that. I think the biggest thing I learned was the best validation you could get is from yourself (cheesy, I know)! You need to be comfortable with your decisions and be proud of yourself.
That's the biggest thing I learned and then I think the other thing I learned is, there's really no substitution for the quality of time you spend at anything. Due to the COVID lockdown I got to spend a ton of time with Mia as we were working from home. I feel like she just became exponentially smarter - she walked way earlier than I've ever seen a baby walk.
And that's not because she's smarter than anyone; it's just because I was dedicating all that time to her and encouraging her. You really can't completely outsource parenting.
What advice would you give other women who are either on the cusp of motherhood or have recently become moms and then, what advice should they ignore?
I think the advice I give is that you should believe that you can handle all of it, because you can! Of course, you need to make trade-offs and it is important to re-evaluate / re-confirm what is the most important thing in your life every couple of months. For me I want to have a close relationship with my family, I want my daughter to be the happiest person in the world, and I want to feel fulfilled professionally. So, you know, always keeping your goals in the back of your head will just help you be more organized. The only advice I would give is that it's none of anyone else's business, especially at your work, on how you manage your time. As a woman, we tend to overshare. Just do not make yourself easily available from 6:30 to 8:30 pm or whatever. No need to give explanations.
The advice I would ignore would be around all these ridiculously high standards that moms have to keep up with – right from how long you should breastfeed to the type of toys your kids should play with. You don't need to be the perfect mom. You cannot have a fulfilling career and be expected to live up to this very high standard, which also, by the way, requires that you have a lot of money and free time. I would ignore random societal expectations and just do what is best for you.
On another note, I always tell people, no one warned me that the first few weeks with a child can be so difficult. Most people when they have their baby always talk about how lucky they are or how it is such a gift or how happy they are. But when I had my little one, Mia, I really struggled the first two or three weeks. I found it tough on my body to handle a new newborn. I had no idea what I was doing. Obviously with time, things got better and then it gets exponentially more fun as they grow up.
Now whenever I meet someone who is pregnant for the first time, I always warn them and say, your first couple of weeks when you have the baby are going to be some of the toughest and then it will start getting good.
What’s the best thing you have watched recently?
What’s the best thing you read recently?
Best thing I’ve read: Think Again
What’s the best thing you have listened to recently?
📖 My private thoughts from my very public diary…
I would love to hear from you, feedback is always welcome!
And if you happen to know an inspiring working parent who should be featured in a future edition (or if you yourself are one) - please do get in touch
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