Dane Holmes – Catalyst Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am the head of investor relations for Goldman Sachs, where I am responsible for the team that manages the firm's relationships with our shareholders, our debt investors, equity and credit sell-side analysts, and the rating agencies. We are also responsible for engaging a variety of constituents on corporate governance matters

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
It is a job that requires constant learning as the industry is extremely dynamic and technical.

To be effective, you need an equal dose of analytical and communication skills. You need to be able to understand the work of a sophisticated portfolio manager or sell-side analyst and you need to be able to explain what they’ve said to a novice.

What is your proudest achievement?
From a professional perspective, it has been my ability as a manager to play some role in the professional growth and success of others. A big part of what attracted me to the financial services industry is the fact that it is a people-driven industry. At Goldman Sachs, I have had the opportunity to consistently work with some of the most talented and dedicated people.  Beyond their pure intellect, I am continually impressed by the diversity of their ideas, interests and accomplishments.  Mentoring and managing are the best parts of my job by far and playing even the smallest role in the success of others is definitely my greatest source of pride.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
While there are numerous traits required to be a successful leader, thinker or doer - vision, passion, intellect, resilience, and persuasiveness to name a few, there are three interconnected traits that I ADMIRE the most.

The first trait is being a good listener. A truly exceptional leader is as focused on harnessing the collective analytical power of their team or organization as they are on delivering marching orders. They listen because they know that they don't have all the information and therefore they don't have all of the solutions.

The second is welcoming debate and challenge. It is a critical component to listening. It is often said that it is "lonely at the top". I think that loneliness often stems from people's fear of challenging the hierarchy. So, fostering an environment of debate is crucial.

And finally, there is humility, a phrase not often associated with leadership. However, being able to put your ego aside and recognize your mistakes or shortcomings is essential to being an effective leader. It allows you to fix errors when they are small.  Get help where it is needed.  Build trust within your team. And it assures that your finger is on the pulse of the organization at a ground level.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In my more than 20 years in finance, I have not been successful in predicting my future path. The idea of becoming the head of investor relations had never crossed my mind until the day our former CFO offered me the job, so I don't feel any better positioned to predict my path now.  Ideally, I will still be at Goldman Sachs in ten years, continuing to take on new challenges and opportunities. During my nearly 14 years at the firm so far, I have worked in three divisions and held a variety of interesting roles with an increasing set of responsibilities.  Hopefully, my future path will provide the opportunity to make a bigger contribution to both the firm and our people.  However, I have no preset views on what form that might take.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
Own your career, be open-minded and objective, and last but not least, realize that it is a marathon and not a sprint. It is important for you to take ownership of your future first before you ask anyone else to invest in it. Often you only get out what you are willing to put in.

There isn't any single formula to success, so stay open minded. A very small percentage of people land on the earth with a clear long term plan and an even smaller percentage arrive there later satisfied. Opportunity surrounds us; the challenge is keeping an open enough mind to see it

And finally keep a long term perspective. The world devotes too many pages to the crowning achievement of someone's success and much too little to the volumes of daily failures, setbacks and disappointments that lead up to it. The former may make for good reading, but it isn't reflective of actual life.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has the experience changed you?
I have had numerous mentors over my career, some formal and some informal. I have tended to gravitate to two types of people. The first are those who possess the traits that I admire in a leader and the second are those who are completely different from me, whether it is a difference in skill set, personality or world view. I think of mentors as advisors. It is important that I have people who will bring a different perspective to the issues that I am confronting. While having a mentor that thinks like me may feel self-satisfying, it isn’t as valuable.

I mentor several people within and outside of the firm. As someone who has benefitted immensely from mentoring, I do it not just because I enjoy it, but also because I view it as my obligation or payback for the time and effort invested in me by others. I have learned that good mentoring relationships equally benefit both parties. When someone asks you for advice on a particularly difficult challenge, you cannot help but be self-reflective. You can quickly move from answering one person’s question to later asking yourself a series of related questions.