Many of us grow our careers by switching up our workplace. But for Emily Duerfeldt, that hasn’t been necessary. She’s worked at Fisher Investments (FI) for more than a decade, yet her lack of company hopping hasn’t hindered her professional progress. In fact, by being open to possibilities and willing to take calculated risks, it’s done the opposite: “I have never felt pigeon-holed at FI,” she says. “I think the culture here is unique in that there’s opportunity to rotate through different jobs if you’re successful.”
Duerfeldt — who was the first woman to be a trader at FI! — currently works as a Training and Development Manager for FI’s US Private Client Group. She spoke with Fairygodboss about the career move she’s most proud of, the evening routine that keeps her on track, her no. 1 tip for working moms, and some of the risks she’s taken along the way.
How long have you been at Fisher Investments (FI)? What about it made you first want to join?
I’ve been with FI for over 10 years now. Just prior to joining FI, I worked as a Financial Advisor. In that environment, I wore a lot of hats – I was prospecting, building portfolios, executing trades, completing operational tasks — and also providing client service. At FI, I found I was able to specialize in client service, my primary interest, and also eliminate that conflict of interest.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at your company, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
I’ve had so much opportunity at FI, and my current role brings my experiences together in an exciting way. I started as an Investment Counselor, and a couple of years later was promoted to manage a team of Investment Counselors. I later moved into our Trading group. I was actually the first woman to be a trader at Fisher Investments! Trading is an exciting world but I missed client service, so ultimately I returned to my Investment Counselor roots.
This year, I was asked to design and build out a multi-site Investment Counselor coaching program for our growing US Private Client Group. I manage a team of “coaches” – training managers – in our Washington, California, and Texas locations. I travel between locations frequently. In this role, I have the opportunity to positively impact the development of our Investment Counselors through application of classroom training via hands-on practice. I love the challenge of building a new program, scaling it across sites, and measuring our impact. If I can help our Investment Counselors deliver world-class service, I’ll positively impact our clients as well! And, for me, positively impacting the experience our clients have is what’s most important.
Also, one of the additional responsibilities I have is hosting several small group client programs each year. Traveling to meet our clients in person and talking with them about what’s most important to them is really rewarding.
What, specifically, helped lead to this promotion?
I think my breadth of experience at FI, combined with deep expertise in Investment Counseling, were the primary reasons I earned this promotion. But in addition to that, I have several years’ experience as a university adjunct instructor. I taught upper-division business courses to adults completing their management degrees at a private university in Portland, Oregon. I’m no longer actively teaching but that experience is really valuable in the coaching role.
What are the first and last things you do at work every day?
The first thing I do every day is review my schedule and make sure the plan for my day supports my priorities. The last thing I do each day is review my daily progress on my priorities and set my schedule for the following day. I think this is a great practice for anyone, but it’s especially important for those whose roles entail a lot of ambiguity and autonomy. I have to keep myself accountable to make progress at the right pace.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career without job hopping?
I have never felt pigeon-holed at FI. I think the culture here is unique in that there’s opportunity to rotate through different jobs if you’re successful. This allows FI-ers to apply their skills and professional experience in new ways, as well as to learn new skills on the job.
Ultimately I think this is great for employees but it’s also great for the firm as we grow. What I’ve done that’s helped me develop at FI is be open to possibilities and willing to take calculated risks. So, when I’ve been approached about taking on a new role or project, I’ve usually accepted the opportunity. I’ve made connections with colleagues and developed skills and knowledge I would otherwise not have.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at your company?
FI is committed to helping me build my career. I have seen this through opportunities to do challenging work, through promotions, and through our excellent employee benefits. I also strongly believe in the work we do for our clients.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
I think people might not realize how well represented women are in management here, including at the upper levels. We have several women in executive roles, such as Sr. Executive VPs, Executive VPs, and so on. Women are under-represented in our industry but at FI, women are “at the table,” so to speak. I find that inspirational.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Early on at FI, my boss told me that the most important thing I could do to achieve success is to execute the fundamentals well. Excellence always builds on doing the basics consistently and with high standards.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I took a big risk about six years into my financial services career when I left a supervisory role at an employee benefits insurance company to start working on the securities/advisory side of financial services. That turned out to be a great decision because it started me on the path that led me to FI.
What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Take the risk and apply for roles you aren’t 100 percent sure you’re ready for! Research suggests that women tend to be more cautious and only apply for roles when they’re sure they meet stated qualifications. Men are more apt to stretch and apply if they meet some.
When I originally applied for FI, I wasn’t sure that I met all the qualifications to be an Investment Counselor because I was discounting six years of professional experience as not relevant to the role. Turns out, I was wrong about that and my experience was transferrable. I’m glad I took the risk even though I thought I might well be turned down due to inexperience.
What kinds of boundaries do you follow (if any) to separate work and family time?
I try to 100 percent focus on what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. So, when I’m at work, I try to really focus on what I need to accomplish professionally. When I go home, I try not to bring work with me. I rarely work in the evening and on the weekends – I will do that only when I have a pressing deadline or if travel arrangements require it. I’m not perfect about this but I think that separation is important. My kids are in high school and I know how quickly they’ll be grown! Time truly does pass quickly. So it’s important to me to make the most of the time I have with them before they’re off to college.
What’s your No. 1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering?
I would just tell them to know you can be a great mom and have a great career. As moms, we can sometimes feel torn or guilty when the demands of one of our roles pull at the other. It can be emotionally hard to leave kids in daycare or at home and go to work. But, we made arrangements that worked for our family and over the years shifted things around as our family’s needs changed. My husband was even able to stay home with them for several years, through elementary school. He’s since gone back to work and is also with FI.
I learned that parenthood and one’s career are not mutually exclusive roles, and that a great support system is key! I think my kids have benefitted by seeing how I’ve worked hard in my career over the years, and by seeing how my husband and I have divided responsibilities to make sure all the bases have been covered. I’m really proud of my kids, my family, and my career.
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