Kirsten Forrester has the work-life balance thing down. Not only did she stake out a place at Fisher Investments by moving from Associate to a brand new Managerial role, she’s also done what we’ve all said we’d do: Write a novel.
Kirsten has had a passion for storytelling since she was a kid, but finds doing the complex problem solving of project management a fun, creative challenge. And thanks to the structures she’s found at Fisher, she’s able to do both.
We talked to Kirsten about how she got into Fisher and how she got into fiction writing. She also shared her best tip for women trying to carve out time for their personal and professional goals.
How do you define work-life balance?
For me, work-life balance is first and foremost having something outside of work that you exist for: family, friends, pets, passions… whatever that looks like for you! The balance isn’t so much a 50/50 split in terms of time, but rather fulfillment in both areas. I really enjoy the balance of having a corporate job and being a writer when I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other; I’ve found fulfillment from the challenge of both avenues.
What does your day to day look like as the Private Client Group Training and Development Group Manager?
My group re-designs training programs in various departments around the firm with the ultimate goal of improving employee performance! We’ve found a lot of success implementing interactive teaching and evaluation methods, targeting training based on whether the employee is an internal promotion or external hire, and letting peers act as coaches instead of teachers.
As a manager in my current role, it’s important for me to balance managing our group’s training goals while developing my team professionally. I’ve always wanted to be a great leader, knowing how pivotal leaders have been in my own career growth. I strive to be someone that they can rely on, to champion their work and to provide the right feedback.
How were you able to create a unique career path for yourself that led you to being in this role?
I joined the firm as an entry-level Regional Sales Associate where I provided resources, analytics and support to our salespeople to make sure their meetings went smoothly. I saw a need to create a more robust and consistent training program to maximize the group’s quality and productivity, and I took it upon myself to start filling in those gaps. And, hey, nobody objected! I had support from management to innovate and work to improve the group’s processes. As that started to happen, I made a name for myself in a sense, and laid the groundwork to be the Training Program Manager before the role was even created.
Training has always been in my bones, but a lot of my development has come from seizing opportunities where I saw them and learning to adapt on the job. I didn’t know anything about true training fundamentals until I earned my next role as a Sales Training Program Manager where I was able to attend conferences and learn about the industry standard for training.
What has Fisher done to promote a healthy work-life balance for you and other employees?
I truly appreciate the fact that we have a firm work schedule and are not expected to work outside of those hours. When I am done for the day, I can completely shut my brain off from work. Not checking my email later at night or on the weekends gives me the time and mental space I need to solely focus on my hobbies. I think that was a brilliant idea — to have complete separation between work and home life. It’s especially nice for parents who can be fully present with their kids when they’re off work.
Let’s get to some more fun stuff: more of what makes you, you. Where are you excited to spend your time when you leave work?
Although I do a lot of working out and baking, I focus most of my creative energy on writing. I was writing before I could even read. I’ve always been coming up with stories, and if I’m not writing, I’m reading other books. While doing everyday tasks, I would find myself daydreaming about these alternate universes and finally decided to start putting my thoughts on paper. It’s surreal to think that what started out as a hobby has transformed into two published books.
Where did you find inspiration for your first book and what made you want to pursue getting published?
Growing up, books held a lot of power for me. Being a teenager is difficult, and growing up has so many challenges that make you question who you are and what you’re doing. I found that reading and relating to characters was a large part of what helped me during that time. I was very positively impacted by the books I read, and it made me want to do the same for other young women. If what I wrote could give them that feeling of connection and understanding, it would all be worth it. (Well, that and my secret desire to become the next J.K. Rowling.)
I was really into Avatar: The Last Air Bender, Teen Titans and other similar shows, and I started playing out alternative scenarios that could occur for these characters. I was imagining my own characters that had similar abilities, which gave me the inspiration for my first book. It wasn’t easy, and actually took 7 years to write and publish. There were times where I would drop it and pick it back up, or I would play around with a scene until behaviors would make sense for certain characters. It was a lot of trial and error!
What was the process like for you especially while working a full-time job? How were you able to prioritize creative time?
You definitely have to set aside time for your passions. It’s so easy to prioritize other things over “creative time” when that time consists of just sitting in a room. I’ve learned to treat that time like any other appointment, where if it’s on the calendar, it’s happening!
I’m still learning how to perfect that process though; there are times when I go three days without writing, and there are times where I’m on a roll and nothing’s going to distract me. Having support from friends and family helps too, especially when that means changing plans to get an idea down on paper. My poor husband has had movie night pushed back one too many times…
Have you thought about leaving the corporate world to pursue writing full time?
Writing is such a fun passion project and as soon as it starts to feel like work, it will be too much for me. But, who knows? Maybe I’ll start pursuing more writing conventions and book tours down the line. My work at Fisher has an immediate impact on developing employees which supports our growing business, and I am continuing to learn and grow along the way.
Did you always picture yourself working in the finance industry? How did you first hear about Fisher Investments?
My plan after completing my Masters program was to actually attend law school and combat corrupt practices in the financial industry as a corporate attorney. I hadn’t even considered a traditional corporate career until I unintentionally spoke to Fisher recruiters at a career fair. I learned that the company wasn’t like other investment firms on Wall Street. They genuinely wanted to help people and better the investment universe, which is what I wanted too. (And I could start making money now while starting a new adventure in Portland, Oregon.)
I was attracted to the fact that Fisher Investments was a private company and was still growing, which meant there’d be a lot of opportunity for me. Opportunity to initiate change, move up and create my own career path, which seemed more present here than with a larger corporation. And with our values being aligned, it was the perfect place for me to start my career.
What has led you to stay at Fisher for the past six years?
A few factors! One being that opportunity has definitely proven true: I joined the firm thinking I would find unique opportunities and I absolutely have. I appreciate the value of a true meritocracy, meaning if you do the work and make a niche for yourself, your efforts will be rewarded regardless of your tenure. The people make all the difference, too. If you enjoy the people you work with, a work week never seems that long. I really lucked out with my managers who have all challenged and pushed me to grow in different ways. I was used to sitting back in meetings and being more of a listener, but my managers acknowledged that I had good ideas and encouraged me to speak up and share them.
What tips do you have for women pursuing goals in and out of work?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Sometimes we can get accustomed to not speaking up unless we really need to, which was a habit I actively had to work to break. It was hard to adjust to at first, but I learned to start speaking up for myself and my ideas and learned that everyone valued what I had to say. So just say the thing!
Like I mentioned earlier, publishing my first book took me seven years. But any passion you have is worth the time and effort. Even if it seems like a lofty goal, take the first step even if you know it could be a long road.
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