Adrianne Kadzinski isn’t someone you would describe as being afraid of taking on new challenges.
Kadzinski’s career journey has been both unique and varied, making it an exciting story to tell. She started her career in investment banking before detouring into e-commerce as the co-founder of a website that gamifies shopping auctions. From there, she moved into a consulting role for the U.S. State Department, among other entities, and she also served as an Officer in the U.S. Army for over two decades. Despite her proven ability to maneuver her career and adjust into different environments, the thought of returning to a career in finance still felt intimidating. Luckily, Kadzinski discovered the Real Returns™ program at Credit Suisse, which helped assuage that.
The Real Returns™ Program offers talented senior professionals who have taken an extended career break a smooth transition back into the workforce and provides the opportunity for individuals to ramp up their skills, update their industry knowledge and boost their confidence.
Now, as Credit Suisse’s Group Head of Innovation, Kadzinski is back to doing what she loves best: helping people who want to solve hard problems. It’s this combination of service, strategy and mutual learning that keeps her feeling engaged and aware of her impact at work, a formula she believes Credit Suisse has perfected.
Recently, Kadzinski spoke to Fairygodboss about what “innovating with heart” looks like in her day-to-day, as well as her No. 1 piece of advice to women who are looking to make a major career change.
Tell us a bit about your job. What are your main responsibilities in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I am Group Head of Innovation at Credit Suisse. I work with bank teams to help them more effectively learn, connect and experiment to solve hard problems aligned to the bank’s strategic objectives.
Prior to this, I’ve had an eclectic career. I’ve been an investment banker, primarily in credit and securitized products; started an e-commerce company; consulted in a senior executive capacity for the U.S. State Department, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Department of the Navy across strategic organization and technology projects; advised tech startups; and, finally, returned to institutional finance at Credit Suisse. Concurrently throughout my civilian career, I served as a U.S. Army officer for 24 years, including deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Let’s talk about your career path. When did you first come to work for your company, and in what role?
I joined Credit Suisse through the Real Returns™ program in 2016. I had not left work but had left the industry. The Credit Suisse Real Returns™ program offered me an opportunity to re-enter finance in a completely different capacity. Since I wanted to learn more about all aspects of the bank’s functions, not just investment banking. Through the program, I became a Program Manager leading regulatory remediation programs across our leveraged lending and oil and gas lending franchises. I also worked on other quite interesting programs such as Recovery and Resolution Planning (commonly known as banks’ living wills), as well as a massive program to shift our U.S. government trading operations from our broker-dealer to our New York bank branch.
Tell me a bit about your first day (or week) in the Real Returns program. What kinds of things (whether formal onboarding programs or casual interactions) made you feel comfortable?
The Real Returns™ first week was terrific! Each of us felt some fear. It had been a long time for many of us — eight years for me since I left finance in 2008 — to be in a banking environment. The first week did wonders to restore confidence and bring muscle memory back to the surface. It was like getting back on a bicycle after a long time: awkward at first, then it all comes back!
What do you love most about your job? And what about your company?
I love being able to help people who want to solve hard problems, and in turn to learn from them. This job is the epitome of that!
Credit Suisse provides an incredible environment of very smart, motivated people who genuinely want to do the right thing by their clients, industry and colleagues. It’s also one of the nicest groups of people I’ve worked with — they’re people who genuinely want to collaborate. The cumulative growth of decades of bank practices, legacy technologies, ingestion of complex new regulations and risk management requirements all means that it’s not always easy to find the best paths forward. So, I’m keenly focused on working with colleagues in ways that enable them to figure this out.
In what ways did you feel well-supported by your company as you navigated returning to the workforce?
Credit Suisse has an incredibly strong internal mobility culture and desire to support home-grown talent. Whenever I’ve turned to colleagues or HR partners for advice or ways to expand my network within the bank, invariably I receive really excellent guidance and assistance – again, people genuinely want to help you succeed.
How do you feel like this experience has been reflective of your overall experience at your company?
I think the genuine desire to help employees succeed shines through in everything the bank does. This does not mean everything is perfect – no institution is. But I have found it very easy to find sympathetic colleagues who help me navigate even the most difficult aspects of getting business done and managing our careers.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Make a colossal pot of coffee!
What’s the last thing you do at work every day?
I do one last sweep of my inbox so I can try to clear out the major things that will nag me overnight! I like to go home to my husband and dog with a reasonably clear head focused on them. The modern world makes work creep inevitably into our personal lives, but the people we love should be first in our heads and hearts when we are with them.
What’s the No. 1 thing you think women should know about working at your company?
Tough one! I think it’s that the environment here is incredibly welcoming and supportive. People genuinely want women to rise to the top, and we see that in senior female executives on our Executive Board, as well as in other critical executive leadership functions across the bank.
What advice do you have for women looking to re-start their career?
Have confidence in yourself, remember to breathe, smile (with your eyes!) and relax! Then go pursue the things that really make you want to tear into your day.
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