Nancy Reid designs learning experiences for entrepreneurs, private investors, and philanthropists.
She serves as Chair for TIGER 21 in Seattle, as Director for Seattle Impact Investing Group, and consults on other projects that bring capital and opportunity together to change the world.
She began her career leading business units for a diversified media company. After business school, she spent a few years at Lehman Brothers and its successor firm, where she learned the mechanics and vagaries of the global capital markets. Since 2010, she has composed experiential learning groups to provide investors with unique insights and opportunities at TIGER 21. In 2015, she began to work with a group of impact investors affiliated with Toniic.
Who are the members of your family?
My husband of seven years, Will, and our two kids— aged 2 and 4.
What does your career look like?
I began my career working five years in sales and management roles in my family’s business. Getting an MBA was my ticket out of the family business in the Midwest of the US, and also helped me launch a career in finance. I studied at Dartmouth and at the London Business School, and was confident and ambitious when I joined Lehman Brothers in 2006.
By the time Lehman went bankrupt in 2008, I had lost my faith in the traditional mathematics of finance. And I’d lost my faith in the respected institutions that govern our economy. Regrouping for my next move, I was repeatedly asked, “what do you WANT?” And over many conversations, I developed my answer: while I wasn’t sure what my ideal job title would be, I knew I wanted to work at the intersection of the four things I cared the most about:
o Communicating with clarity and style;
o Understanding the global financial markets deeply;
o Using wealth for the greater global good; and
o Growing businesses—selling!—from a place of service.
Since then, I’ve found my way into work that has brought me deeper into these themes. I ran a $100 million capital campaign for a NYC nonprofit as an interim campaign director, I sold memberships to a membership organisation for private investors, and now I work with a few groups of private investors to sharpen their judgment, deepen their empathy, and align their financial decisions with their greater purpose.
What is it you do in your career?
Mainly, I facilitate two small cohorts of wealthy investors. Each group meets monthly and acts as an external board of advisors for its members’ investing and philanthropic decisions. This means I identify new members and design the composition of the groups; design the overall curriculum and each meeting’s agenda; and serve as an ambassador to the broader community on behalf of the groups.
What does this look like? I work from home four days a week, bustling off to many many many meetings, and managing great volumes of email and phone calls in between. On Fridays I stay home with my infant son.
How have you designed your career?
The last time I worked full time, the stress was so acute that I developed some minor but chronic health problems. I decided in 2012 that I wanted to work for myself. Since then, I’ve transitioned to a contractor for my former employer, added another contract client, and cultivated a few other smaller projects (consulting to a startup impact film platform, delivering training courses on impact investing and gender lens investing on behalf of two additional clients, and a small amount of work with individual investors).
What are the non-negotiables in your life? And in your career?
I can’t think of any.
Most of the time I decline dinners, happy hours, travel, and meeting with people who are rude to me. And most of the time, I like to be in bed by 9:00 pm. But there are exceptions to all of these rules.
What do you prioritise as a career woman and mother of two children under five?
Protein at breakfast, gallons of coffee before noon, early bedtime. I’m often asked to help people with career transitions and job searches, and I consider this to be a privilege—I try to help everyone I can if they come to me for help. Especially the women.
What battles do you choose to engage with?
With my kids, we don’t have many rules—they eat like animals, dress like clowns, and are generally dirty. But hitting, biting, and screaming are not permitted. They always go to bed in clean clothes (albeit the next day’s clothes!). Feet on the table are not permitted. Food and drinks of any kind are not permitted outside the kitchen and dining room. And I insist on hearing “may I please” and “thank you”.
In my house, I’m really rigorous about tidying up.
In my marriage, we don’t have many battles. I’m very lucky to have married an absolutely amazing guy, and we regain equilibrium fairly quickly whenever we’re out of balance. We’re really in love and we both work hard to keep it that way. True story.
How do make space for yourself?
I hire a wonderful woman to clean my house every two weeks. I block out an entire day to rest and recuperate after major work events. I stay home with my son every Friday and try not to schedule much. I hire my son’s caregiver to pick him up and drop him off at my house (I call it “valet service”) when my husband is out of town (which is often). I have a wonderful assistant who takes care of some of the tedious stuff 3-5 hours a week. And I have developed a dependency on over-the-counter sleep aids so that I can ensure a good night’s sleep every night, despite my kids’ occasional interruptions.
There is no showreel version.
How are women wasting their time?
Everybody wastes time, and I waste a TON of time puttering on my phone. But it’s restful for me. Talking with people is usually NOT restful for me, so I try not to waste too much time in conversation with people. Early in my career, quite often women would want to chat with me about clothes, or hair and makeup, or other stuff that (to me) isn’t all that important. I used to wonder, if women stopped spending the first 10% of every conversation complimenting each other on each other’s shoes, wouldn’t they be 10% more effective?
To be clear, I love talking about clothes and hair sometimes. But doing so with everyone, as a habit or a way to establish rapport among women, is an enormous misallocation of resources.
I’ve heard you say ‘why waste decisions on dumb shit?’ Could you say more about that?
Neuroscience tells us that we can’t make good decisions all day—after a while, we get “decision fatigue”. This is why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing every day. A lot of high-functioning men do. When I was working full time, I wore the same thing every day too. My work uniform consisted of ugly boring high heels, a black pencil skirt, and a drapey sweater set.
Now that I work for myself, I have a little more latitude and I’m actually trying to get away from the uniform. But I still wear the same jewelry every day. I actually never take it off. Why waste the time and energy on these decisions, when I could be using my bandwidth to better understand the economy, or design a dinner party menu? Or just think?
What are you most rigorous about?
I’m really fastidious about organizing my house. We don’t have a ton of space, and I’m really sensitive to clutter. So I try to use all of our space wisely, and to keep only those things that matter, and to provide those things with a home so that everything can be put away. I haven’t read Marie Kondo, but she’s my soul sister. And it’s not because I’m ashamed of our stuff, or afraid of what people will think. It’s because an organized house truly brings me great satisfaction, and clutter truly drives me nuts.
I’m really rigorous about email. I read and process everything. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, but I try to get to inbox as often as possible.
What I’m NOT rigorous about: I don’t own an iron, I don’t make my bed, I don’t fold the kids’ clothes, I don’t have grass in my yard because I don’t want to mow it, I don’t join stuff that will require me to show up regularly.
What was the turning point for you in getting organised?
In 2008, a woman I know was looking for a place to stay during a transition in her life, and I invited her to stay in my apartment for a couple of months. She was a professional organizer, and she paid rent by organizing my whole life: books, files, toiletries, clothes, kitchen stuff. By the end of the time she was there I had given away a truckload of stuff, and I had a great sense of joy and clarity. My poor husband has had to conform to my organizational regime, and he’s been a very good sport about it. As a result we live in a space I find beautiful and spacious. Totally worth it.
What is ‘the work’ you’re having to do right now?
We’ve recently had to rearrange the rooms in my modest-sized house to make room for the baby. It’s required us to—yet again—give away a lot of stuff. And now that I’m done having babies, I’ve been releasing all the baby stuff—maternity clothes, newborn gear, all of it. It’s a lot of work but feels terrific.
I’m also re-evaluating my work in light of how things are in the world right now. A handful of opportunities have come my way—job interviews, collaborators, potential clients—and it’s forcing me to greater and greater clarity about exactly what work I’m most called to do. As Christiane Northrup says, this is a process, not an event!
How do you plan for the future?
I have a document on my phone that I write and re-write almost daily. It’s a series of vision statements for my future—at age 40, 50, and 60. Each vignette describes my future home, family, relationships, career, finances, travels, and major projects. I’ve got balance sheets, mortgage payoff schedules, key metrics in my business life, specific skills I’d like to develop and help my kids develop. Some of it seemed outrageous when I first thought it up (a six month sabbatical in Uruguay, a black belt in Kung Fu, a colorful investment portfolio) but I’ve got each of the vignettes broken down into little steps. And each month, I chisel off a few of the steps and try to move forward. Often, there are things I can ask for help with—of my husband, a friend, my assistant, or someone else. Thankfully, I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
I also keep a list of “awesome things we’ve done this year”, and it’s pretty amazing to look back at how far we’ve come each of the past five years especially. Looking back at this list is especially important when I’m in the thick of sleep deprivation and feeling disappointed in myself professionally for not doing everything perfectly.
What’s your greatest gifts?
I’m a good translator–I’m able to help people understand each other despite differences in training and vocabulary.
I can bring people together and invite them to share deeply.
My work humanizes the investment conversation—which I believe is extremely valuable in the world right now.
Where do you see yourself personally and professionally as you marry career and children?
I’ll probably never work a full time job again. I really appreciate the flexibility and autonomy of working for myself. A friend recently described me as having “gone feral” because she can’t imagine that I’ll ever be “domesticated” back into a full-time workplace. I find this hilariously apt.
In the have-it-all-debate, what’s the elephant in the room?
I grew up in a family business, and despite not having inherited any significant wealth, I’ve benefited from privilege in many ways as I’ve built my career.
We pay an enormous amount of money for basic childcare for both kids, as well as for the other people who help us make it all work—our sitter, the woman who cleans our house, my assistant, an accountant, etc.
We’re not saving nearly enough money for retirement right now, but we are getting by. Maintaining our careers through these early years of parenting is our big investment. If we weren’t earning enough money to make this investment, it would be very difficult to do.
And finally, what is the one common denominator between mothers? (beyond children)
To some extent we’re all in two places at once. We can never be fully present, because somewhere in our minds and hearts, we’re vigilant. Where are my kids right now? Who’s watching them? Do they have everything they need? It feels like anxiety, and maybe it is. I don’t enjoy this aspect of motherhood, and I hope it dissolves a bit as they get older.
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