Carla Harris represents an interesting dichotomy. Strategic, thorough, and extremely ambitious, she is in some ways the stereotypical Wall Street executive. But as a kind, introspective, and deeply religious woman, she also embodies its polar opposite.
Equal parts investment banker and prayer warrior, Harris’ passion for music, ministry, and motivating others to reach their full potential runs as deep as her commitment to the goals of Morgan Stanley, where she is a managing director. But she has always pursued success on her own terms — and won.
It’s that high-yield journey and her desire to help others achieve similar goals that led her to write her first book last year, Expect to Win (Plume; $15), and that led to her being one of Black Enterprise’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (February 2010). On the eve of the release of the new paperback edition, Harris paused her hectic schedule long enough to reflect on the year — one of Wall Street’s most tumultuous ever — and what lies ahead.
BlackEnterprise.com: Last year was huge for you! Your book came out and you embarked on a demanding book tour, all while still meeting the demands of your day job. How did you do it all?
Carla Harris: I am blessed with a lot of energy, and that’s a good thing because I was definitely racing around! But this year put me to the test because I hate to say no. When I have competing priorities, I pray on it. I did a lot of praying!
What’s been your favorite part of being an author?
The feedback from people who really appreciated what I had to say, and who took the time to call or send me a note or an e-mail letting me know. That was incredible. But when I look back on it all, I realize I didn’t take enough time to celebrate. I was so busy running and processing everything, I didn’t do well at enjoying it. That often happens. You work hard toward a goal, you anticipate the moment of achieving it, and then when it happens, you’re too busy to enjoy it the way you should. We all could probably do better with that.
Well, with everything going on in the financial sector, it was probably tough to celebrate.
That’s true. It was a year filled with a lot of highs, but there was definitely enough challenge in the air to temper all the good. I try to keep everything in perspective though. I’ve been on Wall Street more than 20 years, so I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs and, while it’s been more intense this time, the nature of this business is cyclical. What was positive this time, is that we had all the parties at the table to talk about it and we’re all going to be a lot smarter for it.