Cynthia Loh leads the team responsible for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® and Schwab Intelligent Advisory™, the firm’s robo advisory and hybrid advisory and planning services.
What is a quote you find meaningful and inspiring, and why?
It’s more of a personal mantra than an inspiring quote—manage your career like you manage a startup. Find your competitive advantage, surround yourself with people you want to become, and hustle.
I worked in traditional financial services for a long time and started thinking hard about whether I was building the skills and experience necessary to build the career I wanted for the next decade. I was inspired by Reid Hoffman’s The Start-up of You, which talks about treating your career like you would a startup—you always have to be learning and changing, watching where your industry is going, and making yourself attractive to potential employers. I decided I needed to build my skills in general management, and I did a hard left and went to a healthcare startup.
You always have to be learning and changing, watching where your industry is going, and making yourself attractive to potential employers.
It was a really big transition for me to shift from a corporate culture to a startup environment, and an industry where I had minimal knowledge. Ultimately, this shift brought me to my next start-up, and currently I’m leveraging my startup experience to drive innovation back in a corporate environment—and can now see a path forward that I want to be on for the next decade of my career.
Why do you like being a leader?
I’ve always believed that wherever you work, you should find someone in management that you want to be like. I strive to be a leader that can serve as that role model. I love being able to empower a team to drive innovation and change, and spend my time helping my team be more successful.
How has mentoring impacted your own journey?
I had an amazing mentor during my first job out of college. I really looked up to her and sought her advice, and she ended up completely changing the course of my career trajectory. She said to me, “What are you doing here? You need to go to business school.” This wasn’t something I’d given much thought to, and I didn’t know the first thing about what a business school was looking for —but she showed me the ropes. She gave me advice on how to get letters of recommendation, where to get guidance on the application process, and what to consider with each school.
I ended up earning my MBA at Stanford where I met a lot of like-minded female professionals that have become some of my best friends. Looking back, we never had the conversation of “Will you be my mentor?” There was just a kinship. You really have to find someone you resonate with, and someone you aspire to be like. For her, it was an act of selflessness… she really wants to just make women better.
What advice would you give to a woman who is starting to serve as a (formal or informal) mentor?
Listen. The role of a mentor isn’t necessarily to give advice, but help your mentee navigate to the best solution for them.
Ceresa is a professional development platform focused on the mission of closing the women’s leadership gap. Our “Mentor Spotlight” series shares stories and insights from Ceresa mentors.