Try a New Business, Grow Your Career: Why Taking Risks Can Help You Succeed
Lester Owens is a managing director at J.P. Morgan responsible for Wholesale Banking Operations and Corporate & Investment Bank Client Onboarding. He manages a global staff of approximately 7,500 employees worldwide and his primary responsibility is managing one of the largest Payment Operations globally. How did he get to where he is today? Jennifer Lavoie, our company news anchor, recently spoke with Lester to hear about his career track.
You’ve led a very successful career. Was there ever a time when you felt it had stagnated? What did you do to get it moving?
I worked hard and was a high achiever but was passed up for people who were more widely known. From that point on, I made it a priority to increase my visibility by getting involved in high profile projects and through networking.
The payments industry has changed drastically throughout the course of your career. How do you keep pace with new developments?
By taking the time to connect with technology partners as well as people outside your line of business to get an understanding of what’s out there. I also take the time to research and read as much as possible.
When something isn’t clear, keep asking questions until you understand. Industry leaders such as JPMorgan Chase are often the ones initiating these new developments. Here you will find some of the brightest and most strategic minds. I’ve been fortunate enough to help drive some of these programs and am always looking for the next big initiative which will help move the company forward.
What does career mobility mean to you now, at this senior point in your career?
Be an intelligent risk taker. Work on your weaknesses so that they become your strengths. Look for those stretch opportunities that are going to help you develop new skills. If you find yourself doing the same job for a few years and are in a rut, make sure you start looking for that next opportunity.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Always give 100% and strive to achieve excellent results. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Be on time for meetings – in fact, be early. If you are not responsible enough to arrive on time for meetings, people may wonder if you are responsible enough to run a part of the business.
Earlier in my career, I was passed over for a promotion because I was not known enough by the decision makers who had to approve it. Later, when I joined a new firm, I made a point of reaching out to key people. One person I had coffee with for 30 minutes later raved about me; the simple gesture of reaching out paid huge dividends. It’s not enough to keep your head down and do your work – people have to know about it.
- Get Things Done
Vision and strategic thinking are great, but execution is everything.
- Be Relevant
Be confident enough to ask questions. Be ready to contribute in a meaningful way in all interactions.
- Be Detail Oriented
You’ve got to dig into the details of your business and know it cold. The devil is in the details. I get a daily report that identifies issues and make it a point to stay on top of things in my business.