Jamie Fiore Higgins spent almost twenty years at Goldman Sachs, reaching the pinnacle of her field by earning the role of managing director. One of just 8 percent of Goldman employees to earn the managing director title, she was the highest-ranking woman in her department. She ran the trainee and internship programs, was active in the Women’s Network Committee, and managed top equity clients and $100 billion in stock.
Today, Jamie joins the show to discuss the abuse and misogyny she experienced in a toxic Wall Street environment, what led to her departure, and how she regained her own sense of moral clarity.
Watch on YouTube
00:48 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Jamie Fiore Higgins, who joins the show to talk about how her familial history impacted the formation of her own beliefs about money
08:14 – Jamie’s experience at Goldman Sachs
17:34 – First In, Last Out, misogyny, and buying into the lifestyle
23:15 – Jamie reflects on losing her own sense of moral clarity
32:14 – The Spreadsheet of Freedom
37:07 – Advice Jamie would give to young female professionals starting out
40:10 – Fixing the industry itself
46:05 – Hard work, mentorship, and doing things your way
49:11 – Jamie’s current project
51:24 – The last thing Jamie changed her mind about and one thing she would want others to know about her
55:31 – Jonathan thanks Jamie for joining the show and lets listeners know where to connect with her
“I think, for me, that mindset that I kinda inherited from my father and a little bit from my grandfather is what fueled my almost twenty years at Goldman. And then I started seeing what that cost me.” (06:50) (Jamie)
“I did well at first because I have a really good head for numbers, I have a work ethic – I was first in, last out – and I was really good with my clients. But what I realized at this part of my career, when I was five to seven years in, is what really gets you catapulted at Goldman is keeping your mouth shut.” (19:52) (Jamie)
“In order to be successful, I had to put up and shut up. And what I realized was that, over time, when you’re constantly living against your values, when you’re constantly feeling like you’re acting in opposition to what your gut says, it just takes its toll.” (22:19) (Jamie)
“I felt like Charlie Bucket. I felt like I had just gotten the Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory. And from the first day they said, ‘Getting a job at Goldman Sachs is harder than getting into Harvard. So, thank your lucky stars that you did something right.’” (27:51) (Jamie)
“Goldman was like an addiction…I couldn’t just walk away cold turkey. I was addicted to the prestige. I was addicted to making my family proud. I was addicted to saying I was Jamie from Goldman.” (33:32) (Jamie)
“Until these firms marry their wonderful goals of ‘We believe in equality, blah, blah, blah.’ They need to marry those wonderful soundbytes with actionable steps. And I think in order to do that, you need a curiosity and you need a humility.” (42:04) (Jamie)
Mindful Money Resources
For all the free stuff at Mindful Money: https://mindful.money/resources
To buy Jonathan’s first book – Mindful Money: https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Money-Practices-Financial-Increasing/dp/1608684369
To buy Jonathan’s second book – Mindful Investing: https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Investing-Outcome-Greater-Well-Being/dp/1608688763
Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Newsletter: https://courses.mindful.money/email-opt-in
Capture the most important benefit of an advisor – behavioral support – without the 1% fee: https://courses.mindful.money/membership
For more complex, one on one financial planning and investing support with Jonathan or a member of Jonathan’s team: https://www.epwealth.com/our-team/berkeley/jonathan-deyoe/
Jonathan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathandeyoe
Jonathan DeYoe: Hi, uh, there. Welcome back to the Mindful Money podcast. I’m chatting today with Jamie Fiore Higgins. Jamie spent almost 20 years at Goldman Sachs, reaching the pinnacle of the investment banking world as managing director. Only 8% of Goldman Sachs employees get there. She was the highest ranking woman in her department. She ran the trainee and internship programs, was active in the women’s network committee, managed top equity clients with 96 billion in stock. When she couldn’t take in any more of the bs, she left. She started working with teens, hone their leadership skills, college graduates as they began their careers, and professionals as they navigated the workforce, and anyone looking to reinvent themselves, because that’s what she did. She’s the author of Bully Market, my story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs. And I really appreciate her willingness to chat with me here on the, uh, Mindful Money podcast. Jamie, welcome.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Thanks for having me. I love how you added in my bio. Got sick of the bs.
Jonathan DeYoe: Well, it seemed like that’s what it said.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Highly accurate.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, first of all, where do you call home, and where are you connecting.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: From today, I am calling in from a basement in New Jersey. East Coast USA.
Jonathan DeYoe: East Coast USA. How did the floods treat you this last little week? Two weeks?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Very well. Thanks for asking. I will say we have a lot of sump pups going, and we made the investment in an alarm system for said sump pump. So after Sandy, we learned a lot.
Jonathan DeYoe: Good.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: We’re doing all right. Thank you for asking.
Jonathan DeYoe: Did you grow up east coast? Where’d you grow up?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: I did. I’m really a towny. I actually grew up in this home, funny enough.
Jonathan DeYoe: No kidding.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: The basement looks a lot better now the way my dad used it for.
Jonathan DeYoe: His office, I’m sure. So growing up there, what did you learn about money and entrepreneurship?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Growing up?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Growing up as a kid.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah. So I was raised, obviously. Well, not obviously. I was raised by my parents and also my grandmother, who was born in 1905 and lived through the depression. So that really m had an impact on how I thought about money. In fact, there was a holiday, and each one of my aunts gave me $10. She’d put her hand out and say, you can keep 10% of it, and I’m taking the rest. So there was always this view of whatever you have, you have to protect a lot of it, because living through the depression, there was a lot of that. Unfortunately for my dad, his father, my paternal grandfather, committed suicide when my dad was young, when his business dried up. And so for my dad, there was a lot of scarcity, mindset about money and fear about money. And, uh, I’m articulating this so well now, it’s certainly not what I realize as a youth, but now, looking back, I see how so much of my attitudes and relationship with money really comes from those two people.
Jonathan DeYoe: Do you remember any experiences where maybe, um. So you didn’t know your paternal grandfather then?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: No.
Jonathan DeYoe: So do you have any experiences where you were hearing the stories? And I’m just wondering how your beliefs about money were formed. I know there’s the scarcity sort of had an effect. The idea of, you got to save had an effect, but when did that sort of coalesce into your beliefs about money?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So my dad was young when it happened. He was only ten, and it was a very big lifestyle shift for his family. His family had kind of like, gotten out, uh, of the kind of tenement Houses of urban New Jersey for the new immigrants and had gone to a single family home. And then when my grandfather died, they went right back into that. So there was always this message that you never know what’s going to happen. You’re never. And it wasn’t directly told, but it was just the way he talked about. In fact, my dad sadly passed away about a year ago. And a month before he passed away, he was in the hospital, and my mother had bought tickets to a local theater for my kids. And my mom had said to me in front of my father at the hospital, you know, Jamie, you’re going to have to take the kids, because I can’t. And my dad said, what are you talking about? She goes, oh, I bought tickets to the local theater. And he said, angela, we don’t have money for that. And so even though he had accomplished so much, made such good investments, my dad was a financial planner on the like, was very, very smart. There was still that fear. And I think that really fueled my fear to leave a place like Goldman Sachs. And also Goldman Sachs did a very good job of keeping me in my place, too. But so the combination of, uh, the rug can be ripped out from you at any moment. You’re never safe, and, uh, you always have to save your money for that rainy day because you never know. Was kind of the cloud over my life that really created the scarcity mindset. Whereas now I choose to live in one of abundance instead.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Is it that simple to make the choice? I was raised with very little, and I tell this story all the time. I built a company. I sold the company. I’m in good shape, but it still has its hooks. Occasionally. It’s still that fear of it going away. And then two years ago, my brother died. So I saw what happened to his family. And so it’s like, it can go away. It still can go away. Is it a choice, or do you have practices that help you let go of that?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Well, I think for me, that mindset that I kind of inherited from my father and a little bit of my grandfather is what fueled my almost 20 years at Goldman. And then I started seeing what that cost me. And so then it kind of seemed in a different way, like, okay, great, yeah, you’re making money, you’re saving money, but at what cost? What I realize now is you could always make money, but you can’t make more time. And so I had a warped sense of those two resources. That time was know and money was scarce. You could only make this kind of money at Goldman Sachs. What are you out of your mind? Leaving a job like this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And yet it’s the, you know, there’s plenty of opportunities to make money. So I think I had to hit rock bottom in my personal life, and that kind of slapped me awake. And, yes, it’s something you have to constantly work on and also know that you inevitably make choices about what you spend on, what you invest in. Um, and that’s what ultimately, I’m teaching my children now that instead of money driving your car, you’re driving the money car. Does that make sense?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, it does. To know, being in the industry for a long. So let’s, Goldman has popped up a couple of times. Let’s talk about Goldman.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Talk about Goldman.
Jonathan DeYoe: Let’s talk about, so, uh, what did your family think before you started interviewing? And then Goldman pops into the mix. How did that go inside the household?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So it started at the end of my junior year where I took one of those personality tests from my college. And I had always wanted to be a therapist, a social worker. And that’s because I had a lot of health issues in my life, a lot of surgeries. I had very severe scoliosis. I was in hospitals constantly poked, prodded, scanned. And I had the benefit of, uh, a support from a social worker to kind of help me navigate it emotionally. And so it was very clear to me it’s what I wanted to do. The test from the school, the personality test, said, this is what you should do. And it did not go over well in my household. And the view was, your job is to get the best paying job in the most lucrative industry. The message m from my family was, every generation must do better. So my dad grew up in a tenement house. My mom didn’t even grow up with plumbing. And through education and hard work, they pulled themselves up. And now it’s like, well, what are you going to do? What is your next generation going to do? And at the time, I’m the youngest of three. My brother and sister are ten and nine years older than I am. They were professionals in their own right. One was a lawyer, one was a pharmacist. And so they basically said, no. My mom said, you know what? Get a job, make money, and then you could do something like that later on in your life.
Jonathan DeYoe: Did they know what Goldman paid? Did you have a sense what Goldman paid?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Oh no. And they didn’t even say Wall street. They said, you need to make money. And so in 1997, if you wanted to make money, you worked on Wall street. And then from what I heard, if you wanted to work on Wall street, you work at Goldman Sachs. I didn’t even know what Goldman Sachs was. In fact, I went to an event sponsored by them. I thought they were a law firm until like three quarters in. And I was just so enamored with the people there and the women, they were so well spoken. I said, I got to work at Goldman Sachs. And if there’s one thing that’s my character flaw is I love proving people wrong about me. And I remember some people that said, oh, a liberal arts major from a woman’s college, you don’t have a chance of getting a job at Goldman. I said, uh oh, now I got to do it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Because now I got to do it. Exactly.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So I made it my mission to work at Goldman Sachs. I just promised my parents a good paying job. We had no idea. No idea. I had 40 interviews to get the job. 40. And I mention that because a lot of people think it sounds ridiculous, which it kind of is, but for me, I had gotten several job offers that year. And that’s not because I was so amazing. It was because it was 1997, nine, Chennai, and the job market was booming.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: And so I remarked, wow, I got job offers from this company, from that company with only five or six interviews. Goldman must be really special because that’s how particular they are about their people. Right? It kind of gives you this illusion instead of giving this illusion of like, oh my God, they’re like, what do you need to do to prove yourself worthy of this place? It was like, no, they’re so exclusive. Um, and so I got the job and my parents were so proud. Um, and my parents were not ones to brag, but I remember him talking to one of my uncles who was like a successful businessman and was like, jamie got a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. Can you believe it? And I was just so proud that I was making them so proud that me kind of mourning the fact that I couldn’t go and pursue the degree I wanted was just trumped by the pride they had for me. Because even back then, everyone knows Goldman today, but back then, you really didn’t. You really didn’t ended up there. And I had no idea what the money was. I just knew like, the beginning offer was very good, but I had no idea what people made there.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Um, I’m curious. This sounds like they picked me. I can see, like, oh, they picked me through this whole interview process. And my family is so proud. And I’m just going to go in. It’s kind of a honeymoon. So how long does that honeymoon phase last? Until your first sort of experience? Like, wow, this is really not what I thought it was.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Well, funny enough, it didn’t take long. In fact, one of my last interviews, I was a math major at Renmar. And one of my last interviews, they asked me to do the problem, you know, monty hall, the game show problem. And I had written that proof for my senior seminar. And I told them the answer. They told me I was wrong. It was my first taste of gaslighting at Goldman Sachs. And it was so awkward because they were like, no, you’re wrong. And I said, well, you know, with all due respect, I’m right with this answer. And so they sent me home. The woman who was shepherding me through the interviews told me I was so disrespectful to disagree with professionals at Goldman Sachs. Like, clearly they’re right. Clearly I’m wrong. I got home hysterical. I went to the library. I got a book on the math proof. I wrote up the proof. I faxed it to my math professor. That day, I went to TJ Maxx. I bought myself a new suit because I only had one suit, and I was going in the next day, and the next day I got there at 06:00 a.m. And I put the math proof on every desk of the people who said I was wrong, and they never said anything to me. But I got the job the next day, and my grandmother said to me, why would you want to work there? They were terrible to you. And I said, but, grandma, it’s what everybody wants. And I’ll never forget. She said to me, I said, it’s this job offer. I’m making so much money. And she said, I know it’s a lot of money, Jamie, but what’s it going to cost you? And that was kind of like the. I mean, I still got chills when I think about it, the foreboding comment, because sadly, she passed away. She was in her 90s. She passed away only, like, not even a year into my career at Goldman. So really then I knew. But it was this combination of making my parents proud, proving those people wrong, that even despite that, I was like, all in.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow. So what were your peers like at the outset? I mean, how many people were the class that started that same year? How many people were there?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: 150. I was only in one division of many divisions. And I’m not going to suggest that I was the only person who came in without connections, but it became very clear very soon that many of them were must hires. And must hires meant daughter and son of a partner, a managing director, daughter and son of a client. So that first week, I was, um, meeting up with the two new analysts in my area. We were having coffee, and one of my new colleagues almost choked on our coffee when she heard I had 40 interviews because she only had five. And so there was that. And then it was also, I came from New Jersey. I had my suit from TJ Maxx, my shoes from DSW, and these kids were wearing their tailored suits and their high end shoes, and they were in parent funded apartments in the city. I was commuting 2 hours on New Jersey transit from New Jersey. So again, I’m not going to say it was the only one like that, but we definitely felt the minority. And it kind of made me very much feel like an outsider, because not only did I not look the part, but there was almost this language of affluence. They spoke that they could interact with the senior people because they knew about the Broadway shows and they knew about the best clubs and the nicest restaurants. And I just didn’t grow up in that world. We went to outback Steakhouse on Route 22 in New Jersey and we mostly cooked at home. So it definitely made me feel like an outsider. And it happened to me again when a lot of these people, again, because they were grown up in this affluence, a lot of them had managed their own accounts since they were twelve.
Jonathan DeYoe: So they knew about money.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: They knew money, they knew money. And I’ll never forget one of the guys said, oh Jamie, you don’t know a stock from a rock. You’ll never make it here. And then part of me was like, oh yeah, now I got to make it here because I have to prove you wrong. And so ironically, that kind of outsider feeling almost fueled me to want to prove them wrong and be successful.
Jonathan DeYoe: So that’s the beginning. And you lasted 18 years. So give us kind of a sketch of those 18 years and just a few snippets, stories of things that have happened in that period of time. And then we’ll talk about sort of the big, like the end.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So I started off working really hard. They used to call me Philo, first in, last out, because I would get there before everyone leave, after everyone just work really hard. And again, this was also encouraged by my family because it was like, put your nose to the grindstone, get in with the good companies, I’ll take care of you for life. This is called work, not fun. Of course it’s going to be hard. So I had that kind of pressure from my parents. I was very entrepreneurial, very scrappy. I picked up all the accounts that no one else wanted that they were too good for. And I started making some inroads. And the first big aha. Moment was my first year at Goldman. I made more than my parents ever had. And that was like, oh my God. And it was such a weird thing because my parents were so proud of me. But then I realized this is really an opportunity to really make money. This isn’t just some good job. My parents at this point, my gosh, they were in their 50s, right? And so I was recognized. I was scrappy, I was working hard. I really tried to stay out of the nonsense going on. I was surrounded by a lot of nonsense, crude jokes, porn left on my desk, all this stuff. They used to call me Sister Jamie because I would turn beat red and in know they actually turned my women’s college experience on its head. Because when I would react and say, like, this is really gross and inappropriate, they’d be like, this is how Wall street rolls. You’ve been brainwashed at that crazy women’s college. This is the real world, Jamie. So part of me believed it because I did go to this know, feminist college. So anyway, I was recognized, I was promoted, and that’s when there really started being a shift, because I realized I did well at first because I have a really good head for numbers. I have a work ethic. Like, I was first and last out, and I was really good with my clients. But what I realized at this pinnacle part of my career when I was like five to seven years in, is what really gets you catapulted at Goldman is keeping your mouth shut. And that’s really when I realized that in order to succeed, I had to be complicit in this very toxic, negative environment. And that’s when the rubber really met the road that, uh, I was making a lot of money then. I was breaching seven figures. I was making my family so proud, I was blowing their minds. I mean, even my big brother and sister were like, oh, my gosh. And then I had kids of my own, and it was like, what is the risk versus the reward here? And so at, uh, my personal detriment, at the detriment of my marriage, at the detriment of my friendships, at the detriment of my relationships with my kids and my parents, I just bought into the lifestyle.
Jonathan DeYoe: Did they know what it was costing you? Did your family know about what was going on in the office? Did you share any of that? Because they know how much you made. But do they know the negative side?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: To an extent, yes. But I was literally there. I mean, I would get up every morning at 04:00 a.m. I get to the office by six. At best, I’d get home by eight or nine. But mostly I was out with clients getting home at midnight, and I worked on a training desk. So quite honestly, there really wasn’t time to, uh, really share. I mean, don’t get me wrong. They knew I was in with working with a bunch of sexist pigs, blah, blah, blah. I don’t think they realized how much of a toll it was taking on me. And especially after September 11, that’s when it really started getting worse. And I ended up like, after September 11, I was so afraid to go back to work physically afraid for my safety, that I went to a doctor and the doctor prescribed me Xanax. And then I ended up. I used to take Xanax, like, once in a while. I was taking it all day long just to get through my day, because that’s how shredded I was. I was just a nervous wreck all the time, because in order to be successful, I had to put up and shut up. And what I realized was over time, that when you’re constantly living against your values, when you’re constantly feeling like you’re acting opposite in concert of what your gut says, it just takes its toll. And I don’t think they realize to the extent, certainly my husband did at the end because we almost got a divorce over it, but I don’t think my parents really knew. And again, this was, like, such security for my entire family to be able to make this money.
Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, I don’t want to say it’s, like, entrapment, but it’s like, if you are raised with nothing and you’re given everything, then you’re like, well, maybe this is just the cost of that. This is just what I’m supposed to deal with. But there’s also people that have done really well and don’t have to deal with that. So I’m, uh, curious. Somewhere along the line, I think this is an interview you did. You said somewhere along the line, you felt your own sense of moral clarity slipping away. Can you describe that?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah. So, I mean, it really started for me. I get promoted, and I’m feeling empowered now. I’m really making money. I’m getting recognized. And it first started when some of the women, I became, like, the poster child for the goldman woman. I was married. I had kids. I was on track to be a managing director. And so they would confine to me and stuff that was happening, and I would say to them, I would talk to my manager and be like, so and so feels uncomfortable. So and so feels like they’re being passed up on opportunities, and it was like, oh, they’re just drama queens, Jamie. Do you really want to fight with them? Do you really want to fight for them? Because then you know what? You might be one of them, too. I’ll never forget going to bat for.
Jonathan DeYoe: This one woman that was overt, that was stated. You don’t want to fight for them because you’ll have to fight for your own position, too.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah, it’s like, why are you helping them? You need to help out yourself, number one. And then one time, I made a really big stank, and it was like, okay, well, if you want to get her paid, I can just take it out of your bonus. I’ll just transfer the money right over. And then as a new manager, I had a whole new team working for me. And again, I was so excited. I was getting promoted. And now a bunch of men were working for me, most of them older than I was. And one of the guys working for me, it was a whole mess of a thing. But basically he was having an affair with one of our clients, which is, as you can imagine, completely inappropriate. I heard about it. I raised it. This guy was protected. I always joke that he had something better than a 4.0, um, from Harvard. He was a scratch golfer, and he got all the goldman big wigs on all the golf courses across the country and in Europe. So my partner said to me, the guy I worked for, listen, we’re not getting rid of the guy, but just take him off the account, move accounts. This was a very big account he covered. So at the end of the day, on a Friday, I pulled him aside to tell him. Now, I was very diplomatic about it. Instead of just swapping his client, I moved everyone’s accounts because I didn’t want him to feel like he was being signaled. Pulled him out, uh, into an office on a Friday afternoon, because you always send tough messages on a Friday afternoon. And I told him that his accounts were moving. It’s like he snapped. And he just lunged at me, threw the account coverage, threw it at my face, crumbled up in a ball, threw it at my face, pinned me against the wall, grabbed me by my throat, told me he was going to rip my bleeping face off. I couldn’t believe it. It was just like, I felt like being one of those hostage situations, like a movie that you see. And so I tried to calm him down and said, oh, well, we can talk about this. There’s no need to get so upset. Whatever. He let go of me, ran out the door. And so I had the weekend to kind of talk to my husband about it, talk about things. I walked in Monday morning and I told my partner about it, and he said, I am not getting rid of him, and you can go to HR and make a complaint, but I am not getting rid of him. And he’s going to remain working for you. So imagine how hard it will be to manage him after he knows you went to HR. So guess what? I didn’t do anything. And so all those actions over time, constantly doing the wrong thing. I have a laundry list of things that I did. It just continued to eat away at who I was, to the point where I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. And I felt like the only valuable thing about me was my ability to bring in money. That was the only thing I offered.
Jonathan DeYoe: This say? I’d say that’s the only thing you offered Goldman. But the world thinks.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: But that’s the rub. Um, too Goldman. So remember I talk about the pressure I felt from my family. Right?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Uh, but it’s goldman, too. I mean, from that first, you, you mentioned earlier, you probably felt lucky. I felt like Charlie bucket. I felt like I had just gotten a golden ticket to the chocolate factory. And from the first day they said, getting a job at Goldman Sachs is harder than getting into harvard.
Jonathan DeYoe: Mhm.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So thank your lucky stars you did something right. And Goldman constantly says, you’re nothing without us. You’re nothing without our name. You’re nothing without our money. In fact, even when people left Goldman to go to better things, they were berated on the way out. You’re out of your mind leaving us. You’ll never be successful anywhere else. So I really did think that my only path to success financially was through Goldman. I believe their lies. I mean, it was like this big Jedi mind f.
Jonathan DeYoe: And I had it.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: From coming at both sides. So in some ways, I was like the perfect person to fall for this crazy world.
Jonathan DeYoe: I love the pop reference. That’s awesome. Goldman, obviously, or perhaps obviously, when they read your book, they basically came out and said, we disagree with everything that she says. I’m, um, curious if any of your colleagues have come out since and said, yeah, that was kind of how it was. You’re right, we were bad. Anyone say, you know what? I’m sorry. I was part of it. It was ugly. Right. So have you gotten corroboration or have you gotten some kind of, uh, catharsis out of it all?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Absolutely. So I’ve heard from women, the ones I didn’t go to bat for, who have kind of said, I’m happy for you, but remember, you didn’t help me. And I own it because I kept my mouth shut to say my own hide. It’s just true. I’ve heard from women who have said, oh, my gosh, you have allowed me to see my career in a whole new context. I always thought it was me. It was really them. It was really the structure they set up. I’ve heard from men who have said, I’m so sorry. I didn’t look up enough and say, knock it off. Like, I realize now my silence may be complicit in the whole thing. Um, and I’ve heard from a lot of my clients, I’ve heard a lot from my clients. I joke that Goldman was almost this dysfunctional neighborhood. Like we were in a neighborhood and we were this dysfunctional family. But the house looked great, right? The lawn was manicured. Everything looked clean. And I always joked that my clients are like my neighbor’s kids. Literally. So many of my clients reach out and be like, I had a sense something was off. I had a sense things weren’t what they seemed. But you always made it sound like things were great, and they were like, I’m so sorry you had to go through. You know, you really kept the tough upper lip. But there was always part of me that thought maybe Goldman wasn’t as shiny as they made it out to be. Because at Goldman, there’s a shroud of silence there.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yep, for sure.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Protect the firm you keep. You know, you make it seem like it’s one way, even though it’s so different inside. And I really bought into that silence.
Jonathan DeYoe: I was never part of Goldman, uh, and I was never in New York doing this. But I started off at Morgan in San Francisco in also 1990. 719 90 619 97. In the late 90s, we didn’t have anywhere near the prestige of Goldman. We didn’t make anywhere near the same kind of money that someone at Goldman made. But everything you said rings completely and totally true to me. Like, it all happened here. They told you you couldn’t do it without us. I was at seven different firms in five years before I finally set up my own practice. And they tell you, you can’t do it alone. You can’t do it without us. You need our name. You’re nothing. It’s constantly that’s, you’re berated with this. And while next to you in the cubicle, people are having sex or being horrible to their assistants, or while all the management, all the executives are men and all the assistants are women. And that’s just the structure of, I think, not just Goldman, but Wall Street, 100%. I don’t think it’s changed much. I mean, a little bit, maybe on the margin, 5%. Right. Um, tell us about your spreadsheet of freedom. And finally, I think you kind of told us that. Finally speaking out. But tell us about that spreadsheet of freedom.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah. So I love to say that my epiphany came organically, that I realized this place wasn’t for me. It’s really because my husband caught me cheating and said, if you don’t knock this crap off, I’m out of here. And so what I realized in retrospect was living constantly against your values takes its toll. So I ended up taking Xanax like tic tacs. I ended up drinking too much. I ended up going out too much. And enter this guy I worked with more senior than I. I mean, it’s such a cliche, but I had three kids at home. My husband was stressed because he was doing the majority of the child rearing. I was resentful that I wasn’t seeing the kids. He was resentful. And here’s this guy who would mentor me, take me out to drinks and tell me how wonderful I was. And it was like I was right for the picking. And so I’d like to say that I figured it out on my own, but at the prospect of losing the real stuff, that’s important. My husband, my relationship with my children. I said, I got to get out of here. But Goldman was like an addiction. And even though I was never frivolous with my money, right, I knew better than that. I was raised by a woman who lived through the know. I was frivolous with my time because I burned so much time there. But I couldn’t just walk away cold turkey. It was almost like I was addicted to the prestige. I was addicted to making my family proud. I was addicted to saying I was Jamie from know. And so I said to my husband, let’s make a plan and made a spreadsheet. And I called it my spreadsheet of freedom. And I say this knowing that I’m coming from a total position of privilege when I say this, but I think that this can be applied to anybody at any time. But I literally said, okay, what do I really need and what’s really important? And luckily for me, it wasn’t like I was ever into the shoes or the clothes or whatever. In fact, when my book came out and I went on the today show and my girlfriend’s like, could you please go to Nordstrom to get a decent pair of shoes? I was like, no, I’m going to DSW, thank you very much. And so I wore my DSW shoes on the Today show. So it’s not like it was that, but it was just being afraid and believing Goldman’s lies that I would never be anything without them. And so I literally just didn’t. Accounting, what do we really need? What do we really want to achieve? How can I walk away from this experience and say I did the right thing by my family, my family of origin and the family I was building? And so it was just this rudimentary spreadsheet about, like, retirement savings and college savings for my kids and health care, because I would have to be underwriting health care now and all that kind of stuff. And we literally put a number on it, and we put a clock on the field, and that was it. And ironically, while the clock was going, I had another kid, which you could argue could really change the counting of it. And I said, I’m still leaving. And you know what? I never sweated about money since. And it’s really because money is like a mindset. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We all have to work, and we all have to be productive, and we should want to work and want to be productive, right? Like, we need purpose in our lives. But I realize now that it’s like, you can make money anywhere. No, not Goldman money. Not Goldman money. But I don’t need Goldman money. And so even with my clients who feel like they’re in a job they don’t want, it’s really, let’s really break this down. Let’s take the emotion out of it and just take it, like, the bottom line. Like, can you afford to leave? Let’s do the accounting. And a lot of times, I think people create in their mind more things that are really happening in reality. And something as rudimentary as a spreadsheet to really put down what you’ve accomplished and what you want to accomplish, really. Ironically, a spreadsheet, which you would think is kind of limiting in its calculus, is actually freeing.
Jonathan DeYoe: Totally.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: See what the opportunities really are, and you see how your mindset can be warped sometimes.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I have a boot camp. That’s all. The whole point of the boot camp is to figure out you’re enough. Like, what is enough? And once you know what that is, why worry about anything else? Just enough. That’s all you need is enough. You don’t need more. You need enough.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: You need enough. You need enough. Because guess what? That opens you up to all these other possibilities. It takes the idea of money as being, like, something you have to toil for to be like, there’s a lot of opportunities to be successful and make money.
Jonathan DeYoe: Totally. Yeah. I’m curious. You’ve gone through this sort of massive two, like, going there and then leaving there, two really massive personal transitions. I’m wondering if people, young women in college, reach out to you since the book has been published and say, I’m really thinking about joining a Wall street firm. What do you think? And then if they do, what do you tell them?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So that actually happened in fact, I did a talk at Columbia University about a year ago. And then over winter break, one of those students called me and know I’m working at Goldman. I’m starting in July. And I just read your book and I don’t want to. I said, no, no, that’s not the answer. The answer is you should go. But to me, I feel like a couple things. Number one, when I first started working at Goldman, their tagline was minds wide open. We want anybody. We want all the backgrounds, we want all the experiences and opinions. And that couldn’t have been further from the truth because the only reason why I was successful was because I towed the party line. I say to these women, go in with your eyes wide open. Know exactly what you might encounter and be prepared for it and know how you’re also, you know, part of my problem and my relationship with Goldman was that I became so enamored with my identity. I talked about I loved being Jamie at Goldman because I made it sound like I believed, Goldman made me believe that my success as Jamie, uh, at Goldman had to do with Goldman, but it actually had to do with Jamie. And so I say to the young women I’m working with is like, think about yourself as the CEO of your own career. Maybe you’re working at Goldman, you’re contracting through Goldman, and you get to decide. And so I often work with these women on their kind of career pie of life. And there’s an economic part, there’s a passion part, and there’s a flexibility part. Right? And those all can be dialed up and dialed down. So for example, this one woman at Columbia said, I got to make some money because I have a lot of student debt. Okay? So right now your pie might be more money, and you’re going to sacrifice some flexibility and you’re going to sacrifice some passion. But here’s the most important thing. You can redesign that anytime. Because what’s going to make you successful at Goldman, you will take out when you walk out the door. I didn’t realize that when I left Goldman, I thought all those goodies that made Jamie from Goldman so kick ass, I left at my desk. But the truth was I didn’t. It was always with me. So I think that’s the most important part, that people know their value.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, Goldman wants to hire.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: There’s nothing wrong to say I’m taking a Wall street job to just make money for a couple of years. Go for it. Just know that you can always change that.
Jonathan DeYoe: Take that skill and go and shop it on the street. Someplace else. Uh, so that’s the advice for the individual that might come to you and maybe joining Goldman and may not be comfortable. What can we do about the industry? I mean, we touched on this a second ago saying that leadership positions, executive roles are all held by men. Misogyny is rampant. How do we fix the industry itself?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So I think it’s a top down or a bottom.
Jonathan DeYoe: I have a feeling we have a glitch.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah. Uh, can you hear me?
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay, I can hear you. Did you get my question?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: I think I did. But you started to glitch. But I think I got it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Let me ask it again just so the recording will be held in the background. You just answer the question. When somebody comes to you as an individual and you’ve given them good advice about what to do when they join a firm like Goldman, what do we do about the industry? I mean, what do we do with the misogyny? What do we do with, how do we make it so there’s more women in leadership, there’s more women that. So it is safer for women to be part of the industry. And not just women. Anyone that’s minority.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Anybody who feels othered is really what it is.
Jonathan DeYoe: One that doesn’t look like me.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: That’s right. But I will tell you though, I will tell you, I talk about in my book one of my good friends who does look like you. And he was also marginalized because he didn’t want to go to the strip clubs that night. He wanted to see his kids. So it’s really kind of a war on anybody who doesn’t espouse those values. But yes, of course, more so when you don’t look like the person in the office.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Uh, listen, over 50% of college graduates are women today. Goldman’s been hiring 50% women for years. Something is happening structurally, something is happening structurally. And until these firms marry their wonderful goals of, um, we believe in equality, blah, blah, blah, they need to marry those wonderful sound bites with actionable steps. And I think in order to do that, you need a curiosity and you need a humility. Now, I am still waiting for David Solomon to ask me for coffee. It hasn’t happened yet. I will be happy to go when he does. But that in and of know, it’s like my book comes out and I’m just talking about Goldman right now. We know this is a Goldman beyond wall street problem. In May, Goldman just settled a class action lawsuit with 2000 women that has been going on for 18 years. So what more do you need to know that there’s a problem here. But to me, without the curiosity, humility, nothing is going to happen. Because with curiosity and humility, you say, okay, I might be missing something here. Let me really look into what’s going on. We hire 50% women, but we have less than 20 in our highest levels. Where do they go? I think a lot of people say, oh, they want to have kids. That’s not where they go. They go because they don’t feel supported. And they go because they don’t see them having a pipeline. You can’t be it if you can’t see it when you go onto these training desks and all you see are white guys in the offices. By definition, that is sending you a message that you don’t belong, know. So I really think they have to put programs in place to address it and have accountability. If Goldman Sachs wants ex market share in any one business, and they announce the directive and announce the goal, and someone’s in charge of it and they don’t meet it, guess what happens to that person? They get fired or they don’t.
Jonathan DeYoe: Consequence.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: There’s a consequence. There are no consequences around these goals. They’re just lofty bullet points. Oh, we said it was important to us. Show me how it’s important to you. And show me that someone’s head is going to roll if it doesn’t happen.
Jonathan DeYoe: And even if a head doesn’t roll, you could tie compensation to it. Why is that bonus tied to that instead of just making money? Right. I understand why bonus is tied to making money. But you can have other KPIs. Uh, right. You can have other things that you tie bonuses to.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: And it’s ironic because Goldman did say, I believe in 2020, they would only take companies public that had at least one diverse member on their board. That’s awesome. Why can’t we do something like that internally? And I think until someone puts pressure on them to do it, either the shareholders or their peers, um, that’s what really needs to be done. I did a great talk at a company in the spring. Not a Wall street firm, a marketing company. And the CEO said, I think we’re okay with corporate culture. But I’m bringing Jamie in because I want you to know that this is that important to me, that I want to have this conversation. I cannot tell you how many times I have been invited to speak at companies and uninvited.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Because they’re afraid of Goldman, or they’re afraid that they’re going to piss off their clients. So it’s like this happens to so many people, but yet, uh, people are so afraid to talk about it. And if we can’t have hard conversations, how can we even think about solving it? So that’s what I think needs to happen from a top down. And until that happens, I’m working from the bottom up with every single person. One at a time.
Jonathan DeYoe: One at a time. Yeah, I think that’s for the time being at least. It looks like that’s the limitation. So there’s no doubt Wall Street, Goldman specifically, can be very lucrative to an individual. Starting off make a huge, as it did for you, a huge financial difference for an entire family. So let’s just pretend for a second. You’re on a plane, you’re on a cross country trip, there’s a woman who sits next to you. Oh, you’re Jamie. Uh, you wrote this book. Great. All this, you tell the story, she hears it. She’s just taken a job as an analyst at Goldman or any of the larger venture firms or big bank firms. What is one thing that you would suggest that she focus on that would help her succeed personally and professionally? And then uh, what is one thing that she may be thinking about that you would tell her to stop thinking about?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Listen, professionally it’s hard work. There’s nothing wrong being philo, being the first and last out. Right? Like over deliver, work hard, become a master at ah, what your business, that’s, that’s uh, the professional for the personal side. Get support outside the organization. My biggest thing was I had a mentor at Goldman. We don’t need internal mentors. We need internal sponsors. We need internal sponsors who are going to make connections, open doors, make introductions. We need external mentors that you can really talk to and break apart situations. If I had an external mentor who could help me see what was going on and what wasn’t through kind of clearer eyes, I had my little like Goldman rose colored glasses. So work hard, be a subject matter expert professionally, personally, have that mentor. One thing I would say, it is not your business what anyone else thinks about you in terms of the one thing to stop. You have to do it your way. Right? I feel like the best way to make inroads anywhere is to bring your unique skill set. I think it’s very easy to become a lemming at these big organizations to kind of soften your edges so you assimilate. My advice is look at those differences as almost a way to continue to differentiate yourself. Obviously you’re in an organization. There are some things you kind of have to do in terms of general professionalism but I wish someone had said to me, you know, Jamie, the fact that you were a math major and not an econ major from Penn, that’s a super skill. I used to think it was something to be embarrassed of. So to me, it’s kind of turning on the head how you’re different and using that to exploit rather than hide.
Jonathan DeYoe: So tell us what you’re working on right now.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: So now, I love kind of having conversations like this. So I wrote the book. I really never thought I’d write a book about it. It just kind of happened. I really wrote it for myself initially, and then it kind of became so much more. But tying into what I said earlier about how people are so afraid to talk about it, it makes me want to scream it from the rooftops even more. So, any opportunity to talk about these conversations. I’m doing a workshop this fall for women in the workplace. I, uh, am an executive coach that works with individuals one on one, mostly women, some men. So for me, it’s kind of any opportunity to have these tough conversations, either in groups or one on one, to help people navigate these very difficult situations, I’m all up for. So whether it be through speaking, through sitting on awesome podcasts like this, through my executive coaching, all with the North Star of, uh, helping workplaces be more equitable. And like I said, haven’t been invited by Goldman yet. But working with individuals and working with small groups, we all have our place in improving workplaces. We have to learn to advocate for ourselves better. But we also, as one guy said to me, you know, Jamie, I don’t look up enough. I don’t say, knock it off. Know the curiosity. Uh, I’m talking about that I love the c suite to have. I think we all need to have it a little more. Are we paying attention to who’s speaking up in a meeting and who’s not? And being curious about it and asking why? And stop minding your own business. Right. Uh, look up a little bit more and see things in a different way. I feel like we’re so myopic sometimes. And so I feel like, working with my clients, I help them, but then by helping them, they’re also helping others because they’re just getting more aware.
Jonathan DeYoe: So just before you, um, wrap, we talk about all the stuff, and I’d like to come back to the personal here at the end. So what was the last thing you changed your mind about?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: My, um, last thing? Oh, my God. I change my mind all the time.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s a great sign, by the way.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: I know I change my mind constantly. What’s the last thing I changed my mind about? I want to say the last thing I changed my mind about is, I would say, stopping drinking. I changed my mind on alcohol consumption recently.
Jonathan DeYoe: Meaning you were drinking and then you stopped, or you had stopped and you started again.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah, I stopped. I recently changed my opinion on drinking. Yes.
Jonathan DeYoe: Not just reduction.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: No, I stopped. I’m stopping drinking. And for a couple of reasons, I guess, for me, what I’m getting more. A lot of times now when I’m changing my mind, and I think this kind of applies to a lot of times, I am filtering through what serves me and my family a lot more. And so I change my mind a lot based on the question of how is this serving me and the people I love? And so, most recently, I decided alcohol consumption isn’t serving me anymore. I don’t metabolize it well. I end up becoming cranky the next day, which doesn’t serve me with all the things I want to do and how I want to be as a spouse, as a daughter, as a parent. But I would say, in general, I’m using that filter I actually bought myself. What’s it called? Like, a calendar, a little sifter, have it on my wall to say, if I filter this through, how is this serving me and the people I love? And so when I’m asked to do stuff, I look at it and I say, how is it serving me? And I change my mind a lot now around that.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s awesome. It’s a good north star, right? Uh. How does it serve my family? How does it serve the people I love?
Jamie Fiore Higgins: And I have nothing against alcohol. It just doesn’t serve.
Jonathan DeYoe: I get it. Not, uh. It’s not for you. It’s personal. So, is there anything that people don’t know about you or maybe just don’t remember? Maybe you’ve told them that you really want them to know.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Yeah. For me, my kind of big takeaway is there isn’t an expiration date for opportunity. Meaning I decided to write this book in my. Wrote it in 30 minutes increments. I wrote it in the car line. I wrote it in the doctor’s office. I wrote it at the soccer field. And I realize we often have self limiting beliefs on what we can do. And who am I? A math major. I don’t have an mfA. I was an english major. A lot of people would say, I have no business writing a book. But I realize so much of what we limit ourselves in is our own head. So to me, it’s like, for the people out there who maybe are over 40, don’t limit yourself. There’s always an opportunity to change and grow. You are not too old. You are not too old.
Jonathan DeYoe: What is the car line when you.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: Pick up your kids?
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay. At, uh, school. At school.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: I used to get to the car line at the elementary school. Got you. My infant would fall asleep in the back and I’d write my book.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Okay.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: It’s never too late. It’s never too late to try something new. And don’t let anyone tell you you have no business to do it. Like, I’m proof positive that that’s.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. I love it. Just one last comment. When you’re at the soccer field, though, you have to be watching the kids play. You have to watch them play. Like maybe half time you write your book. Maybe when they’re warming up, you write your book. But while they’re playing, you got to watch.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: When my son was playing baseball, if he wasn’t in the field and not at bat, I would write, okay, that’s fair.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s fair. Not playing. That’s fair. Jamie, I want to say thanks so much for coming on. I’m going to make sure all this stuff is in the show notes. I don’t think I have a link to the workshop that you’re putting on. Send me a link and I’ll make sure we include that in the show notes. But this has been great. I appreciate it, Jamie.
Jamie Fiore Higgins: It’s been awesome. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.