John Belle is a Senior Vice President at Macquarie Capital, the corporate advisory, capital solutions and investing arm of Macquarie Group and has over a decade of experience in the investment banking industry. We spoke to John a few weeks ago about his career beginnings, mentorship, and professional growth philosophies.
As our working climate continues to change, it’s important to cultivate career resiliency: new skill sets and mental models for adapting to this unpredictable landscape. After the COVID-19 spike, Jopwell witnessed new and abrupt changes to our members resulting from consolidated teams, pivoted careers, and adapted home lives.
In 2021, our community and partners have been reflecting on how to be more proactive and maintain control over the trajectories of career growth. John shares the importance of inter-workplace networking, that is investing in and developing professional relationships at all stages of your career, reflecting “I would say that I don’t know if I would be in the position I am in currently or if I would have had the same opportunities if I did not establish and develop my relationships with my mentors.”
In a candid discussion with John, we speak about his unique journey to Macquarie, how he’s built a long-lasting career in the investment banking industry, and how networking from within has earned him significant opportunities to advance his career. “The most authentic and meaningful mentorship relationships initially start professionally, but should develop into a friendship over time,” John recalls, citing his Macquarie connection with a mentor that he has had since early in his career. Continue reading more to hear from John!
John: This was the position I had before joining Macquarie, but when I landed the Chief Operating Officer position, I was in my early 30s. The role was as the COO of the investment banking division of a global financial services firm. I remember thinking to myself, “wait a minute, I shouldn’t have this job.” But I felt like the person in the interview explained what the role entailed, and I felt like I could do it. After having 10 years of experience in investment banking previously, I knew I had the financial knowledge and foundation from an analytical perspective to do well; the apprehension came on the operational experience. That said, I had to be okay with knowing that there would be times where I didn’t know what I was doing. I believe that if you’re smart, work hard, and (this is important) know how to ask the right questions to gain a real understanding of something you may not initially, you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. The best career advice that I’ve been given is “always work at a level above you.” As a Senior Vice President, I try to work and set goals for myself that are at the Managing Director level. When the time comes where I’m up for the promotion, it won’t be a problem because I’m already doing the job.
John: My best piece of advice is to truly exhaust your network, whether that’s friends, alumni from the college you attended, alumni from where you currently work, etc., and be very persistent. Know what you want to get out of the discussions ahead of time and be upfront about it. Finally, do your research on the person you’re networking with, the company that they work for, and how they can be most helpful to you. Most people want to help, but it’s on you to tell (and sometimes convince) them on how and why they can and should do that…then make sure to follow up.
John: Mentorship has been essential for my career development. I don’t think that I would be where I am today if I hadn’t had the mentors that I’ve had throughout my career. My mentor since the beginning of my career and I continue to work together to this day at Macquarie. It’s interesting because you never know how the people you meet will have an impact on your professional life two, five and in my case even ten plus years down the line. It’s important to find (and earn really) a mentor that will truly be an advocate and champion for your career. Mentorship is about advice and preparation, but it’s not only about that. It’s also about having someone that will look out for you and if possible, make sure that when it’s time for a promotion, to be an advocate for you. As a Black man on Wall Street, where there are so few of us, having that support system is invaluable.
John: Working alongside my mentor has allowed me to learn and experience first-hand what it takes to be a great investment banker. Our relationship’s progression has been interesting because it initially started with me working for him in the traditional junior-senior banker way. Now that I’ve become more senior myself and we’ve executed multiple deals together, the dynamic of our relationship has morphed into more of a partnership where we pursue client opportunities and solve client problems together. Working within a smaller team is great because communication is so easy and fluid. In my experience, flat teams are just more productive and efficient. Smaller teams foster an environment where all team members believe they have a voice and their opinion matters; having that diversity and openness of thought and ideas breeds innovation.
Macquarie has made it its mission to prioritize personal development within the organization, emphasizing employees’ skill development to fuel the entrepreneur from within and build leadership qualities. Macquarie is currently looking for diligent and passionate individuals with an interest in finance. Check out the open roles at Macquarie here.