Get to Know Monica Harris Susel

How did you become interested in The Associated’s Jewish Professional Women (JPW)?

I was introduced to JPW through my good friend Robin Belsky. In March 2019, Robin was chairing the “Letters to My Younger Self” event, her brainchild program featuring a panel of professional women sharing their letters filled with guidance and reflection on successes and pitfalls in their personal and professional lives. Not only did I enjoy the program’s content, but I was delighted to see so many women of different ages and different professions attend. I subsequently attended the annual JPW LeadHERship event in June, which was terrific, and was again astounded by the tremendous turnout. I realized that there is a large population of like-minded, Jewish women of different professional backgrounds who come together for discourse, dialogue and networking. I knew then that I wanted to be involved with JPW. I joined as a committee member for the 2019-2020 session and continue as a committee member this past 2020-2021 session.

Monica Susel & family
Monica with her husband, Steve, and kids, Sasha and Zachary. 

I realized that there is a large population of like-minded, Jewish women of different professional backgrounds who come together for discourse, dialogue and networking. I knew then that I wanted to be involved with JPW.

If someone is interested in JPW, what should they know?

I would highlight the expansive scope of JPW. Rather than catering to one type of professional or distinct industries, we have members and event attendees who are employed by global corporations, are solo practitioners, are consultants, or run a business out of their home. They may be seasoned executives or newly employed, and represent the medical, legal, financial services, real estate, sales, non-profit, and social media/marketing sectors, among others. There are also women who are not currently working, but who are interested in re-entering the work force and find value in the content, guidance and networking components of our programs. JPW is a certainly a great way to bring together career-minded women who are interested in empowering themselves through community engagement and professional connections.

How has the pandemic affected your profession – good or bad?

Broadly speaking, I think the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on professions depending on the sector. I am an attorney and compliance professional in the financial services sector and handle regulatory compliance and the anti-money laundering program for a global alternative investment manager. The pandemic is clearly driving marketing volatility, so investment managers have had to be nimble in how, for example, they run their investment operations and rebalance their portfolios. The pandemic has also hastened the rise of new focal points, such as impact investing, which hones in on societal and environmental considerations ahead of financial gain. While the financial services sector has sustained its share of job losses, I think it is an industry that has the both the capability and resources to pivot rather quickly, so relatively speaking, the pandemic has probably affected my profession less than others.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a staff attorney at a regional brokerage firm in New Jersey (I’m originally from New Jersey). I worked on regulatory matters, trade desk issues, as well as arbitration and litigation. But eager to be in “the” financial center, I got a job at a larger financial firm in New York City, worked down by Wall Street and moved to Manhattan. I often look back on my early career to see my path and trajectory, both professionally and personally, and September 11, 2001 stands out clearly in my memory. My office building was across the street from the World Trade Center, and I watched in utter horror and dismay as the second plane hit. Evacuating the area, I was four blocks away when the towers fell and was covered in dust and debris. That day started the wheels in motion when a few months later, a former colleague reached out to me about a new job, which was located here in Baltimore. I moved to Baltimore, met my husband six weeks later and the rest, as they say, is history.

What is your dream job?

This question made me chuckle because when I was younger, I thought it would be exciting and interesting to be a photo-journalist, but being quite practical, I realized the nomadic lifestyle was not my thing. I can sum this up by saying that my dream job is one where I can cultivate solid relationships with business constituents and colleagues, make substantive contributions and bring value to my employer, work on challenging business initiatives that arise due to an ever-evolving global regulatory landscape, have opportunities to implement practical solutions, foster cross-functional and cross-cultural collaborations, as well as manage and mentor more junior professionals. I feel very fortunate to be in that type of role at this time.

What is the best professional advice you have received?

Embrace a strong work ethic and take pride in your work; don’t just go through the motions and put in the minimum amount of effort to tick the “done” box. Be receptive to constructive criticism; it’s a gift to you to make yourself better. Professional development is not always linear, and sometimes you must take one step back or sideways to move two steps ahead. Be tenacious and persistent, while being a nice person, too!

What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in the finance sector? 

I would advise that individual to conduct external research to understand what it is about a particular role or sector that appeals to him/her, as well as internal research to identify what his/her strengths and capabilities are and how they align with the role. Delve into professional social media platforms like LinkedIn to forge connections and expand your network, particularly in his/her field of interest, and to be proactive in outreach. Finally, be informed; stay abreast of news and developments that can be professionally impactful and relevant.

What’s the first thing you want to do when the world opens? 

Visit my parents and brother, all of whom live in New Jersey and New York, greet them with an unmasked smile and give them each a hug that tells them how much I love them and how much I missed them during this surreal and difficult pandemic.

What restaurant will you be making a reservation for when it’s safe to dine in? 

We’ve become so acclimated to making weekly menus at home since last March that the prospect of dining in at a restaurant hasn’t even registered. But if I had to choose, probably The Food Market in Hampden.

Where do you want to/travel to when restrictions are lifted?

This has been a frequent topic of conversation with my husband and kids, as we are dedicated travelers and love the experiences that exposure to different countries, cultures, foods, and ways of life brings us. We’ve been fortunate to travel around Europe in Switzerland, England, Spain and

France, in Peru (I’m half Peruvian!), Costa Rica, and especially countries like Dubai, Hong Kong and China. We have a long list, but top of that list are Singapore and Japan, followed by combined trip to Israel and Dubai (particularly now that those countries have diplomatic relations). 

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