Natasha Ansell on her career in the Banking sector interviews Natasha Ansell, Managing Director, Head of Public Sector EMEA, Investment Banking at Citi.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I tend to see challenges as opportunities. You can't win all the time: indeed, the ability to learn from your mistakes is key to the winning mentality.

What are the rewarding aspects of a career in your industry?

Constant intellectual development combined with extensive interaction with others - both inside and outside of work.

What do you do to ensure you get a break at the weekends?

I try to apply the same discipline to my personal calendar as I do at work. I block out my diary with very special events, but I’m not always able to make them. Fortunately, I have a very understanding husband and family who respect my choices and are proud of my achievements. To help me switch off, I’ve taken up a few sports including marathon running and horse riding. Sometimes things do get under your skin – and it’s good to sweat them out!

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Stay calm. And don't try to do everything at once.

What have you had to sacrifice/risk to get to the position you have?

I don't get enough sleep and I neglect my personal life somewhat as there are never enough hours in the day. But these things don’t feel like sacrifices, because I truly love what I do.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A marine biologist. I was fascinated as a child with Jules Verne's novels, especially 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I pursued that passion through high school and graduated with distinction from college, specialising in Biology. However, my parents convinced me to take a more practical route, and I ended up with a degree in International Finance. I’ve got no regrets.

What differences do you believe being a woman has made to your career?

Despite it being 2010, there are still plenty of challenges to being a professional woman. It’s not easy to develop the same level of trust and understanding with your seniors - who are mainly men – and you need to convince them to give you an opportunity. However, there are multiple pluses, not least the fact that many of my professional contacts feel they can be more open with me. By sharing information and advice with less hesitation, stronger ties are formed.

Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring graduate women who are pursuing a successful career?

Go for it! A feeling of achievement is only possible if you try. Too few people in this world have the luxury of choice. If you’re one of those few, it’s up to you not to waste it.

What has been the most exciting element of your career so far?

The worldwide travels. I’ve visited Asia, Africa, Europe and North America extensively and feel that my multi-cultural understanding is critical to success in this increasingly globalised world.

What is your greatest achievement?

Not giving up. It’s only too easy - in a world of relentless competition, high pressure and exhilarating pace - to lose confidence and feel tempted to move to a less demanding environment.

Who is, or has been, your role model and who is a strong role model for young women starting their career?

My mother. She had to work full-time, as did my father, and they raised my brother and I with minimal outside help. She had a scientific career at first, and later became a school teacher. Several generations of her students still keep in touch and she’s been a great influence on so many of them. At a later stage, I’ve been inspired by various people’s amazing achievements: Margaret Thatcher, Amelia Earhart, Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space), Coco Chanel, Agatha Christie, Christine Lagarde, Paula Radcliffe... to name just a few! At Citi, where I began my career 17 years ago, there have been a number of senior women whose success gave me confidence and encouragement. That said, I don’t necessarily believe that there’s been a single role model: my circumstances, skills and talent have all played a part in getting me to where I am.

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