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Episode 211: From Goldman Sachs Returnship to Managing Director in Less Than Five Years, with Lori Taylor

Lori Taylor headshot

Episode Description

This is the first episode in our "Relaunchers in Senior Roles" mini-series.

Lori Taylor is head of America’s corporate lending and derivatives in Credit Risk at Goldman Sachs. She relaunched her Wall Street career by participating in Goldman’s Returnship program in 2015, which she joined shortly after attending our iRelaunch Return to Work Conference in the Fall of 2014. Lori advanced from her Goldman Returnship to a Managing Director role in less than five years. Hear about Lori’s experience at the Return to Work conference, the subsequent events that led to her getting hired for the Returnship program, her time during the program, and her career progression since then. Lori also discusses the valuable support she received throughout from her Goldman colleagues, family and friends -- including her best friend's perspective-setting advice that helped her make her return to work decision.

Links to Episode Content

Goldman Sachs Returnship Program


Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. One of the byproducts of more employers running return to work programs and programs running for longer durations is that there are more relaunchers inside organizations and more relaunchers moving into senior roles. Today, we speak with Lori Taylor. Lori is head of America's Corporate Lending and Derivatives in Credit Risk at Goldman Sachs. She relaunched her Wall Street career by participating in Goldman's returnship program in 2015.

Lori attended our iRelaunch Return to Work Conference in the fall of 2014, where she met Goldman returnship program recruiters and subsequently joined their 2015 cohort. Lori advanced from her Goldman returnship to a managing director role in five years. We're going to learn more about her relaunch and career progression today.

Fun fact, Lori came back to our iRelaunch conference in 2018 as part of the Goldman Sachs team to meet with attendees interested in the returnship program that year. And we love it when our relaunchers come full circle from conference attendee to successfully relaunched company representative.

Lori, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Lori Taylor: It's great to be here and thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. As we always do when we're talking to relaunchers, we want to start with hearing about your career prior to your career break and what led to your career break.

Lori Taylor: I'm happy to share that.

I started my career at GE Capital. I had many opportunities at that firm including a brief role overseas, but for most of my career there, I worked in their sponsor finance business, both on the credit and underwriting side, as well as covering private equity clients. I traveled a lot for my job and so did my husband.

And after I went back to work, after having my first daughter, I realized I wanted to be home with her while she was little. So I decided to take a career break. Shortly thereafter I had my second daughter. So what I thought would be a couple of years break rapidly became a six to seven career break for me. While I really enjoyed it, and it was great to spend time with my girls, as they started to grow up and be more in school, I realized I had a lot of work experience and I wanted to relaunch back into the workforce.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, I think to a person, when we speak with individual relaunchers and of course we’ve spoken with thousands of relaunchers over time, but you're saying something that we hear often, that you expect to have a shorter career break and then the next thing you know, more years have gone by. That's something that we feel is very consistent in terms of relauncher experiences. So how did you find out about the iRelaunch Return to Work conference? I know it was a few years ago. Do you remember?

Lori Taylor: I do. I Actually, I heard about iRelaunch from another mom at my daughter's school who had done the program herself and had actually joined Goldman in the returnship program. And she knew I was thinking about going back to work. And she said, "If you're thinking about it," she's like, "I recommend you go to this. It's a great way to start thinking about what you want to do in getting back into the workforce."

At the time when I attended the conference, I wasn't sure I was quite ready to go back to work. It was a great first step for me as sort of a stepping stone to consider, what would be involved? What do I need to think about? How could I prepare for this process, both personally for me and my family, but also in terms of networking and interviewing and getting prepared to relaunch? At the conference, I was able to meet representatives of many firms. What was really interesting to hear and what sort of struck me when I met with people at Goldman was, not only do they have this program, but they were I think the first bank to launch this program. They launched it in the midst of the financial crisis and they stuck with it through the financial crisis.

So to me that said a lot about their long-term view of finding pools of talent, and not necessarily traditional pools of talent. And having been out of work and meeting people, I saw a lot of really talented people who had taken a career break. So that really spoke to me. And then the second thing I really liked about it was, there were several prior returnship participants who were there, who were at the firm, who were able to share their experience and talk to me about what the returnship was like, and also the culture and the firm.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, that's a good point. Goldman's returnship program was the first returnship program launched in 2008 and rode all the way through that recession. We know at iRelaunch, because we started in 2007, and this is not the first recession that we just went through. We were there also riding all the way through, and holding our conference every year during that time.

So what happened after the conference? Do you remember the process and the timeline? What were the interviews like?

Lori Taylor: It was pretty quick. So I think the conference was in late September. I think the deadline for Goldman was literally October 6th. I remember that in that year, as I said, I was going through thinking, "Do I want to go back now? Should I wait a little while?" My youngest had just started kindergarten, so it felt like we were already in a bit of a transition. And I decided, “You know what? It doesn't hurt. It doesn't hurt to apply.” I liked what I was hearing about the programs. And so I thought this was a good way to test out and see what I wanted to do.

So I ended up applying for that October 6th deadline. I had a screening interview, which was helpful. I also knew someone who'd been at Goldman in the returnship program, and then I'd met some people in the returnship program at the conference. So I reached out to people and wanted to understand a little better about the program, but also the firm and the culture.

So I was doing that work along with doing preps for interviews and things I hadn't done in awhile. That moved pretty quickly. I think the returnship program that I was accepted to started in January. So, sometime in November or December, November I did the interviews, and I think December I had an offer to start.

It moved much faster than I expected. It’s pretty exciting once you start getting back, kind of like a bicycle. You think at the time, you're like, "How am I going to do this?" And then you start looking at what you've done and what you've done in the past and your experience, and it starts to fall into place. I think it was helpful to have also some network of people that I was reaching out to, to understand the process a little bit along the way.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And so right now you're in Corporate Lending and Derivatives in Credit Risk, did you start in a different area of Goldman and evolve and end up where you are now, or have you always been in that area since the beginning?

Lori Taylor: So when I was looking to come back, I specifically was looking at risk and credit risk. I thought it would be a good fit with my background. So I ended up doing the returnship in credit risk. I've been in credit risk the whole time, but expanding responsibilities in different roles, which has been great. And so it's been a bit of a transition, but in the same area.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm just thinking about it because I worked for Drexel in the late eighties, in their corporate finance group. And, they did so much in the high yield and bond market, and after my 11 year career break, I went back to Bain Capital in their high yield debt management group.

So, not exactly the same, but related areas. Can you talk a little bit about just the technical piece of it, like the financial analysis piece and the spreadsheet part, and just thinking about risk again and the actual products? What was that like to figure that all out?

Lori Taylor: So that was one of the eye-opening experiences, meaning partly when I was preparing, but also through my returnship, that I have certain skills, experiences and knowledge from my prior experience, my educational background, et cetera. And what I found is that markets change, but a lot of the fundamental skills you have are the same.

So, you want a level set with what's the market looking at right now. But also, the fundamentals of, how do you look at, in my role, how do you look at the company? What are the technical, quantitative analyses that you do? That didn't change. And so for me, I think it made the transition easy because it gave me confidence when I got back, to see similar things. I was able to hit the ground running. My role, like you said, wasn't exactly what I did before, but it was similar. And so it felt like I was able to hit the ground running pretty quickly once I came back.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow, that's great to hear, because I think that's something that relaunchers who are going into a financial analysis field, or one of the more technical areas of investment banking, or financial services in general, think about that piece of it. And that's something that they get concerned about. So great to hear about your actual experience, getting back into it.

Can you tell us a little bit more, I just want to jump back to the returnship experience itself. How many people were in your cohort? How long was it? And are you still in touch with people in that cohort?

Lori Taylor: Yep. So when I completed the program, we had a pretty large class the year I joined, it can vary year to year. I think there were about 25 of us in the program. And the program was 10 weeks long. One of the things I really liked about the program was the firm provided several days of training, as well as networking within your class. And then also they did a lot of round tables with some of the senior leaders of the firm, as well as just getting to know the firm and the different areas of the firm.

And so we did that for a few days where it was just the setup for your returnship experience. And then once you hit your desk, you are working in your team, but you have this network of other people, who are in a returnship currently, but also the network of alumni within the firm that you can talk to and reach out to as you're going through your returnship program.

I still keep in touch with some. A lot of people have moved on into different areas outside the firm. There's still a few of us from my class that are still here that I keep in touch with.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Did you do any specific updating? I remember looking at my old finance books and my old transactions that I worked on, and I met with old colleagues and grilled them on, "Why don't we do this kind of product anymore?" "And what's this new one?" "What does this stand for?" "And how does this work?" And I remember being super obsessed with the weighted average cost of capital formula. I thought they were going to ask me that in the interview, or I'd have to produce it, like in the middle of some conversation that's going on once I was back at work. Does any of that ring familiar with you, or how did you approach it?

Lori Taylor: I did a little bit of that. I think, because my timing wasn't what I had expected, I had initially thought it would be the year after. So, I did a little bit of that. I started looking at the markets and what was going on in the markets. I actually knew someone in the group that I was interviewing with, so I was able to ask them how they are thinking about things. So I would say I did some research on my own. I tried to leverage my network of people that I knew. Ironically, a lot of the people I knew were not through my, some were through prior work experience, but some were actually other moms from my kid's school that I was able to reach out to and leverage. I did do some. I think the timing worked faster than I had expected. I think if I was doing a longer search, I would have done more of it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And had you been, I didn't even read The Wall Street Journal that much when I was on career break. Were you keeping up in that way or even superficially about what was going on in the markets, or even in the business world more broadly?

Lori Taylor: Yes, I was, a little bit just because I would read the news and I'd scan The Journal. I definitely wasn't doing what I used to do, or what I do now. I was definitely looking at it, but I went through periods where I wasn't, because my focus was small children, and I ran a parents association at some point. So there were different time periods where I was not as focused on it, but I always stayed connected to it in some way, at least trying to stay up to speed.

But once I started this process, then I became very regimented in terms of making sure I knew what was going on in the markets and everything else.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So I hope our listeners are making a note of that because the idea that Lori was keeping up even on the edge of it, is a much better approach than what I did when I was just not keeping up at all. And I remember, I of course, didn't come through a program, because I relaunched 20 years ago and they didn't have programs. But I remember that I had to resubscribe to The Wall Street Journal and read it intensely cover to cover when you actually had a paper, for a good six months before I felt like I had a handle on what was going on in the business world. And having essentially missed the nineties, there was a tremendous amount of consolidation that was going on in financial services during that time. Companies were merging and failing and changing names. I remember being freaked out that I was going to answer some question and mention a company that didn't exist anymore.

It was another reason I felt like I had to be up to date. But kudos to you for at least somewhat keeping up to date while you were on career break.

So I just want to recap here, so you worked at GE Capital for nine years, you took a, did you say a seven year or eight year career break?

Lori Taylor: Seven years by the time that I started at Goldman.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. And then you relaunched at Goldman through the returnship program in 2015 and five years later, you made managing director. That is just, first of all, congratulations! That is so awesome! And I just want to ask you, obviously you're a stellar performer and that's why that happened, but aside from that, do you attribute that faster than usual assent to the fact that you're a relauncher and you picked up where you left off? Or what were some of the factors there?

Lori Taylor: Yeah I would say there's always a lot of factors and things you have to rely on and leverage to get to where you are. I think attending the iRelaunch conference was definitely the first step to put me onto this path. And it was interesting, because when you're out for the length of time that I was out, it can be intimidating thinking about going back, and what have you missed, and how are people going to look at you and all of that. And I think when I went to that, it was a really good grounding to think about your skill sets, think about your prior experience, even put your recent experience in perspective and what you've learned and what you've done while you've been out.

And so that was my first step in the process. I do think it helped me that I went into something that was similar to what I had done before. At least in terms of your comment on the timing of making managing director, because I was able to hit the ground running and had a lot of similar experience and a lot of knowledge in what my new role was. So I think that really helped. And then I think I had a lot of support at the firm. I was fortunate and lucky to end up in a team that sort of needed someone with my skill sets. And, I had managers who really supported me throughout the process and gave me opportunities to continue to expand and learn.

So there's that. I would say I would also attribute it to my personal support system. So even when I was thinking about doing this and I started to get nervous about starting my returnship, once I had the offer, I had my best friend, I would talk to her about it. And she's like, "It's 10 weeks. You can do anything for 10 weeks. I know you can do this. Don't worry about it." She was like, "It gives you an opportunity, you're trying them out too." Which was a different perspective than I had going into it. So that was a big part of it.

And then, personally, I had a very supportive husband who was willing, when I said, "I'm going to be doing this, and for 10 weeks this has to be my priority. I need your support." He was fully supportive of me from that point in time, all through the managing director process, everything, which has been key. So I've been very fortunate in that I had a lot of areas of different support to get to where I was, because obviously it takes a village.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Wow. I wanted to ask you one more question on the personal side, what was going on on the "homefront?" From your kid's perspective, how do you think they'll be talking about this period 10 years from now?

Lori Taylor: I think it's interesting because I remember when I told my youngest, she was like, "No, I don't want you to go." And, I think when I remind her of that now, she's like, "No, it was good." And I think they can see that it's important. I have girls, and I took a break to raise my girls and I think it's important for them to see me in a different view than just mom, and so going back to work definitely helped with that.

When they have their career and their family at some point, they can get the perspective of what it meant to take a long break and then to jump back in to the deep end of the pool, and the accelerated path thereafter.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's funny because we do sometimes speak with grown children of people who relaunched years before, 15, 20 years before. And sometimes they'll just say, "I don't even really remember when my mom went back to work. For me, I just remember she was always working." So it depends what age, of course, that happens. When the kids are younger, sometimes they don't remember. When they're older, they do remember. But, we've consistently heard very positive responses from kids about the whole idea of their mom or dad, their parent going back to work after taking a career break, and really what it meant for them in a lot of different ways. And part of it is role modeling, and the idea you can be doing different things at different points in your life. And I think it's a great example to set for them.

All right. So any specific advice to relaunchers who are anticipating a return to work on Wall Street or in financial services in general, in terms of the pace, in terms of getting back up to speed, anything they should be doing in advance?

Let's say someone's planning two years from now or one year from now, any advice to them?

Lori Taylor: Yeah, and I think that there are a lot of opportunities on Wall Street and in financial services, and I think people have recognized the people who have taken a break but have experience are valuable.

So I would first off say that they should definitely not limit themselves, and they should explore those options. I do think it's important to try to prepare the best you can. So doing research and getting up to speed on what's going on in the market, reading The Wall Street Journal are all key tips.

And then I think the other thing I would say is, recognize the network of people you've probably had that you may not be thinking of as a network, right? Several of my kids' classmates' moms were instrumental to me in terms of this process of, A) getting my returnship role, B) starting full-time at Goldman along the way.

You don't have to think of it just that way, there are people out there, and I have found the people who have gone back to work are very supportive of others who are trying to make that progress. Even if it's not in the role or the firm that you're looking at, people might have good advice that you can leverage and they might have a network of people that you can also leverage.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Question for you about when you were, I guess it was a more accelerated relaunch than you thought because of that quick deadline after the conference. But were you in touch with any of your former colleagues at GE Capital, and was any of that interaction helpful to you in terms of, I don't know if they were references, if they were helping you get up to speed of what was going on in the market? What were those conversations like? And did you reach out to people after really not being in touch for seven years?

Lori Taylor: Yeah. I did start to reach out to people, but it was in the same timeframe when I was starting to interview and already down the path, just because the timing wasn't as long as I had expected. But I also did it because, I was like, if this doesn't work out, thinking about going back to work, there could be other opportunities. So it made sense for me to do that. And I think that it's always helpful to reach back to people you've had a good relationship with, who know your work product, your skill set. Because there are definitely people who are going to be willing to help you out.

So it was a step I took, just given the timing of everything, it wasn't one that I explored or pushed for that much.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. That comes back to this concept of frozen in time, which was one of the first concepts that we recognize at iRelaunch, that Vivian Rabin and I recognized from our own relaunches, and that we wrote about in Back on the Career Track before we even formed, co-founded iRelaunch. And I remember when I got in touch with people who I used to work with at Drexel, there actually used to be an annual Christmas party that everyone would still go to, it was like a reunion. And every year people would say, "So what's going on?" "Oh, home with the kids, home with the kids." And then I think in year 10, I was like, "I'm thinking about going back to work." And then right away, they were like, "Really? Let's have lunch, let's talk." And they were super supportive and they were almost more confident and enthusiastic about the prospect of me successfully relaunching than I was about myself.

And I think that was in part because they didn't think about the intervening years when I was home with the kids. They only remembered me as I was before.

So, very powerful. Okay, Lori, this has just been such a great conversation and I really appreciate everything that you've shared. I want to ask you the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something we've already talked about today?

Lori Taylor: Sure. I think in my experience, one thing I keep in mind is that a successful career isn't defined by any particular moment and it doesn't have to be a traditional or linear career path. So everyone has skills and experience that can be leveraged even after a break or in a different role.

And so the biggest thing is to have confidence in what you bring to the table and be willing to take those opportunities, even if it wasn't what you planned, which is what happened with me. I fortunately had people who reminded me of that as I was going through this process. And I think it's important to realize that the skills and experiences you have are valuable and can be put to work in so many different ways.

And so to have confidence in that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. And it's just reminding me of a couple more questions. One is, are there plenty of people within Goldman who don't even know that you took a career break because you've already been back for six years?

Lori Taylor: Yeah. There's plenty of people that probably have no idea.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And, do you think of yourself, I mean, here you are on this podcast and we're talking about your time as a relauncher and your time in the returnship program. Do you still feel like a relauncher? I know, you're years ahead now of when you relaunched, but is that something that's still part of your identity in some way?

Lori Taylor: Yeah, I think very much it is. I think it gives you perspective. And, I think that's important. I think I'm a different person than I was in the earliest stages of my career. And some of that is attributed to my different experiences when I was not in the workforce. So I do, and I think it can be a more challenging path. And so I think like a lot of things, you look back on it and you realize, I'm really happy that I was able to do what I did because it wasn't straight forward, and so it's part of who I am.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. You know, what Goldman started in 2008 is expanding all over the place. And actually, Wall Street led the very first wave of return to work activity, and then the tech or tech-infused companies that have technology at the core in different industries led the second wave. And right now, in real time, we're seeing the third way being led by the public sector. And I think that's going to be very important for relaunchers going forward.

Lori Taylor: Sure. It's awesome. It's awesome to hear.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thanks for joining us, Lori. It was great to meet you.

Lori Taylor: Thanks Carol, appreciate you having me on.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories.
I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences and events, to sign up for a job board and to access our return to work tools and resources, go to iRelaunch.com.

And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform. And be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

Thanks for joining us.


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