Companies & Industries

Making Your Dream Job Come True


Goldman Sachs' Mark Tercek left a senior investment banking position for his dream job. How he did it and how you can do the same

When I was asked by BusinessWeek.com to write about what makes a dream job, I first thought about describing my own job. I love what I do! After deciding such a column would be a little egotistical, I made a list of friends and clients and asked myself which one had a dream job.

To me, a dream job does not mean a job with lots of money or status. It's a job that allows you to fulfill your dreams—whatever they are—and do what is most meaningful and fun for you. I decided one person on my list who has a dream job is my friend Mark Tercek, who works for Goldman Sachs (GS). He has a job unlike any I have ever encountered, largely because he designed it to match his dreams. He cares deeply about education and the environment, and his job allows him to work in both areas. Edited excerpts from our recent conversation follow.

What is your job, and how is it a dream job for you?

I am a managing director at Goldman Sachs, and I have two primary responsibilities in areas of great interest to me personally. First, I co-head Pine Street, Goldman Sachs' leadership development organization focused on our managing directors and senior clients. Second, I oversee the firm's environmental initiatives.

Before taking on this role, I had worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for more than 22 years. I can't think of a more fulfilling second career.

How did you get your job?

I wanted to switch gears and focus on new activities. I was particularly interested in teaching on leadership topics, and I was ready to get more involved in public service and the public sector. While I was a banker I was involved in Pine Street, and I am also on the faculty at New York University's business school.

My involvement in the firm's environmental initiatives had more to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time. The firm was looking for someone senior with a broad commercial background to fill the role at exactly the time I was making my transition out of banking.

Why does Goldman Sachs have someone in your role?

We've always had great leaders and a history of public service. Many at Goldman Sachs have taken their experience and skills into important and high-profile positions in the public sphere; Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine are two examples. Many others have done so less visibly.

Why has Goldman Sachs taken on environmental issues?

Because it's the right thing to do—and because it's good for our business. We wouldn't want to pretend we've developed a broad environmental policy framework for our firm for purely altruistic reasons. We think the world's increased focus on environmental issues, especially climate change, creates a number of important business opportunities. We also have a responsibility to help our clients understand and think through the implications of these issues, and it's important that we understand them as they apply to our business.

What does Pine Street do for Goldman Sachs?

Pine Street is the firm's leadership development effort focused on our managing directors—think of it as our in-house business school. The idea is to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep producing great leaders at our firm. Not only do we have programs on classic leadership topics, we also have ones focused on new areas like growth and innovation, success in emerging markets, and retaining top performers. We also have a program devoted to training managing directors who want to serve on nonprofit boards. We often invite our clients to join these programs, which brings an interesting dimension for everyone.

Having clients participate with your executives in leadership development is a very creative idea. What else do you do in your dream job?

I get to champion other special projects. One example is SeaChange Capital, the not-for-profit investment bank that raises philanthropic capital for high-quality, high-growth social enterprises. Chuck Harris, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, heads SeaChange, and we were the founding donor. I am also on the board of SeaChange and coordinate collaboration between the organization and the firm. Our idea is to use traditional capital markets skills to help great not-for-profits raise capital efficiently so they can scale up quickly to achieve maximum impact. We also want to help philanthropists make higher-return donations.

Do you have advice for others? How do you pursue a dream job?

This isn't anything earth-shattering: Pursue your interests. Make room in your schedule for your interests, because as you do, it will create opportunities and connections that could lead to that ultimate job. That's what happened for me. Second, don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask for new duties, and don't be afraid of the risk that comes with change. Third, don't be too concerned about what other people think. A lot of people think it's weird that I would switch from being a very senior investment banker to this kind of role. I don't find it weird at all. I'm doing my dream job.

How can people reach you?

Please have your readers contact me at Mark.Tercek@gs.com.

Marshall Goldsmith, who writes Marshall and Friends every week for BusinessWeek.com, can be reached at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com. He provides his articles and videos online at MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com.

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