Jessica Jaeger, CTP
Jessica Jaeger, CTP
The treasury and finance profession is powerful. Constantly advancing, expanding and evolving, treasury and finance are full of possibilities for anyone who has the desire to learn and achieve.
As part of AFP’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Awareness Initiative, we’re featuring stories from financial professions on how they got into the profession and advice for young financial professionals interested in careers in treasury and finance. In this interview, Jessica Jaeger, CTP, Treasurer, describes her experience entering the financial field and how she navigated her career journey.
AFP: Share your experience entering the financial field.
Jaeger: I am a first-generation political refugee immigrant and first-generation college graduate. My parents were rice farmers in their homeland from the mountainous region between Laos and China. They never had the opportunity to attend any school. However, after coming to the U.S., they quickly recognized that education was key to my siblings and me succeeding in the western world. They considered education as the only way for a better life than what they knew.
One day, when I was about 10 years old, I saw a bank commercial on TV where people were wearing nice suits and looked important. Without having exposure to professional mentors or role models at the time, I said to myself, “I want to be like them.” This led me to stay focused in school and attend college where I majored in finance.
During my junior year, I landed an internship with Washington Mutual Bank, where I was exposed to different corporate functions that furthered my interest in the finance field. After graduating, I started my first full-time job as a bank examiner with a focus in treasury. From there, my love and interest in a career focused on capital markets and treasury took off.
AFP: What does the future of finance and treasury look like to you?
Jaeger: Bright, challenging and exciting! There will always be a need for talented finance and treasury folks. While there will be technology advances, such as artificial intelligence-driven solutions to automate many finance and treasury functions, there will always remain a need for smart, talented people to run and administer those systems.
AFP: What advice would you give to young financial professionals just starting out in their career?
Jaeger: Stay relevant, agile, objective and curious by continuously learning. Ask for help and always be kind and generous with your time and knowledge. Lastly, be open to new challenges that may not always seem to take you in the path you want to go, as I have found it makes you a more well-rounded and valuable employee to the companies you work for.
Professionally, "be comfortable being uncomfortable." For example, after the Washington Mutual Bank fell into conservatorship in the 2008 financial collapse, it was difficult to find work in the treasury space given the thousands of finance folks in the market looking for work at the same time. My first role back at work was a program manager in a technical sales organization that was completely different from any role I had ever held before. However, while different, I embraced it and learned quickly how to be a project manager leading a system implementation for my organization. I was able to leverage this experience to become a more informed project sponsor and participant in my next treasury role.
AFP: What are some stereotypes of the finance world you would like to debunk?
Jaeger: Finance and banking are traditionally white, male-dominated industries — this was true when I first entered the workforce. However, having been in the market for more than 20 years, I have seen the workplace become progressively more diverse and inclusive of minorities and women. While there is still a lot of change needed, we are moving toward the right direction. It is encouraging and aspiring, as both a minority and a woman, to see more folks like me in the workplace and increasingly taking up leadership roles.
Finance is not a cookie-cutter profession — every company, regardless of industry, requires finance professionals. Your career growth is endless! You can move across industries to broaden your knowledge of different businesses, move laterally to gain breadth of experience, and move upward for management and leadership opportunities within the same company. I have worked in every major industry (banking, technology, health care, public sector) and was able to successfully transfer knowledge and skills I learned along the way to each workplace. Not only do you get the benefit of enhancing your skill sets and knowledge, but you also learn new business models that keep you from being complacent or bored.
AFP: Did you have a mentor, or were you part of any groups or influenced by anyone as you navigated your career journey?
Jaeger: I never had a dedicated mentor, but I took full advantage of the support and feedback received from bosses, colleagues and external business partners throughout my career. Many of these same individuals became my best advocates, opened career doors, have led to long-term friendships, and have been my go-to’s for career advice.