Welcome to Office Hours, where members of the Argent community share personal career stories and, in the process, dispense invaluable advice, rare insight, and inspiration through lived experiences.
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Chief Technology Officer for US Banks, Morgan Stanley
Hina Shamsi is the Chief Technology Officer for US Banks at Morgan Stanley. She’s an industry leader with over two decades of experience innovating and remaining at the forefront of new technologies, both in the finance sector and previous roles she’s held in the travel industry. But Shamsi is also—perhaps most relatable of all—someone who had no idea where her career was headed after graduate school about 25 years ago.
In this month’s Office Hours, chocked full of great advice from the CTO, Shamsi tells us that planning out her career steps was never her modus operandi. Instead, she says her guiding principle was much more about remaining present and focused on her role at hand, striving for excellence, and allowing opportunities to open up organically—often in ways impossible to plan.
Today, Shamsi has not only established herself as a leader in an industry that remains male-dominated but also loves the work she’s doing. Her day-to-day means overseeing products that help businesses and individuals better manage their finances and is also currently part of the team managing a massive integration following the Morgan Stanley purchase of E*trade in 2020. Ahead she offers some poignant advice that will resonate with those who aspire to a career like hers, as well as anyone who envisions something totally different.
WHERE DOES YOUR INTEREST IN THE TECH INDUSTRY STEM FROM?
“I've been in technology for over 25 years now, and if you had asked me 25 years ago what I would be doing, I would've said, ‘I have no idea.’ I come from a very unique background: I grew up in the Middle East and I was the first one in my family to leave home to come to North America to go to college. It was a pretty big deal, not only the physical act of doing it but a huge cultural step for both myself and my parents.
“I went to school in Texas, got both my undergrad and my graduate degree, and when I graduated, I got this opportunity to employ the skills that I had gained during my academic career and apply it to the workforce as a software developer. Did I know what that journey would look like? No. But I was really fortunate because I got into a very technical field where there were very few women at that time. I was very driven academically, but not necessarily professionally at that time. I was surrounded by people that recognized that about me very early on and decided to lean in and become mentors and coaches in an informal way. And this started really pushing me to do more, little by little, with every new opportunity that came my way.”
HOW DID YOU GET TO YOUR ROLE AT MORGAN STANLEY TODAY, AND WHAT DOES IT CONSIST OF?
“I spent about 17 years in the airline industry. I loved that industry and I thought I was going to retire in the airline industry. When I decided to make the change to financial services, to go to Fidelity in 2016, I knew very little about the industry. I spent an enormous amount of time learning and I think that was the foundation that was laid for all the opportunities I was given after that.
“Today, I serve as the Chief Technology Officer for the US Banks at Morgan Stanley. In this role, I oversee the strategic direction and execution for technology platforms across banking business lines and am responsible for all aspects of architecture, development, delivery, and risk management of banking products and functions, such as bank deposits, loans, mortgages, and cash management.”
AS YOU’VE MENTIONED, YOU’VE NAVIGATED A MALE-DOMINATED FIELD OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER. WHAT DID THOSE CHALLENGES LOOK LIKE EARLY ON, AND HOW HAVE THEY CHANGED IN YOUR CURRENT ENVIRONMENT?
“Wow, that's an interesting one. The tech landscape has changed dramatically. We have a lot more female leaders today in tech compared to when I started 25 years ago, but not nearly enough! Especially as you climb the ladder, there are not enough women in senior executive roles and it can be very lonely.
“What I learned is to 1: Focus on what's important to you and be clear on the value you bring to the table—don't ever second guess that. 2: Make sure you are surrounded by strong mentors that can guide you through your individual journey. I was very fortunate to have that very early on in my career and I know that I wouldn't be where I am without the advice and guidance of those mentors. Lastly, network, network, network. As much as performance matters, people's perception of how you perform is equally important. So make sure you are in charge of your own story.”
WHAT OTHER QUALITIES DO YOU THINK HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT FOR YOUR CAREER?
“We talk about IQ a lot, but there is something to say about EQ [Emotional Intelligence]. It is a fact that women generally tend to have higher EQ, which is so incredibly important in the workplace today. That’s one feedback I get a lot: I can walk into a room and sometimes diffuse a very stressful situation. So I think that there is something to be said that it’s not just gender diversity or just racial diversity in a workplace, it's diversity of thought and diversity of how you deal with different situations.”
“Having a career in tech is making a commitment to lifelong learning and being willing to always have the ‘student’ mindset.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE IN YOUR ROLE?
“Technology is not an individual sport. It's actually a team sport. This means that it really matters, not only who the individual is and the skills that they bring to the table, but how we gel and work together as a team. So if you want to optimize how we operate, you have to not only focus on the individuals, but on the team dynamic. So, for me—not just with this job, but even the previous roles I've had—the first thing I do is really focus on teams and individuals and making sure that we have the right people in the right roles that best align with, not just what their skills are, but also what their desires are, where their aspirations are. And my job as a leader is to remove hurdles. My job as a leader is to give them the execution path so they can perform their very best.”
WHAT DOES CAREER GROWTH LOOK AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER?
“Technology is probably one of the handful of fields that is evolving at such a rapid pace. So keeping up is really challenging. Having a career in tech is making a commitment to lifelong learning and being willing to always have the ‘student’ mindset. And now with the rapid growth of AI and Gen AI, technology is shifting in ways that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago.
“That said, I don't honestly spend a whole lot of time thinking about what my next job is going to be. This is not because I am in a fairly senior position. This has been my guiding principle for a very long time. I spend a lot of time thinking about my current job and how I can do that better because I believe if you can not just do your job well, but do it really well, it unlocks future opportunities and possibilities that you can’t imagine.”
WHAT’S A PIECE OF ADVICE THAT YOU WISH YOU HAD RECEIVED AT THE START OF YOUR CAREER?
“I hate to disappoint you but I wouldn't redo anything. I really do think I've had such a good run because of the principles that I mentioned. And that doesn't mean I've not made mistakes. I've made plenty of mistakes. But to me, if you're not making mistakes, if you're not failing, you're not pushing yourself hard enough. So be prepared to fail and have no regrets. You just learn from that mistake and move on, and you make sure that you're not repeating the same mistakes. Have failures, but have different failures—don't have the same failures over and over again.”