Five career tips that U.S. Bank executive Gunjan Kedia gave Girls With Impact

September 03, 2020

The nonprofit organization led by Jennifer Openshaw provides girls with business education similar to an MBA.

Gunjan Kedia was bewildered by the opening question in her first job interview while in business school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh: “What do you think about the Penguins?”

She recalls, “I just thought, ‘Why is he talking about these birds to me?’”

Having only lived in the United States for a short period of time at that point after moving from India where she was born and raised, Kedia was not yet familiar with local Stanley Cup champion NHL team the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Although Kedia (pictured top right) thinks back on it now with a laugh, she acknowledges that the instance was one in a long list of moments in which she felt uncomfortable with having a different background than those around her. She had an accent. She felt short, by American standards. Her parents did not take her on ski trips growing up.

“Early on, my challenge was fitting in, which I thought meant being like everyone else,” Kedia said. “It was only when I started getting past that mindset that my career started to flourish.”

Today, Kedia is vice chair of Wealth Management & Investment Services and on the 14-person Managing Committee at U.S. Bank. In the role, she oversees nearly $200 billion in assets under management, more than $7 trillion in assets under custody and administration, and 7,500 employees. 

In a recent virtual event led by nonprofit Girls With Impact founder and chief executive officer Jennifer Openshaw, Kedia reflected on the past three decades, including: selling air fresheners door-to-door as a teenager in her first job; earning an engineering degree to challenge assumptions about girls; and now her executive leadership role in which she was named No. 15 in the Most Powerful Women in Finance ranking by American Banker.

Here are five career tips Kedia has learned along the way and that she shared with the virtual group of 100 girls:

  1. The first few moments of an interview matter more than you might think
    Having now been on the interviewer side of countless interviews, Kedia finds herself most drawn to those who come prepared but not rehearsed, saying, “The best thing you can do is be easy in your skin.”
  2. Give yourself an allowance for mistakes
    Kedia said that misspeaking in meetings and other mistakes happen and allowing herself to make a few per week helps her move past them, such as by saying, “OK, that was one of my three – two more left to go.”
  3. Embrace your strengths and be humble about your weaknesses
    Introspection has been key to Kedia gaining self-confidence over the years, saying, “Be a person who enjoys their strengths and is truly humble about what they need to improve on – that is my formula.”
  4. Surround yourself with people who are different than you
    Kedia made efforts to explore the interests of those around her (such as American sports) and expose them to her own (from Bollywood music to Gucci bags), saying, “That is the give-and-take that creates a relationship.”
  5. Climb mountains that you think are just a little too high
    Kedia views nervousness as part of being human and as a healthy feeling when tackling challenges, saying, “It builds your confidence when you conquer what you thought was a mountain just a little too high for you.”

The partnership with Girls With Impact is part of a broad initiative by U.S. Bank to equip young women with the skills and confidence to excel in their future careers.

Girls With Impact recruits and trains diverse groups of girls in an innovation, entrepreneur and leadership program similar to an MBA education. After completing the 10-week program, 85% percent of participants feel greater confidence as leaders, as well as more prepared for their futures.

“When companies like U.S. Bank invest in these girls, it’s a triple whammy,” said Openshaw. “They’re impacting lives, our communities and our economy.”

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