December 04, 2017
Less than 10 percent of Portfolio Managers are women. Heidi Heikenfeld '00 is one of them. She credits hard work, emotional resiliency and deep intellectual curiosity for her success.
Heikenfeld, an Emerging Markets portfolio manager for OppenheimerFunds, recently addressed the importance of female empowerment at the prestigious Forbes Women's Summit.
"I take the responsibility of representing women in Portfolio Management very seriously," she said. "One important way to combat gender bias is to be very good at your job. When your ideas are highly valuable, you are expensive to ignore."
Heikenfeld calls Portfolio Management one of the most exciting and influential jobs in the world.
"Investors have a lot of power," she said. "We can encourage entrepreneurship, fund the development of new industries within a country and reward companies that add value to their communities, with a powerful responsibility of investing client money."
She credits her years at Susquehanna—crammed full of extra classes to satisfy a double major in finance and economics, filled with extracurricular activities and multiple internships—with giving her a unique skill set that many of her graduating peers from other universities did not receive.
"Susquehanna provided me with a very practical education. I graduated with strong accounting, economics and computer programming skills. This allowed me to be immediately employable and useful to my bosses, firm and clients."
During her time as a student in the Sigmund Weis School of Business, Heikenfeld completed four internships, including one on a currency trading desk in London. "Internships are incredibly important. They give you a risk-free opportunity to try potential careers and identify what's most exciting for you."
Her travels have taken her to six continents and 73 countries—but Heikenfeld's first international trip followed her junior year at Susquehanna, and "it sparked a passion for learning about the world." She now spends at least 30 percent of her year overseas.
Her passion for learning, fueled at Susquehanna, continues. Heikenfeld notes that her job offers her access to politicians and business leaders. "The opportunity to ask questions and learn how businesses work and how cultures and political systems differ is very fulfilling." She invests in 30 countries with a focus on identifying innovative companies in high-growth sectors such as healthcare, technology and consumer.
Her advice to students seeking an investment career: "Try investing. When you make a mistake, when you lose money on a stock, take a breath, assess what when wrong, regroup and try again. Learn Accounting and Economics. These are your building blocks, and you'll be able to rely on these critical skills throughout your career."