Simmons Leadership Blog

Turning Points with Nicole Parent Haughey

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Nicole Parent Haughey is Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Development at United Technologies Corporation. She brings to UTC two decades of Wall Street experience, most recently as managing partner at Vertical Research Partners, an independent equity research firm that she co-founded. Haughey previously served as managing director and global sector head of industrials at Credit Suisse, covering the domestic electrical equipment and multi-industry sectors as well as coordinating industrial equity research across the United States, Europe, and Asia. She also held senior research positions at Banc of American Securities, LLC, SalomonSmithBarney, and Cowen & Company. A frequent guest on CNBC, she has been recognized by Institutional Investor, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and StarMine for her insightful analysis. Haughey currently serves on the board of overseers at Harvard University and on the advisory board of the Resolution Project, dedicated to developing socially responsible young leaders.
We had the opportunity to ask Nicole a few questions. Don't miss her session at the Simmons Leadership Conference!
What woman do you most admire? What has she taught you?
I most admire my Mother. She watched my grandparents lose their home when she was in high school, something that shaped her (and my own) view of debt. She paid off my student loans when I graduated from college because she couldn't bear the thought of me being in debt. I am the first person in my family to attend college and that is largely because my Mother constantly advocated for higher education, noting it could never be taken away. She taught me to believe in myself and that I can do anything I put my mind to, which is why I have been able to accomplish so much in my life. She thought I was crazy to leave my job on Wall Street to take some time off and thought I was even crazier when I decided to launch a start-up. But she supported me nonetheless. She is also a firm proponent of the "suck it up" philosophy, which doesn't allow for the "poor me's" - ever. Her theory is: You fall off the horse, you brush yourself off and get right back on. That advice has served me well. She is the eternal optimist, and has taught me the importance of laughing as loudly and as often as possible.
Was there a turning point in your career when you "jumped the curve," breaking an old pattern to change the course of your career? What did you learn from that experience?
Yes, when I finally realized that the more senior you get, the idea of meritocracy gets thrown out the window. At a certain level, your abilities speak for themselves. It is a given that you will do a great job. When you become more senior, you are expected to understand organizational dynamics, which can be really tough and counterintuitive. I was assigned a coach back in 2002 when I was struggling to fit into a particular culture and it was then that I finally realized the importance of managing up, down and all around. I embraced working with a coach and have had one ever since.
What's the best piece of career advice you've gotten along the way?
Early on in my career as an analyst, I made one of the worst stock calls of my life. I had a "sell" rating on a company, which meant that I felt institutional investors should avoid this name. One day they reported quarterly earnings and beat consensus expectations by a wide margin. My investment thesis on the stock couldn't have been more wrong. When the company beat expectations, I reversed course and actually had to upgrade the stock. It was a humiliating experience and I have to publicly admit my analysis was flawed. What I figured out after that experience is that people actually appreciate when you say you are wrong (probably because so few of us actually ever say those words out loud). From a personal development standpoint, one of my favorite clients called me when the dust had settled and suggested that I really figure out what I missed and truly understand where I was wrong to ensure it didn't happen again. It was great advice and I still ask that of myself (and my team) when things don't go as planned.
Any tips for work/life balance?
Throughout my 20s and 30s, I had no work/life balance, which served me very well. And then I met the man of my dreams and married at the ripe old age of 41. We live in different cities during the week, which is challenging, but he knew what he was getting before we got married. Now I struggle with finding balance ever day, but the number of Saturdays and Sundays I spend in the office is down meaningfully vs. my prior life. I am still struggling with not looking constantly at my Blackberry, something he finds incredibly rude and disrespectful.
Fill in the blank. People would be surprised to know that I..
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