Leaving one’s comfort zone is a recurring theme for Grace that helped her tackle new challenges. In fact, even when she earned a lofty title of Managing Director on Wall Street – the first African-American woman to reach this post at her firm – Grace welcomed new risks.
Among the fresh challenges that attracted her attention: Grace enlisted in a 14-day expedition up a 20,000-foot peak in Bhutan, led by a Wharton School professor who urged executives to leave their comfort zones and build their leadership skills.
“I knew that taking two weeks off my new job would come at a tremendous sacrifice, but the lessons I learned in the mountains came very quickly,” says Grace. So much so, that 15 years later Grace continues to climb mountains with the group. To date, they have scaled 25 peaks over 100,000 feet, in tribute to a team-member who died on that first Bhutanese trek.
Grace eagerly describes her lessons from mountaineering: “When you are outside of your comfort zone, there is so much out of your control, and it’s critical that you plan your strategy with precision and be ready to adjust with the conditions. As you climb, you are disrupted at every step and you have to form unity with your team-members and support each other along the journey. In addition, mindset becomes more important than footsteps. There is a level of focus, GRIT and courage in an uncertain landscape that will make the difference between success or failure, survival or extinction, and life or death. In a world of extremes where the stakes are high, having a growth strategy outside of your comfort zone is essential.”
But Grace also points out the lessons learned in the valleys, versus the summits. She described how, last year during a warm-up hike, before climbing Europe’s highest peak, she lost her footing and began sliding down the mountain. “I slammed into a rock and, although nothing was broken, I felt an immense psychological setback after falling from such a height and knowing that the next day I had to embark on the summit. The lesson for me - whether you are climbing a mountain or sitting in your office - is that you have to get back up, find the resilience to go forward, with the support of caring team-members.”
There’s no doubt that Grace has honoured her grandmother’s advice, as she continues to believe in herself beyond limits, and she urges everyone to, “Seek difficult journeys, as long as your heart tells you to do it.”
I also want to highlight the importance of Grace’s message to start networking early in your career, as soon as you start working. In Grace’s words, “You will need that network, and the advice and support that comes with it, since it will sustain you through difficult times and help accelerate your career.”
For more inspiring stories from women leaders in financial services visit home.Kpmg/mindthegap.
More about Grace Vandecruze: Grace is Managing Director, Grace Global Capital LLC, which provides financial advisory, restructuring, and valuation services to organizations around the world. Applying her 20 years of experience as an investment banker, primarily focused on the financial services industry, Grace is an insurance investment banking expert, advising companies and insurance regulators on mergers & acquisitions, financings, capital strategies, valuation, restructuring, private placements, due diligence and other transactions. After earning a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting, degree from Pace University, Grace spent seven years working as a financial auditor in public accounting. After entering the capital markets, Grace rose from an analyst with a major Wall Street brokerage to managing director of a global consulting firm. Grace has an MBA in Finance from Wharton School. She has served on numerous philanthropic boards and has participated in Wharton Leadership Treks, climbing 25 mountains on three continents.