A woman with long brown hair and glasses stands at a desk with two monitors while looking at the camera.
Nicola O’Hurley. Image: Fidelity Investments

For career development, ‘never underestimate the power of your network’

16 Jul 2021

Fidelity Investments’ Nicola O’Hurley discusses how her career journey brought her to her current role and the lessons she encountered along the way.

Nicola O’Hurley is global head of execution services for Fidelity Digital Assets at Fidelity Investments.

She is a passionate advocate for women working in the finance and technology industry and supports her colleagues in their career development.

Here, she discusses her career journey to date, and the value of networking and having good role models.

‘I believe your network is one of your most valuable assets’

What first stirred your interest in a career in finance?

I always had an interest in business and finance, specifically investment banking, sparked after visiting New York on holidays with my parents as a teenager. I was lucky enough to secure an exciting and challenging role with Bank of America Merrill Lynch right after finishing university. I worked there before moving to Fidelity Investments just over six years ago.

I particularly enjoy the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the work and the energy of an office environment. I have supported traditional asset classes for most of my career but got a great opportunity to move into cryptocurrencies in 2018. It has been very exciting to work in a new and emerging space.

What experience led you to your current role?

I graduated with a bachelor of science in bioscience and finance, which enabled me to keep my career options broad. The subjects I took in university largely focused on entrepreneurship and encouraged applying creative thinking in a logical way.

I have found that hugely beneficial in my career as, although I have always had responsibilities in traditional financial services work, it has enabled me with to work closely with technology and other stakeholders to drive both tactical and strategic change.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path?

As early as my first day working in the financial industry, I felt part of a minority as a female and, at times, felt excluded from conversations. This can be intimidating and very easily result in failing to express your opinions, ideas and putting yourself forward for new opportunities.

At various stages of my career I sought a female role model which, at times, I struggled to find. There was simply a lack of females working in my domain. As a result, I try to play that role for females starting out their career in my area.

I have the pleasure of co-chairing the women’s leadership group and women in technology special interest group here in Fidelity Ireland with my brilliant colleague Fiona Brett. This has really afforded me enormous opportunity to encourage a strong pipeline of female talent, and create a supportive environment for females to thrive and feel confident in doing so.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

I have been lucky enough to have met and worked with a number of incredibly talented people and have had supportive managers throughout my career, so it is difficult to pick just one.

What I will say is never underestimate the power of your network and how valuable your allies are when it comes to career development. Putting genuine time and energy into your business partner relationships while showcasing your drive and abilities to them will inevitably result in opportunity. I believe your network is one of your most valuable assets. I would also encourage everyone to seek out mentors and learn from them.

What do you enjoy about your job?

My current role offers me a unique opportunity to support the future growth of our business and be creative in doing so. I am challenged with new learnings daily and, most importantly, get to work alongside incredibly talented individuals and teams from all areas of the business globally.

I really enjoy the leadership component of my role in supporting associates’ growth and development by helping them achieve their goals through coaching and guidance. I lead an extremely dedicated team who motivate me daily.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

I thrive in an energetic environment and would consider myself quite organised and results driven. This translates well as I have spent my career in roles that are fast paced, and typically have multiple objectives that need to be delivered simultaneously. I also love meeting and establishing relationships with new people and learning from their knowledge and experience.

How did Fidelity Investments support you on your career path?

I have been afforded endless opportunities during my time at Fidelity and have taken several mobility opportunities both laterally and horizontally during my six years here. Opportunities don’t always present themselves in the form of a promotion and I encourage people to look for roles that broaden their overall skillset even if they are not at a more senior level.

Fidelity continuously promotes career mobility and has a rich offering of classes for both technical and soft skill development which I have availed of throughout my time here. A standout moment was taking part in the global rotation programme, which enabled me to spend time working in the US. This helped me further establish and strengthen my network and global relationships, along with my overall understanding of the business operations and its culture and values.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area?

Make a connection. Look at your current network and see who can help answer questions you might have. If you feel you don’t have someone available to you who can help, introduce yourself to someone who works in the area you are considering.

People are always willing to help. Be self-aware and understand your personal strengths while being willing to put work and time into improving your opportunity areas. Continuously ask questions and be willing to learn through new challenges even if they are outside of your comfort zone.

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