Yep, I’m a Lifer
by Heidi Vanni, Chief Client Officer
December 4, 2020
4 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that workers spend with their employer is four years. I am rounding the corner on 20 years! Why do I stay?
Every few years, I have an honest conversation with myself about my path. And every few years, I have reached the same conclusion: Boston Trust Walden is the place for me. As I reflect on what has kept me here, the answer is clear: a unique combination of both professional and personal happiness. It is the juxtaposition of these components, not each in isolation, that explains the gratification I feel when I start my day.
While my employer has remained constant, my role has continuously evolved over the past two decades: assistant to the Chief Strategist, client administrator, securities analyst, portfolio manager, head of business development, and now Chief Client Officer and board member. This sequence of new challenges is one of the primary reasons I have stayed.
Importantly, the work is intellectually stimulating. One of the guiding principles of the firm is conviction in what we do, tempered with a sense of humility. Achieving this balance requires an openness to the question “why?” I thoroughly enjoy questioning an approach, exploring a vulnerability in an assumption, or taking the other side of an argument. Not only do these exchanges serve the firm well, it is deeply satisfying to be part of them.
I find myself contributing to discussions I never imagined when I completed my undergraduate degree in biology. To cultivate cognitive diversity and build institutional awareness, employees participate in committees outside their core job function. For example, I have served on the Human Resources Committee and the Audit & Risk Committee. These experiences have broadened my horizons and enabled me to gain an appreciation for the work my colleagues are doing.
Finally, the most important driver of my professional satisfaction is the knowledge that the work we are doing is meaningful and important. I am the mother of 8- and 11-year-old daughters. When my girls enter the labor force, it will be a more diverse and equitable world, in part because of the work Boston Trust Walden is doing to advance equality. As the decades pass, my girls will inherit a planet that is no longer on the verge of collapse, thanks in part to Boston Trust Walden’s efforts to encourage portfolio companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is nothing more motivating than working to leave a legacy for your children. I am incredibly grateful for the collective efforts of my colleagues to shape a brighter future for my kids.
Heidi's children, now 8 and 11, look out her office window in Boston.
Boston Trust Walden understands that work is but one component of a balanced life. In many ways, the freedom to throw away the pretense that I operate with one identity – that of a professional woman – has deepened my dedication to the firm and driven me to work in earnest. Last year, a client scheduled an important meeting on October 31st out of state. I was expected to be there, along with Steve Amyouny, one of our co-CEOs. I told Steve I would not join him, as it was Halloween and I wanted to trick or treat with my young kids (since I knew it wouldn’t be long before they declared they were going solo). Without hesitation Steve said, “Of course! I totally understand.”
I grew up in a family where you needed to have a big voice or you would get lost in the shuffle. I’m honest and direct with my colleagues, and I’m grateful that candor is celebrated. I can have an intense exchange with a colleague one day and go for a walk with that person the following day. The space to be honest is made possible by forging personal relationships with colleagues. My kids have picked tomatoes from our Chairman’s garden (in fact, they refer to Domenic Colasacco as “the tomato guy”) and our family has engaged in après ski fun with Richard Williams’ family at his New Hampshire home.
One of my favorite quotes is by the author Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” As the pandemic drags on and the weeks blur into months, this quote feels especially relevant. How do I spend my days? I spend my days working with people that I respect, care for, and admire. I spend my days encouraging my colleagues and feeling joy when they succeed. I spend my days pushing for continuous improvement. I spend my days energized by the work we are doing to promote equality and environmental sustainability. I spend my days meeting with smart, engaged clients who frequently teach me things I did not know. And I spend my days looking over my shoulder to see if my daughter has once again snuck up behind me in my Zoom meeting and put bunny ears over my head.
In other words, I spend my days living my life. And that is why, for this lifer, Boston Trust Walden is not a 4-year gig.