Yahlin Chang, Morgan Stanley’s Head of Technology responsible for Asia Pacific markets, and Head of Technology and Operations Risk Asia (the Cybersecurity, Technology and Operations Risk division), shares with WiFA what attracted her to a career in finance,  her experience as a mentor, advice to her younger self, and much more. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I have been with Morgan Stanley for 29 years, a real ‘lifer’ as they call it. I am fortunate to have worked in our major hubs across the globe – New York, London, and Hong Kong – where I had 10+ different roles when I changed jobs, changed locations, or expanded responsibilities. If you do the math, I go through a change every 3 or so years on average. It has been an amazing journey. 

I am a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion. In addition to serving on the firm’s Diversity Committee and being the Co-Executive Sponsor for the Women’s Business Alliance Network, a significant part of my time is spent mentoring and developing talent inside and outside the organization. 

I graduated from Cornell University in Electrical Engineering. I am a passionate Cornellian and an active member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women and Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassadors Network. 

I am also the proud mother of an 11-year old boy, and enjoy spending time with my little one and spouse. 

What drew you to a career in finance? What has motivated you to stay?

29 years have gone by with a blink of an eye, and I still love every minute of it! 

I was drawn to the Finance sector because it is a ‘people business.’ I wanted to work for a company where I can bring together my technical capabilities with my inter-personal skills to make an impact. 

What has kept me with Morgan Stanley for so long? I would say 3 things – 

Morgan Stanley has proven that Finance is truly a ‘people’ business. I love the close partnership and teamwork across the firm! Being the Head of Technology, the great collaboration with our businesses and clients has allowed my division and myself to apply our technical capabilities to add great value.

As a firm, we value Excellence and we look to deliver first-class business in a first-class way. When you are surrounded by people that want to achieve greatness and deliver the best, you are naturally motivated to also want to strive for the best. 

Morgan Stanley is a ‘meritocracy’. If you work hard and deliver excellence, you will have many opportunities. I am a living proof of that; my career to date is a great example of the company supporting career development by providing mobility and opportunities for continuous learning.

Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person?

Mentoring has played a critical part in my career, and I am grateful to have had mentors who help me ‘get comfortable with the uncomfortable’. 

Through my mentors, I learned how to ask for feedback as well as embrace criticism and receive tough and honest feedback. It is easy for anyone to receive compliments and hi five’s, but it is hard to digest constructive feedback without getting defensive and emotional. My mentors taught me how to focus on identifying and solving the problem without taking anything personally. 

I have also learned how to manage my insecurities by focusing on what I know as opposed to what I do not know. Given the number of times I have changed roles, being able to focus on my transferrable skills has been critical in my ability to make a role my own and adding value with the skills and strengths I have. 

As a working mother and a senior woman, Work Life Balance or as I call it ‘Work Life Integration’ is always a challenge. My mentors have offered me a close-knit support network that I can lean on when needed. 

Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self?

I would want my younger self to understand the importance of Executive Presence and to start working on it along with the ability to Speak with Confidence and Speak with Impact at a much earlier stage of my career. 

I love quoting our Vice Chairman, Carla Harris, ‘If you have been invited to the room, you belong in the room. If you are in the room then you have a seat at the table. If you have a seat at the table then you have a responsibility to speak’!

My mentors had the biggest impact in helping me appreciate the essence of Carla’s quote and were instrumental in giving me honest feedback. Having strong communication skills and being able to speak with impact are fundamental to building one’s Executive Presence, and Executive Presence inspires confidence in those around you, your management, your peers and your teams, about your capabilities. These are critical transferrable skills throughout one’s career, and it is best to start training while young and continually focus on improving as you progress.