From Intern to CEO with Adena Friedman of NASDAQ
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From Intern to CEO with Adena Friedman of NASDAQ

Adena, thank you so much for welcoming WayUp
into this incredible studio I’m amazed this is awesome your your office is
amazing thank you for those who don’t know you’re the CEO of Nasdaq which is an incredible job but for many people who might not know you also started your
career at Nasdaq as an intern right I did yes I did start as an intern incredible so I have a lot of questions for you all about that but let’s start
back to your college MBA days tell me what was it that made you even want to
apply to work at NASDAQ in the first place yeah so the things that made me
think about applying to Nasdaq at that time were the fact that when I was in
business school I had two interests one was in finance and the other was in
product management and it’s kind of an interesting combination to do product
management in the financial services industry and what was really interesting
is it and then I found out about Nasdaq and Nasdaq was at that time a pretty
young Stock Exchange but an electronic exchange and what I heard about the
company was it really is in a way a technology product company within a
financial space so I decided to apply to Nasdaq to see whether I could get into
the product management roles here at Nasdaq even though you know in the
financial space it was kind of a kind of an interesting combination that I was
able to find amazing and you were coming out of your MBA at the time I was yes so you’re applying for this Nasdaq internship you find out you get
it tell me a little bit about what it was like interning at Nasdaq sure well
interning at Nasdaq at that time actually was pretty unstructured so we
were still a pretty young company we were a subsidiary of a larger
organization called the National Association of Securities Dealers which
is a little known fact and we are based in Washington DC which is also a little
known fact and so we were a for-profit organization within a membership
not-for-profit organization and at that time I think that the company had had
its huge amount of success launching and then growing this new exchange based on
electronic trading and they’d started to get to the point where they had a lot of
success with companies that had not qualified for New York when they when
they came to Nasdaq but then had become really big companies. Apple, Microsoft,
Applied Materials, Intel those were all companies listed on
Nasdaq that and decided at that point let’s stay on NASDAQ in it so we had
really started to develop out all of the different ways for us to trade those
products to treat other instruments beyond just stocks and we were really
trying to find our way as a for-profit organization so I came in as the only
intern in the group I was in the trading group they did have interns in the
listing side but none in the trading side and so it was really kind of fun to
be the only intern in the group do you remember some of the things that when
you were an intern that really stuck out to you as memorable as as fun as you
know even just defining of your career well the most memorable part of the
internship really was the fact that I had to find my own way so they said okay
you’re gonna come in and you’re gonna write business plans for this trading
product called ACES and another product called PORTAL and I thought and then
they said oh of course you have an MBA so you know how to write a business plan
and I was like oh yeah of course well I had no idea how to write it back
so I loved it and back then the internet really hadn’t really kind of blossomed
yet so it was really a matter of going and doing my own research and saying
okay what is it that really defines a business plan or the components of it
and then to find my way through the organization find experts on these
products really helped me understand the legal side of it the technology side of
it the the business side of it and it was a lot of fun because I really was
kind of finding my own way through the organization and that is actually what
define my career you know at the end of the day I think that one of the great
things about NASDAQ is you can find your way into the organization in one group
and then move into other parts the company and that really was and but you
have to have your own sense of self-reliance
you know self starting and that certainly was a good way a good way for
me to learn that early on amazing so I’m talking to someone who started out as an intern became a CEO I think a lot of interns dream of working full time at
the companies they interned and even maybe rising the ranks are you the only
person who ever interned at Nasdaq and continued to stay there and grow and
their careers or are there many of you? there are actually many of us now so
after I had my internship and as the company continued to mature we started
to have a more regular internship program and so we now have a lot of a
lot of our employees who used to be interns or one of them is running sales
in our data group one of them is in the product management team and our in our
data group we also have people in our HR organization marketing organization or
finance and legal organization all of whom started off as interns so it really
is actually a great great way to get started here at NASDAQ incredible ok so
thinking back to your younger self you’re in MBA in college you’re applying
for internships you’re probably freaking out about what the heck you’re gonna do
with your life what advice do you have for your younger self if you could like
write a message in a bottle send it back in time well the first thing to remember
is that a career is 40 years long so it is really important to recognize that
you’re not you’re not starting a sprint you’re starting a marathon and you want
to really think through it doesn’t mean your first job does not need to be the
perfect job but with each of the jobs that you have you want to learn
something about it you want to decide what you like and what you don’t like
it’s actually frankly a huge amount of value in learning what you like but also
learning what you don’t like to do and allow yourself to kind of take those
early years whether it’s through the internship programs you do in college or
whether it’s through the first couple of jobs you have to truly really try to
hone in on what is what it makes you excited to come to work every day I mean
how do you use your intellect how do you use your curiosity to really drive you
and motivate you and if you kind of take those early years to do that that will
honestly set you on the better path for your longer your longer career so let’s talk Impostor Syndrome I think a lot of young adults young
professionals might have this kind of notion of impostor syndrome when they
start a career when they’re even applying for an internship and there’s a
million-in-one statistics about how women tend to hold back from applying
for a job if they don’t have every qualification any advice for young
professionals who might have that impostor syndrome do you have impostor
syndrome well when I was really early in my career I was offered a couple of
promotions along the way and there were definitely times when I said wow I’m
kind of surprised they think that I’m the right person but I said absolutely I
love that job that sounds awesome and then you sit there and say okay I’m
going to figure this out and and you definitely realize that everyone else
around you is having the same sentiment right anyone else who’s kind of entering
into new job and taking on new responsibilities
realizes if they have a lot to learn and the big thing is that you have to get
over that fear because I say that stretching yourself is almost like
building new muscles and that kind of muscle memory has to develop over time
so keep putting yourself into uncomfortable situations and you’ll
develop that muscle where it goes from having fear to having excitement and so
by the time that I was in the middle of my career and moving up up until
certainly you know the last couple chances I’ve had I really didn’t have
any fear at all it really was I think I am ready for this I’m you know I know
that I can take on the additional responsibility I know that I can I can
do this job well but it all came from those early years where you had to force
yourself into situations that made you uncomfortable amazing so I would assume
when you felt uncomfortable there were role models or mentors in your life I
know that your parents pay the big role in helping you think through pros and
cons of your career tell me a little bit about some the role models in your life yeah so my biggest role model well are my parents actually so I would say both
of them together one of them because my father worked in the financial services
industry his whole career and worked extremely hard throughout his career but
it obviously rewarded him as he went through so he ended his career as the in
the last ten years as the chief investment officer T. Rowe Price and he
really had done a huge amount to impact the success of that company you have a
power family I hope you know that that was really to me to watch his work
ethic to watch him really form the basis of that company and and the kind of
success it has today I think was hugely inspiring to me and my mom had been a
stay-at-home mom she was a stay-at-home mom until I was nine and then she went
back to law school and when I was 11 she became a lawyer and over the next few
years she became actually the first woman partner in her law firm but the
fact that she was able to find that balance you know she was always you I
wouldn’t say she was always home for dinner because my dad actually had to
start coming home and making dinner occasionally but she was always there
when I needed her regardless of the thing that was going anything that was
going on around her and at the same time she was hugely successful in her own
profession and so to me those were really great role models and I know not
everyone has the benefit of role models who can kind of shape
their career but you do want to make sure that even if you don’t have them in
your side your own family that you look for them within your your professional
life you look at them look for them in your personal life and and try to make
sure that you have a chance to interact with them and have them help you along
the way awesome my final two questions for people watching who might be
considering applying for an internship or a full-time role at Nasdaq tell me a
little bit about the culture here the culture at Nasdaq is kind of an
interesting combination so we call it collaborative command so for a long time
I think the company as it was growing really fast and as we are dealing with a
lot of acquisitions we had really a command-and-control culture which means
a lot of decision making funneled up to the top of the organization and given
how quickly we had to make decisions and how fast the environment was moving I
think that it was actually an important stage in our in our evolution but today
I think that we are a very innovative company we’re a tech company we have a
lot of organic opportunities for us to move forward and it’s still a very
dynamic environment but we’re very skilled so now it’s a matter of making
sure we get all the best ideas in the room we really think them through
together and then we make a very definitive decision and once that
decision is made we march forward together so that to me is that
combination of collaboration but then also having the command and the
decision-making authority to kind of move fast and that’s the kind of culture
we try to instill here awesome all right my last question for you someone is
watching this they decide alright I want to be the future CEO of Nasdaq I’m gonna
start as an intern they apply maybe it’s their first time job at a first job out
of college what interview advice do you have for someone who maybe finds out
that they have an interview at Nasdaq and has no idea where to start preparing yeah well the first thing is you do want to do the research there’s so much
available online and I know that you know our site our website gives a lot of
information there’s obviously a lot of news and other sources of information
about Nasdaq make sure not only that you understand Nasdaq but you understand
who’s you know who’s in the senior management ranks so who and what job are
you actually interviewing for because we do have a pretty broad spectrum of
opportunities here so make sure you understand the job understand you know
ultimately how it reports up into the organization and understand the company
so that you can have an intelligent conversation with the interviewer I mean
that’s just kind of job number one I think the other thing that we look for
in all of our candidates is intellectual curiosity you know understanding or
wanting to understand more about the world around them wanting to understand
more about the capital markets and how they’ve they shaped the economy
understanding that we actually are not just the capital market for the US but
we are also the capital markets in the Nordics and we provide the technology
that powers over a hundred other markets around the world so it’s a really
interesting that intellectual curiosity is also gonna play very well in the
interview amazing well thank you so much again for for having this conversation
it’s incredible and I think anyone who could work here would be very lucky so
thank you so much thank you so much, thank you

About Ralph Robinson

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3 thoughts on “From Intern to CEO with Adena Friedman of NASDAQ

  1. Great advice on thinking of your career as a marathon rather than a sprint! She is a really inspiring person going from Intern to CEO is badass.

  2. That was excellent advice from Adena. The interviewer asked a lot of questions that I would have asked if I could sit down and talk with the CEO of NASDAQ.

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