Gabriela Franco Parcella
Gabriela Franco Parcella is not your stereotypical Asset Management CEO. A first-generation Mexican-American woman who started off in the legal department of Mellon Capital, Parcella advanced from lawyer, to General Counsel, then, in 2008, to COO. In March of 2011, Parcella landed the top spot when she was named Mellon Capital’s new CEO.
I sat down with Gabby to discuss her road to the CEO position at Mellon Capital Management, her mentor, Charles Jacklin, Mellon Capital Chairman, and her advice for women looking to pursue senior leadership roles. Mellon Capital, part of BNY Mellon Investment Management, is a global multi-asset manager with over $245 billion in assets under management.
Ellen Kinlin: You’ve been the CEO at Mellon Capital for over a year now. Did you begin your career at the firm with your eye on the top job?
Gabriela Franco Parcella: When I started in the legal department of the company 14 years ago, I never thought I’d be CEO. I assumed that being General Counsel was the most I could wish for. Yet, as my career progressed, there was a continual and steady expansion of my responsibilities. From the beginning, I was committed to learning every aspect of the company. That depth of understanding positioned me to make a positive impact on Mellon Capital and opened up avenues for my advancement.
E.K: Continually expanding your role within a company is essential to getting ahead. Can you provide me with an example of how you accomplished this?
G.P: I have always volunteered to do more than what is expected of me, which has been a crucial ingredient to gaining skills that I wouldn’t have been able to develop in other circumstances. A perfect example is when I was the COO reporting to then-CEO Charlie Jacklin – I would volunteer to write the first draft of his business review presentations, which he would then modify. When I watched him giving these presentations, I could see what he included, what he changed, and how he fielded questions. I learned so much during this process. With opportunities like that, I had a chance to gain experience that has proved invaluable in my current role.
E.K: How did you react when the opportunity to pursue the CEO position became available?
G.P: For the majority of my career, my advancement was mostly dependent on people recognizing my accomplishments and asking me to take on additional responsibilities. But when the CEO position became available, I jumped at it. I didn’t hesitate because I knew I could do the job. It’s not my usual style to be aggressive in the workplace, but it was necessary to be considered for a role of this size. My husband shared some insights that were tremendously useful to me when the opportunity arose.
He used to work for an investment bank, and he would tell me about the hyper-aggressive and confident way the bankers would go after promotions. Now, I’m not as extreme as those guys, but I learned from him and others that you must be willing to put yourself out there. I had to communicate why I was the right person for the job. I couldn’t just sit back and let my track record speak for itself.
E.K: It’s so important that women draw attention to their accomplishments. What else can women do to make it known that they’re interested in advancing within the company?
G.P: Clearly communicating that you can and want to take on more responsibility is a good place to start. People make assumptions about those they work with all the time. For example, they may assume that you do not want more responsibility because of your family life. I have two young boys (five and seven). My husband travels all the time for his job and the CEO role at Mellon Capital was certainly going to require a lot of travel. We found a way to make that work for our careers and our family. Someone could have looked at my circumstances and made a false assumption that I would not be willing to travel. It’s not done maliciously. Confusion about things like this is avoidable if a woman makes clear that she can handle an expansion of her responsibilities.
E.K: What are the top three pieces of advice you give to women about how to advance their career?
G.P: My three biggest tips are all things that helped me at various stages in my career:
- Look Towards The Next Position – Think about two or three roles that you would like to have in the future at your company. Figure out what gaps you have in your experience that could inhibit your progress, and work towards filling them. That might mean volunteering for projects or initiatives that extend beyond your role.
- Be Intellectually Curious – Learn everything you can about your job and about your company. It is expected that you master the role you are in before you take on more. This takes hard work, but it pays off. The more you know, the better job you will do, and the more opportunities you will create for yourself within the company.
- Put Yourself Out There – Don’t think your track record will do the work for you. Be exceptional at your job, build a network of supporters and, when you are ready, communicate that you want more responsibility. Make a convincing case about why you are the right person for the job.
E.K: You’re very involved in BNY Mellon’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council. Why is the council important to you?
G.P: My family is from Mexico and my heritage is an essential part of who I am. There are not many Hispanic women working in this industry. By being vocal about my background, I can help broaden people’s ideas of what it is to be Mexican-American.
Gabby Parcella’s efforts to build a strong mentor relationship and a network of supporters certainly helped her gain the experience she needed to become CEO herself. Her work ethic played a major role in her advancement. This combined with her tenacity to continue expanding her role – even when it meant leaving her legal-realm comfort zone – is exactly the kind of one two combo that can help any rising executive continue advancing.