Leaving Goldman Sachs: A Tech Executive Shares The Risks And Rewards
Lee Moulton’s first job was at Goldman Sachs, where he found an environment that encouraged collaboration and an open exchange of ideas.
Moulton said he learned the importance of being consistently excellent while working at the global investment banking, securities and investment management firm, according to a Jopwell interview.
Leaving Goldman Sachs was the biggest risk Moulton ever took. Now he’s head of strategic partnerships at tech startup Breather, which has an app that helps users access commercial office space by the hour.
Moulton shares insights on his career in this Jopwell interview.
From Jopwell, a hiring and recruitment platform that helps America’s leading companies connect with and recruit Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students to scale. Jopwell is the first hiring and recruitment platform focusing entirely on talented diverse candidates from the most underrepresented groups.
Location: New York, NY
Job: Head of Strategic Partnerships, Breather
Education: Bachelor of arts in political science, Amherst College; HBX Core: Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, Financial Accounting, Harvard Business School
What was your first job, and how did it help inform your path and perspective?
I started my career as an analyst on the interest rates products team at Goldman Sachs. My mentor at the time was a managing director there and encouraged me to apply for the position. The most important lesson I learned during my six-and-a-half years there was the importance of being consistently excellent, even when no one was looking or paying attention. I also learned the value of giving and receiving constructive feedback in order to improve my professional development. Feedback is so essential when working in any team environment, especially one as predicated on collaboration and open exchange of ideas like Goldman Sachs.
Tell us about the company you work at now, Breather, and your role there.
I often describe Breather as Zipcar for meeting spaces – we are helping our users access a very expensive and high-maintenance commodity (in our case, commercial office space) by the hour, and placing our commodity as close to them as possible. We serve meeting planners, executive assistants, photographers, videographers, workshop facilitators, and even therapists. We have spaces of all types, layouts, and sizes, so no matter what you desire, there is a Breather that can serve your space need, flexibly and at an affordable price.
What do you spend the majority of your work day doing?
As head of strategic partnerships, I spend the majority of my day trying to solve really hard problems that face a rapidly growing company. I collaborate with various stakeholders across the organization – from real estate to tech to marketing – and come up with strategies that help us achieve our growth goals. The remainder of my day is spent engaging with Breather’s top clients, either at events, on the phone, or via email, to make sure they are pleased with our product.
What’s it like to help grow a scaling startup?
The word that comes to mind is “invigorating.” Waking up each day to move a mission forward that you really believe in – and that is solving a real need – is a rare privilege. There are challenges and roadblocks, and change can happen rapidly, but if you can turn change into opportunity, you will always be in the driver’s seat. Breather has grown pretty quickly. We recently surpassed 200 employees globally and have locations in 10 cities and three countries. Being able to walk around New York City knowing you can unlock hundreds of Breather locations with your smartphone is a feeling we take great joy in providing to our users. Soon there will be thousands to choose from. That’s pretty exciting.
What advice do you wish you could have given yourself on day one of your career?
Be adaptable. Markets and business climates can fluctuate without warning, so it’s important to focus on your skillset. Also, take risks, even in discomfort — therein lies personal and professional growth. Leaving Goldman Sachs was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It showed me that if you have conviction and determination, you find success is places you may have found foreign.
What’s something about you that people might be surprised to learn?
I was raised by a single mother who immigrated to America to escape the civil war in her home country of Liberia. Her experience and resilience informs much of who I am and how I look at opportunities.
What’s your advice when it comes to staying productive?
Find your optimal energy. Your body is like a battery, and sleep is the human equivalent of plugging your battery into a charger. Figure out when your body is at its peak performance and carve out that time to do your most meaningful work. Also don’t be afraid to decline a meeting or request not to be interrupted if you’re working on something creative. People will understand, and the interruptions are most likely not that important.
How have certain candidates stood out to you (in a good way) during the hiring process?
If you’re a nice and genuine person who also has a strong intellectual capacity, you’ll be a good fit anywhere. People often make the mistake of hiring nice people who can’t do the job or mean people who are super smart.
What’s been among the most memorable moments of your career to date?
Seeing Breather featured as App of the Week in The New York Times. That was mind-blowing. I grew up reading The Times with my mother and it was always viewed as the most respected newspaper in world. Seeing Breather as App of Week – an app that I was helping to share with the world – was surreal, and an affirmation that we were doing something right.
What have you read or listened to recently that you’d recommend?
“Contagious” by Jonah Berger. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to grow awareness about your brand.
Do you have a favorite motto or saying that keeps you motivated?
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
Read more at Jopwell, a hiring and recruitment platform that helps America’s leading companies connect with and recruit Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students to scale. It’s the first hiring and recruitment platform focusing entirely on talented diverse candidates from the most underrepresented groups.
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