Cathy Bolz runs global benefits for Bloomberg. To this role, she brings an extensive background managing organizational change resulting from M&A activity, as well as technical experience designing, implementing and managing corporate compensation and benefit programs for firms including Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and BlackRock.
Cathy leads Bloomberg’s sponsorship of OutWOMEN, and spoke at the OutWOMEN Breakfast held as part of our 2018 U.S. Summit.
She says that the business skill she uses most in the rest of her life is relationship-building, and her personal motto is: “Work hard, play hard, be happy.”
How did you first realize you were LGBT+, and how did you come out in your life and at work?
I always tell people I was a very late bloomer. I didn’t realize that I was gay until I was probably 30, and it was just one of those “A-ha, I guess that’s it” moments.
I came out gradually, both personally and professionally. I never made an announcement, or waved a flag. It just sort of happened as it needed to happen. Even today, in many cases it’s unspoken.
How would you say being out at work has influenced your leadership and style?
As a leader, I think, regardless of whether you’re LGBT+ or an ally, or frankly if you’re none of the above, you have the responsibility to pave the way for others. As a gay woman in the professional world, I’m very focused on setting an example for up-and-coming LGBT+ talent. I think it’s really important to be visible. People need to see other people like them breaking through barriers and succeeding.
Who would you describe as your role models?
I think my role models fall into two categories. I really admire the everyday heroes – people who put their life on the line every day, first responders, people who run selflessly toward danger for the benefit of others.
And I also admire people who use their experience or their position to make the world a better place. I’m sitting in the Bloomberg building, so Mike Bloomberg comes to mind. He makes an incredible impact on the world, I believe, and I certainly look up to people like him as role models.
If you could have any job, other than the one that you have now, what do you think it would be?
I would love to be the voice of an animated character in a blockbuster movie. Not a sidekick though – a main, feature player. Name in the title.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from a boss?
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
What about the most important thing you’ve learned from an employee?
To build a really good, effective relationship, there has to be mutual trust.
If you could tell someone who graduated from college this year one thing that you’ve learned in your career, what would it be?
Don’t let anyone define who you are, or who you want to be.
And also – when you’re thinking about navigating through your career, you’re looking for new opportunities, you have to do the job that you have really well. If you do your job to the best of your ability, more opportunities will come to you.
What’s the best interview question you’ve ever heard?
‘What professional skills do you have that you leverage to do whatever it is you do on your own time?’
I like this question because it gives you some insight as to how comfortable people are with a skill, and if they see practical application of whatever skill they are talking about.
Who is your LGBT+ hero?
Ellen DeGeneres. She came out at a time when it was risky for her career, she came out with humor, she expected consequences, there were consequences, she persevered, and she has gone on to do incredibly great things.
What was your first job?
I’ve been working my entire life. I had a vacuum cleaner in my hand, I think, by the age of three, and a dust cloth in the other. The first job where I actually received a paycheck was a grocery store cashier.
What, when you look around in the world today, strikes you as the most tantalizing leadership opportunity?
I think there’s huge opportunity for people with good ideas and solid judgment, to get involved in the political process. People like that need to get involved.
From a business perspective, as we think through how quickly the world and each individual business sector is changing from a technology perspective, there are huge opportunities to lead.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Life is a series of short-term decisions. Oftentimes, people get so overwhelmed with what is perceived to be a big decision and find it difficult to move forward. But when you think about life as a series of short-term decisions, it’s much easier. Picture the future, but don’t let it overwhelm you. If you make a mistake, or if you see a way to improve something along your journey, all you have to do is make another decision to correct it.
There’s one piece of advice that one of my colleagues shared with me years ago, and I actually find myself reiterating it, to myself and others.
What would the next big step for you from a career perspective be, you think?
I see myself doing advisory board work. Frankly, after having worked nearly 30 years, I’d like to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned throughout my career – ideally with startups who could benefit from my experience, so in turn, I could continue to learn and be involved in the new economy.
If you were planning a dinner party, and you could invite any five people, living or dead, from history, who would they be and why?
I’m always seeing people on the news, or I see a movie and I’m like, “Oh, they’d be great at a dinner party.” But I think when push comes to shove, if I really had that opportunity, I would pick my mom, my dad, who passed away when I was 16, and my wife … and a chef to create an awesome meal and a sommelier to select the best wines.
What would the opening song in a movie about your life be?
The song hasn’t been written, but the name of the song would be, “It’s Fun Watching You Have Fun.” And it would be a love story based on something my brother said to me the first time he met my wife, over 20 years ago, before we were actually a couple. I think after spending the day with us, and most of the evening with us, he knew we had a special, long-lasting bond and the next day when he called me, he said, “I had so much fun watching you have fun.”