This female engineer rose up the ranks at Goldman Sachs to become a tech MD
What do technologists need to know to position themselves for a career at Goldman Sachs? There are many potential paths to take, but it pays off to stay nimble and ready to apply your skill set where it is most needed.
Case in point, Miruna Stratan joined Goldman Sachs after earning a degree in communications and electrical engineering at Bucharest Polytechnic University in Romania and a graduate degree in telecommunications from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.
During Stratan’s 18-year career at Goldman, she has worn many hats, overseeing the development of new infrastructure across the firm, including the bank’s external cloud access platform, cloud desktop and remote-access function. In addition, she serves on several internal committees and external advisory councils that focus on cloud technologies.
“The evolution of cloud security solutions, particularly related to software and infrastructure, have had an immense effect on our industry, and I think in the next few years this will continue to be a key area of focus,” Stratan said.
“These security initiatives, in addition to platform-as-a-service offerings, will enable firms across the sector to build an accessible data platform in the public cloud,” she said.
Most recently, Stratan served as the chief technology officer of workplace platforms while also holding product development and management roles. Prior to that, she was responsible for global network architecture and design and global network products development.
“Over the course of my career, I developed an expertise in technology infrastructure engineering by working on data-center products across both the compute storage and networking space,” Stratan said.
“Through this work, I helped drive the firm’s global data-center architecture and strategy, and also managed our vendor relationships in this sector,” she said.
“I began my career at Goldman Sachs developing technology solutions for the firm’s banking business, before specializing in technology infrastructure.”
Career turning points
To continue earning promotions to move up the ladder, it helps to earn accolades. To do so, you will have to get past bumps in the road and overcome challenges along the way.
“Over the last 18 years at Goldman Sachs, I’ve taken on several new lateral roles,” Stratan said. “These were difficult moves to make, because I had to prove to my new team members and managers that I was capable of delivering a strong work product time and again, even though I had been working at the firm in other capacities.
“While it’s difficult to be exposed to a different environment or be assigned to an existing project you have no background on, working on new technologies and teams ultimately served as some of my best learning experiences and allowed me to broaden my network internally,” she said.
In 2014, Stratan was named a Technology Fellow, a distinction that recognizes individuals across the firm who exhibit the strongest engineering and architectural talent. In 2015, she was promoted to managing director.
“It’s also been exciting to develop expertise in new, emerging technologies, and work directly with leading industry vendors, to improve not only the firm’s internal technology platforms, but also be able to influence important industry shifts to open infrastructure platforms and cloud security,” Stratan said.
“My work, alongside my team, has helped transform our business into a data-driven model through applied technology,” she said.
Stratan’s father – a physicist – was one of her early role models. He encouraged her to study engineering because he was convinced that the computer and communications era was in its early stages and that there were tremendous opportunities in that space.
“When I first started with the firm, I expected that I would eventually become more of a business analyst rather than a technical expert,” Stratan said. “But, I was quite surprised by the depth of the technology stack, as well as by the ability to influence the business model through technical solutions, and therefore continued on this path as my career progressed.”
Techies need to be able to communicate effectively with non-techies
What are some lessons Stratan has learned over the years as it relates to career success?
“I’ve learned the importance of communication, from highlighting the great work you’ve done on a particular project to explaining the rationale behind taking a project in a new direction,” Stratan said.
“Communicating effectively allows you to strengthen your presence on a team, as other team members understand clearly what you’re working on, while also allowing you to share your vision and goals with others,” she said.
“While developing a great technical solution is key, communicating how you were able to do so is just as important.”
In job interviews, it’s important for candidates to show they have strong technical capabilities, but are also able to work effectively with others to develop innovative solutions, Stratan said.
In addition, she feels that curiosity and the ability to learn quickly are quite important.
“Asking candidates to describe how they solved a problem in their past jobs or internships is very eye-opening and indicates how they would likely perform in a new role,” Stratan said. “These questions allow you to go into deeper and deeper levels of detail to really understand how the candidate thinks.”
Build internal and external networks
Stratan echoed advice for female bankers from fellow Goldman MD Alison Mass: If you want to make it to the top, act like you deserve to be there. Also, seek out strong mentors.
“As a woman technologist I felt intimidated early on in my career – at times I was one of the only women in the room,” Stratan said. “It’s important to build your network both internally and externally to identify mentors and sponsors that will support you and offer guidance, giving you the confidence to excel in your career and overcame the initial intimidation I first experienced.”
Stratan encourages woman technologists to participate in external initiatives that they find rewarding. For example, she has attended and spoken at the Grace Hopper Conference, which is one of the largest technical conferences for women in computing. She has also taken part in Lesbians Who Code conferences, which brings together members and allies of the LGBT community that are passionate about technology.
“Participating in these external initiatives allows me to broaden my network and learn about new industry trends, which I then share with my team,” Stratan said.
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Photo courtesy of Goldman Sachs