Date: February 10, 2022
- What do you want people to know about you? Describe yourself in 6 words. Ex- “Mediator, lawyer, educator. I’m Olivia Pope.”
Asahi: I would say that I’m a cross between Amal Clooney and Nakia from Black Panther. Definitely a badass. I’m an ambassador. I’m definitely high energy. If you’re around me you’ll know that. I’m an undercover introvert, most people don’t know that . And I’m a fervent champion and sponsor of others.
Tell us your name, your business name or industry, location and description. Why are you in this field? How did you get here?
Asahi: I’m the most unlikely Goldman Sachs partner you’ll ever meet. You know, I grew up, I grew up. I’m an immigrant and my family immigrated from Guyana, South America when I was 10. All seven of us came to my aunt’s one bedroom and went to New York City public schools. Goldman Sachs and community engagement was really nowhere on my radar except maybe for organizations that engage with us in that sense. I went to Japan for a year or lived with a Japanese family to study Japanese, went to undergrad at Swarthmore, went to Columbia Law School, and really sort of made my way to Goldman 16 years ago. Like you I’m a lawyer, and I really wanted to sort of, you know, see whether this storied investment bank with the legacy that it had would really be the kind of environment where I could bring my talents and grow and flourish. And I remember when I started at Goldman, I told my dad, either I’ll fail spectacularly, or I’ll do really, really well and I’m not sure which one it is, but I know I’ll come out better and stronger on the back of it. And so it was with that sort of intention around really exploring and bringing my talents to Goldman that I came 16 years ago, and boy, it’s been an incredible ride that now I’m heading all of our community engagement efforts around the globe. And it was very from unlikely beginnings really
- What was your single biggest challenge in running your business or working in your industry throughout the pandemic?
Asahi: You know, the pandemic has brought so much to our door. I think my biggest challenge during the pandemic was really boundaries and setting boundaries. I remember at some point early in the pandemic, a friend said to me, you know, the only days of the week are, you know, yesterday, today and tomorrow because you just sort of lost track of all sorts of time I was running the COVID Fund, the largest fund ever in the history of Goldman Sachs. And then two months later, I was running the racial equity fund, our first ever racial equity fund. And from there we were just engaging with our employees. To our stakeholders, to the board of the firm, to our community, nonprofits around the world. And frankly, we’re still doing that, because we’re still in the midst of it. And so all of that was happening all at once. And so I think, you know, being able to set boundaries, I think was probably the hardest part. I think I was really bad at it at the very beginning. You know, I was sort of up at all hours, you know, of the night and day taking calls in Asia and what was happening in India and, and really had lost track of, you know, morning and evening and night and having to sort of reset and say okay, in order for you to deliver your best you’re going to have to go through and I love that theme of this podcast commodity around resilience, periods of rest and renewal. And that’s critical to bringing your best self into every single thing that you’re doing. So yes, you’re driven, yes, you’re intense, but everyone who is that way, needs rest and renewal, and to be able to infuse that into my day in my activities was one of the biggest challenges but also one of the greatest opportunities which then allowed me to do even more.
- Like the Elton John song, you are still standing. Where does your resilience come from and how do you tap into it?
Asahi:You know, it’s interesting because of evolution so somebody comes from an amazing you know, family, a mom and dad and just sort of a, you know, whole network of educators in my family who really, you know, whose dreams for us were far greater than our dreams were for us. And over time, I think our dreams are bigger on the back of their aspirations for us. And so I think a lot of my resilience comes from that. I don’t carry things very long when something goes wrong. I think you know, extract the lesson but leave the pain. And otherwise, you know, if you’re carrying all of that with you, it’s your backpack as I put it, your fingertip backpack gets heavier and heavier and you know, it impedes how quickly you can really navigate and pivot and move in the world. And so, when something happens, you know, whatever challenge I really have is very self disciplined around okay, what’s the lesson? Why is this challenge in your life? What is it here to teach you? And I really try to hone in on that. And then I leave the rest behind and I take the lesson with me and I think that’s the secret sauce to my resilience.
- Any mistake you made that you want to prevent others from making?
Asahi: As much risk early on in my career as I should have, and I think taking more calculated risk would have been better for me over time. You know, I grew that muscle, but had I grown it earlier. I think it would have been better if things would work out by and large, right you’ve got your intellect, you’ve got your drive, you’ve got your hard work, you’ve got your community, you’ve got your village. And so I think, you know, very many of us are sort of held back by fear. I think the story of how I got this job as head of corporate engagement. I’ve been at the firm, whatever you know, for 12 years, and my boss John Rogers and the CEO David Solomon tapped me to become president of the foundation and Global Head of corporate engagement. And it always sounds like a great story, right? You were tapped by the CEO and the chairman of the firm to take on this role. And it is fantastic and their belief in me in being able to do this role from the job that I was in CO head of investment banking compliance was a tremendous leap and judgment and risk taking in where very many people aren’t willing to take risks on on people of color or their bar to take risks on them tends to be far, far higher, but on the other hand, it’s not a great story in the sense that what if they hadn’t what if they hadn’t tapped me, right? I loved my job, but I would still likely have been doing it. And so while it’s a great story, it also says, seeking out those opportunities.
- Each one. Teach one. Suggest a book, song, course, program for our listeners.
Asahi: So 48 Laws of Power book by Robert Greene. I know it’s a controversial book, but it’s a super interesting read. So I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t, and the story is a great epiphany and “I Rise Up” by Andra Day. If I want to feel jazzed and ready to go, I just really, really love that song. I’m a big walker. And so I’ve been listening a lot to Scott Galloway, Profit G and Pivot. Those are the podcasts that I’ve been listening to, of course, in addition to Breakthrough with Damali.