AS A NEWLY minted college graduate, I entered the job market with
plenty of motivation and absolutely no clear direction, no stellar
academic record, and no remarkable skills or talents. I was unexceptional. I needed a few lucky breaks to start my career.
One big break was somehow landing a job at Bridgewater Associates. That was pure luck; I can’t imagine it happening again today.
Another was meeting someone who, over many years, would give me
invaluable advice and steadfast encouragement.
His name was Bill Mahoney. He was a great friend, and his
mentorship is one of the things that have mattered most in my career.
Bill led the marketing group at Bridgewater for a number of
years. He was wildly successful, but you wouldn’t have known it just by
looking at him, particularly if you saw him around town in his dusty
old pickup truck. You wouldn’t have been able to tell just by speaking
with him either, as he was unfailingly down to earth and gracious. But
if you worked with him, you would have known that he was exceptionally savvy and phenomenally good at what he did. If you were looking
for career advice, you would have naturally gravitated toward him.
Those of us who have had a great mentor know the value of having
someone in your corner. Someone you could trust and turn to in the
inevitable tough times. Someone who would help you look past petty
distractions and keep your focus on your long-term goals, who would
encourage you to take risks when you might be too cautious, and who
would always have your back but tell it to you straight when you needed
to toughen up and take action. Bill did all of those things and more for
me, and he did it generously while expecting nothing in return. He did
the same for many others who were lucky enough to have known him.
Bill died three years ago from pancreatic cancer. He had retired
from Bridgewater just a few years before and was only 55 years old.
He lived a successful and fulfilled life, surrounded by family who
cherished him and friends who admired him. To me and to the many
others who knew him well, he imparted indelible reminders of what
really mattered in life, and most times those things had nothing to
do with our careers.
Chris Mascarinas is a senior client advisor at Kepos Capital.
THREE YEARS AGO, Britt Harris told the
story of his career to CIO as the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree. While
the account ranged over every part of a
CIO’s job, from culture to asset allocation to
manager selection, the Teacher Retirement
System of Texas’ CIO pointed to one aspect
as the “key to everything”: the people you
work with. As he wrote at the time:
“I began in the consolidated account department
of Texas Utilities—not the place you would probably look first for a CIO candidate. What I did have,
that many others didn’t, was the opportunity to work
with highly professional men who set a good example
for me of what a professional looks like and how he
conducted himself and treated others.
Then, a day came when the men I worked for
decided to create a holding company and consoli-
date several subsidiaries into a single enterprise. A
pension fund emerged with a consolidated value of
around $300 million. This figure was too small to
be assigned to anyone truly important in the firm but
too large to completely ignore. In other words, it was
just right for a young guy like me.
It was very clear that I knew very little at
that time, but each morning I would prepare to hear
whatever investment ideas would be presented that
day. During each day, I would listen carefully to
every story and every idea. Then I would review
them on the way home. Every day, of every week, for
Since then, I have managed several funds, and
I have been blessed by each opportunity. Combus-
tion Engineering, Asea Brown Boveri, GTE,
Verizon—everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been surrounded
by challenges, opportunities, and great people.
In order to implement a plan competently and
effectively, we have to attract and retain extremely
capable people, give them a healthy and professional culture, provide proper financial incentives
(in a way that rewards performance and is aligned
with the best interests of your customer), give them
the resources and training they need, and then
help them stay on track by expecting exceptional
results and consistency of behavior with our agreed
People are the key to everything. The wrong
ones create all your problems, and the right ones
save you from all your problems. You can’t win with
just a good plan. You need good people who are true
professionals to help execute that plan well.”
AN ODE TO A MENTOR
“YOU CAN’T WIN WITH
JUST A GOOD PLAN”