Modern banks offer a wide variety of products and services: commercial banking, loans, credit cards, investment services and more. How do project managers contribute to banking success? In this article, Paul Rezaie, Project Manager at JPMorgan Chase & Co, shares his career journey including what’s he learned working at JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Company Profile: JP Morgan Chase & Co
- Established in 1799 (The History of JPMorgan Chase & Co)
- Services and Products: retail banking, investment banking, asset management and commercial banking are the company’s main offerings. In this interview, Paul focuses on the company’s payments products.
- Global Operations: the bank has operations in over 100 countries.
- Staff: The global bank has over 230,000 employees.
- 2015 Revenue: $95 billion (net income $24 billion)
1. What did you study in school? What were your favorite areas?
I studied Information Technology at York University, I went to school to learn about technology and I fell in love with philosophy when I took an ethics course. Looking back, my favorite philosophers were Aristotle and Socrates.
2. What was an early project that ignited your interest in the field?
I met the CEO of Loony Host, a web hosting company, and he asked me to create a project to boost his business. In 2005, I worked on improving the business. He gave me free range: I hired sales representatives, technical staff, wrote sales scripts, schedules, product sheets, support documents, and made sales. The project brought in $100,000 in revenue. After running this project, I was hooked on project management.
3. Thinking back to one of your first projects, what was a mistake you made that you have learned from?
I would do a lot of small projects for small businesses and on a couple projects, there were signs that the client wouldn’t be able to pay, but I still moved forward on the project in good faith. I would deliver the project but wouldn’t get paid. I encountered these challenges when I worked with new companies and single person companies. After those experiences, I decided to change my focus and work with large, established firms instead.
4. What is a personal habit you practice to maintain your productivity?
I have two regular habits to boost my productivity.
First, I use the brainHQ.com website. It’s a cognitive enhancement website that is created by neurologists. After 6 months of practice, I felt like I have a whole new mind. I’ve noticed that I have improved decision making abilities, better memory and improved focus. Second, I have a daily exercise habit where I work out in the morning and in the evening.
4. How did you get hired to your current role? What was the process?
I regularly made small talk with project managers in the PMO department at JP Morgan Chase. It turns out that there is little attrition in the department – they haven’t hired anyone in 8 years. But I got my break! I heard there was an opening, I prepared my resume, regularly checked the job board and when It got posted, I was the first to apply. I got an interview, I played my strong suite and then a second interview and got offered the job. My industry experience and the fact that I had a PMP were important factors in landing the job.
5. What is a project you worked on or managed that you’re proud of and why?
I am currently managing the release of a payment product.
Getting the business ready for Debit MasterCard has been a great experience. I worked with a team across North America. I am proud of this project because I got to see all the moving parts involved in payments. For example, I have learned about payment terminals, point of sale payments, credit cards, contactless payments, bank issuers and payments technology. I feel proud to have brought to market a unique form of payment that will be around for a long time to come
6. What industry trends are important to your work?
How people spend their money is important to my work. It’s also interesting to notice the rising popularity of credit card and contactless card payments over cash. My work is also impacted by payment terminal upgrades and company budget issues.
7. What is something special about the company’s culture that few people know about?
JPMorgan is a unique company in that the former CEO David Rockefeller paved the way for the financial industry that touches the lives of every person that comes into contact with the monetary system. The company has a huge art collection, and archives that has the first every printed dollar bill in the US. The heritage here goes deep…. 200 years deep and the company proudly displays and shares reminders of the accomplishments and successes. I’m proud of Jamie Dimon, CEO of the company since 2005, for the amazing work he does. Thanks to him, we were one of the few major banks to earn a during the 2008 recession.
- Curious to learn more about the bank? Check out The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow.
- JPMorgan Chase Art Collection: Started in 1959, the company’s art collection includes over 30,000 art objects.
8. What was the most valuable professional development activity you’ve completed?
In July 2015, I earned the PMP certification. It has been highly valuable: every company recognizes it and it has a positive impact on compensation.
9. If you could give two books to someone else to help them achieve career success, what would they be?
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. A key lesson from Carnegie’s book: Don’t criticize people.
Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents by William Ury. A key lesson from this book: “You are your biggest opponent” in negotiations.
10. What is your approach to building and maintaining your network?
I attend Meetup.com events such as Toronto Babel and found it a good way to meet new people. I have also found it worthwhile to attend conferences such as IBM’s Outthink conference about IBM Watson. When I get to know people at events and conferences, I follow up by adding them as a connection on LinkedIn.
11. Any parting words of advice to reader?
Seek help, talk to professionals that can help you better understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. From this point you can work on your weakness and market your strengths.
It’s also to work for a company you believe in. The philosophy of JPMorgan has encouraged me to be a better person, a stronger member of my community and more financially savvy.
12. What’s the best way for readers to get in touch with you?
Add me as a connection on LinkedIn.