Godfrey’s Law of Success: Follow your Passion
By Marisa Nadolny
Gemma Godfrey might be a physicist by background, but her advice for professional achievement isn’t quite rocket science.
“Follow your passion, and success will come more naturally,” she says.
How else would a quantum physicist forge a wildly successful career as an investment strategist and television presenter?
As Godfrey explains it, the leap from lab to boardroom isn’t as unlikely as it may seem. It’s a simple matter of thinking outside the box.
“People try to funnel themselves into what they think is an appropriate place,” she explains, “but it’s better to follow what they’re good at. A lot of people will force themselves to do something they think they should do, with little success.”
In Godfrey’s case, physicists specialize in applied mathematics and problem-solving—skills with myriad applications, including television commentary.
“Having a scientific background, you’re used to taking the complicated and complex and presenting it in an accessible way,” says Godfrey, who appears weekly on CNBC programs “Squawk Box,” “Worldwide Exchange,” and “Fast Money.”
The same focus that brought Godfrey into broadcasting is what started her on that path in the first place.
Godfrey says it was a “pure love of the subject” that fueled her interest in physics at a young age. She credits her father with cultivating her scientific curiosity and went on to study quantum physics at the University of Leeds in her native England.
Through her work with professors she describes as “inspirational,” Godfrey emerged from university ready for a challenge. Like a good scientist, she considered the question of career from several angles, asking herself, “What can I use [physics] for?”
She got some guidance from an internship at Goldman Sachs, which proved more than a resume builder. She says the environment at the finance giant’s offices encouraged her curiosity and aspirations toward professional development.
”All the doors were open to you,” she states.
At Goldman, Godfrey decided she wanted to make a difference in the investment industry. Her post-college mission? Become one of the youngest hedge fund managers in London.
She did it, she says, “purely leveraging off the skills I learned at university.”
Finance held a particular appeal for Godfrey. She realized that her training as a physicist provides unique financial perspective, a valuable trait in a dynamic field. She decided to build on her strengths and continue in finance and completed the UBS Graduate Training Programme in 2005. She went on to work in the equity market and later as an investment officer at investment manager GAM. By 2008, Godfrey was chairman of the Investment Committee and acting chief investment officer the Credo Group, an independent private client wealth management group.
Godfrey cites another unlikely motivator for her success: gender. She says her male colleagues often underestimate her abilities; she responds by her working harder and capitalizing on her perspective as a woman.
Indeed, Godfrey went even bigger after her turn at Credo. She is head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald, a firm that manages more than $7 billion, and shares her expertise across a dizzying array of forums. Aside from her appearances on CNBC and the BBC, Godfrey writes a column for The Huffington Post and is the founder and editor of industry website The Investment Insight. The British press frequently seeks her comments on industry-related matters, and she was voted the most popular woman in finance on Twitter by AdvisorOne.
All that, founded on a passion for physics—and a solid strategy: “Build your own campaign, network and carve out path – no one will do it for you,” Godfrey says.
But Godfrey isn’t through yet. She plans to work more mentoring into her very busy schedule (she also serves on an advisory board for a communications company and is the Alternative Investment Management Association’s spokesperson) and advises readers to keep on eye on her website, https://gemmagodfrey.com, for updates on her upcoming outreach projects.
Somehow, Godfrey finds time to run and practice yoga. Quality time with her family and friends keeps her grounded, too.