Always tell the truth even when it is hard to do. Every time you tell the truth, especially when it is hard to do, you put yourself in a position where you might need to be resilient.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Pent.
Lisa Pent is a Global Client Partner at Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) where she utilizes her 30+ years of financial services and banking experience to develop digital strategies to help banking and financial services (BFS) clients improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and drive modernization.
Lisa is also passionate about making diversity and inclusion (D&I) a priority in financial services and currently serves as a Governance Board Member for the Wall Street Women’s Alliance and Co-Founder and Co-Vice President of WomenExecs on Boards. At Cognizant, she is Head of D&I for BFS, where she works with capital markets clients to design D&I initiatives.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I am the oldest of four, a survivor of parental divorce, who did whatever it took to pay for college and graduate school on my own. My determination to prioritize education as a stepping- stone to my career led to me attending Georgetown University, earning a BS in Finance, and a few years later, Fordham University for my MBA in Corporate Finance. And despite having two finance degrees, I was still sent home for wearing pants.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I was in a new role at a bank. I inherited a mountain of Kmart debt, that I knew nothing about. My client base was governmental, not publicly traded companies. My peers and superiors expected me to write it off at a 50% loss, having a grave impact on my P&L. Although I disagreed with that strategy, I kept quiet, did my research, and found alternatives. When my superiors did not trust my alternatives, I flew to home office, and fought for my right to solve the problem as I saw fit, or have it moved to someone else’s P&L. After a complicated fee structure and above-market price, I was able to get us out of Kmart at 100% of our original investment.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I knew that Cognizant had an excellent culture before I joined but realized the magnitude of that culture during the pandemic. Cognizant has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety, health, and wellbeing of its employees, in a way unmatched by others. For example, we offer 24×7 hotlines for mental health and general wellness questions. We ensured that our employees, their families, and anyone affiliated, like a care giver, had access to vaccinations in our offices. We worked with the Indian government to ensure that our offices were certified as vaccination centers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My mother, who is a woman of few words taught me to be a strong woman, to be positive, and to rise to the challenge armed with all the facts. She helped me decide to leave the University of California school system, a public college, and pursue my dreams at an expensive private school, Georgetown University. This decision had many financial and logistical obstacles, all of which my mother helped me analyze and prepare for.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? Resilience is positive adaptability.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
- The number one thing you need is to be positive.
- Adaptability has never been more important.
- You need to be selfless.
- You need to trust yourself.
- You need to be humble, but do not allow that to be taken as low self-esteem.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is a part of being resilient. When we speak about resilient people, that is because they have succeeded. And if you ask them if they ever failed, they certainly have. It is courage that made them try again. Resilience is a pattern of success.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My mother-in-law is the most resilient person I know. For example, she had her chosen career, teaching, stolen from her. Even though she had a Master’s Degree from Columbia University, when she became a mother, working in a field that was acceptable to be in as a woman, and sabbaticals were not an option, she had to resign. When her boys were a little older, she sought re-employment in her chosen field and was told she was unemployable. With great courage, she began a crusade to protect the environment, fighting the development of a large piece of property meant to be forever wild. She went door-to-door with petitions, she spoke at public hearings, and at one point had to calm gun-toting neighbors from doing harm. Soon after, she was approached to run for political office and went on to have a highly successful and fulfilling career as a public servant.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I was told there was no way I could be a mother and a successful businesswoman. I was also told that I could not have children due to my age. I got myself in the best physical condition possible and set out to be a mom. I changed my eating habits, lifestyle, everything. I took all the positives from the medical journals I read and came up with my own plan. I went back to work two weeks after each child was born to protect my career. Today, I am the proud mother of three amazing young adults, and have had a successful career, with more to come.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I was working as an investment banker, where my client was a museum that is one of our national treasures but was badly in need of capital to make improvements to preserve it. I worked on the deal for over two years, not getting paid, devised a structure that worked for the bondholders, only to have the museum’s largest benefactor write a check for all the improvements, meaning I earned nothing for two full years of work. To be honest, it took me a long time move on from this set-back. I was lucky that I had another deal that I was working on that restored my faith in humanity. In short, it was the refinancing of a closed paper mill in an upstate NY rural town, and 4 men shoveled the snow off of the roof for five long winters, not getting paid, knowing that if the roof collapsed, the 100+ well- paying jobs with health insurance would not come back to this rural community where nearly every person had to subsequently get a job at WalMart 40 miles away, when the plant closed.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I have cultivated resilience throughout my life through continuous self-improvement in the form of education and athletics. I have run seven marathons and many more half marathons. This was my go-to, when I felt like I was not going to come back from a set-back. I was basically giving myself something else to achieve that I was in control of, to restore confidence in my ability and ultimately make me more resilient.
As a child, my father was in sales. He was very good at it and highly successful. As a result, we moved many times, for what I was told were due to his successes, but as I grew up, I came to learn that some of the moving around was not a result of his success., He had many failures but was always positive and
always had the courage to try again.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Improving personal health is step number 1. This step leads to the characteristics of a resilient person. Improving your health can be done through nutrition and exercise.
- Improving your self-esteem: this is a direct benefit of improving your health.
- Improving your education: this further reinforces the benefits of your health, improves your self-esteem and command of the facts.
- Improving your personal relationships: surrounding yourself with positive people that embody the traits you desire, reinforces the traits of resilience.
- Always tell the truth even when it is hard to do. Every time you tell the truth, especially when it is hard to do, you put yourself in a position where you might need to be resilient.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I thankfully already have a movement: to help one woman each day. In short, my day is not over until I have helped another woman. It can be as simple as a compliment, or greater such as helping them find a job or a board role. I am also grateful that a book that I co-authored, THE COURAGE TO ADVANCE: Real Life Resilience from the World’s Most Successful Women in Business, recently published. This project was a labor of love for me and culmination of a lot of hard work; and I believe the stories told within will inspire many to achieve greatness in business and in their personal lives.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Jane Fraser, CEO of Citibank, because I would like to hear her views on resilience and her path to rising to the top.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I regularly update my LinkedIn profile.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!