When Lauren Simmons was searching for a job after graduating college, a woman that was supposed to be her mentor said she was “reaching too high” when Ms. Simmons outlined her career goals.
But Ms. Simmons never took those words to heart, and some two years later the 24-year old is already a trailblazer in her profession, as the youngest and only full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange.
Last week, she spoke at an event organized by the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Grand Cayman, talking to attendees about her career arc and giving young Caymanians advice about pursuing their own dreams.
Ms. Simmons said she originally wanted to pursue a career in genetic counseling – testing parents’ genetics to determine whether their child is at risk of having any genetic abnormalities – having been inspired by her twin brother who has cerebral palsy. But after she found out about the restrictions in altering DNA, she said she did not want to just spend a career doing research that might never be put into practice during her lifetime.
Instead, having a minor in statistics, Ms. Simmons set out to New York City in search for a job in finance.
Ms. Simmons said she reached out to numerous firms on LinkedIn, scheduling times to have lunch with department heads. How to reach out to companies was a major piece of advice she gave young Caymanians: She said people love to talk about themselves, so asking professionals about their careers is a good gateway to open up a dialog.
“LinkedIn is my best friend,” she said. “That’s how I came here.”
The then-22-year old finally secured a position with Rosenblatt Securities as an equity trader, a professional that executes trades for clients.
Entering a male-dominated trading floor was a daunting experience, she said.
“You walk on the floor and there are a lot of men in jackets – a lot of outgoing personalities,” she said. “It’s definitely a boys’ club.”
The men were just as uncomfortable dealing with Ms. Simmons at first, too, she said.
“When I first came on board, everyone was really polite. They tried to watch their language, and do this and do that,” she said. But it’s just as much their job as it is mine – so if you need to curse, curse.”
Ms. Simmons’ statistical knowledge, hard work and confidence has made her a mainstay on Wall Street. She makes about $1.5 million worth of trades a day, and has been featured on financial news platforms such as CNBC, Yahoo Finance and Fox Business.
However, her tenure has not been without hiccups. Just two months ago, Ms. Simmons said she made the biggest mistake of her career, failing to execute 332 trades before the closing bell on a Friday.
With the markets closed for the weekend, the trades would have to wait to be executed until the opening bell on Monday. That means that any events or news over the weekend could cause the price of the equities to greatly fluctuate, potentially risking a huge loss.
“What if Trump tweets something? What if the market crashes over the weekend?” Ms. Simmons thought during the anxious two-day period.
Luckily, when the floor opened on Monday morning, the markets held mostly steady, and she only lost about $2,000 from her error.
The mistake taught her to relax and not to stress out about things that aren’t in her control, she said.
Ms. Simmons said she does not envision herself working on the trading floor for too much longer. Whatever she does next, she said she wants to be in a position to “have a voice beyond finance – to talk about cerebral palsy, or women’s empowerment, or finding your voice.”
The event was a part of BPW Grand Cayman’s Annie Huldah Bodden Lecture Series, which has been running since 2001 and has featured female motivational speakers, athletes and survivors of sexual abuse.
The series is named after the late Annie Huldah Bodden, a pioneer in Cayman’s legal industry and public sector.
The achievements of “Miss Annie” include being Cayman’s first female auditor, the first female law agent, the first female elected member of the Legislative Assembly, and the first female Caymanian to be awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire medal.
BPW Grand Cayman is a part of BPW International, which aims to promote women in the professional world.