Reflecting on her experience at T. Rowe Price, Cheryl Mickel says “opportunity” is the theme that most often comes to mind. Mickel, who holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Loyola University Maryland, also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. She was drawn into the company and its culture when she was just 22, and it has been the place she grew up professionally as the firm itself continued to expand.
“The firm was much smaller than it is today,” Mickel notes, having started her career as a trading assistant on the Money Market Trading Desk in 1989, “so if you were ready, willing, and able, opportunities came fast.” Indeed, she served in that beginning role for just a few months, then began trading and found that she loved it. She continued to advance, trading currencies, corporates, structured products and treasuries. “The possibilities seemed limitless,” she says. “I sat on the desk and interacted with a wide range of investment professionals, including traders, analysts, economists and portfolio managers. It was phenomenal exposure and perspective for a young person to experience.”
Fast-forward to today and Mickel is the head of T. Rowe Price’s U.S. Taxable Low Duration team, which manages short-duration investment-grade bond portfolios. She leads six portfolio managers, and her team has combined responsibility for $55.2 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2017. She is also a member of the Fixed Income Steering Committee, a group of senior leaders charged with oversight and risk management of the fixed income business.
“I don’t think my career progression happened because of or despite being black or being a woman,” Mickel observes. “To be honest, I didn’t really think much about any of it. Rather, I believe T. Rowe Price’s culture and people blended harmoniously to offer me encouragement and flexibility to grow with the company, even when I wasn’t sure when or in what form my next opportunity might emerge. When I reflect back, I had a meaningful connection with each of the leaders with whom I have worked, and each challenged me to move forward. I have always appreciated that; it truly is a collaborative culture, where different styles, perspectives and experiences come together to produce outstanding results.”
Opportunity is one thing but being able to readily identify with the firm’s core values — particularly putting clients first, integrity and excellence — is another reason why Mickel says she has remained with the firm for nearly three decades. “From the beginning, I identified with the organization’s ‘client first’ ideology and upholding very high standards,” she adds “and it has been exceedingly important to me to know that I can strive for exceptional performance without sacrificing personal values.”
Mickel considers many of her colleagues as mentors — “many who may not even know it,” she notes. In a way, they became mentors by proxy because she observed how they worked and learned from their examples. “Earlier in my career,” she recalls, “I gravitated naturally toward women who were in roles I aspired to hold, many who reached out and supported me.”
Mickel pays it forward when it comes to mentoring and is proud of T. Rowe Price’s commitment to inclusion and the community. She has been actively involved in the firm’s diversity initiatives and enjoys participating in programs, such as the firm’s annual Girls’ Career Day, when she interacts with high school girls and teaches them about careers options. “It’s important to reach girls early and expose them to a variety of professional roles in areas, such as finance, math, and science, so they can imagine a promising range of possibilities for themselves,” she says. “I feel fortunate to work for a firm that believes in helping girls see their full potential.”