Before she was an anchor for Bloomberg Television, Stephanie Ruhle had never worked in television. She had spent the previous 14 years making a name for herself on Wall Street, beginning at Credit Suisse and then moving to Deutsche Bank, where she was a top producing salesperson covering multi-strategy hedge funds. Now at Bloomberg, Stephanie is the co-host of “Market Makers” and a contributor to “Lunch Money”.
Since joining the network in October 2011, Stephanie has interviewed some of the biggest names in the business, including hedge funders Michael Platt and Dinakar Singh, along with Rep. Ron Paul and Blackstone President Tony James. And in less than a year, Stephanie has already made her mark. One of her biggest moments came while breaking the news of the London Whale, the JPMorgan trader who was at the center of the bank’s trading loss amounting billions this past April.
As if a job that all-consuming wasn’t enough, Stephanie’s also an active proponent of women’s leadership causes. She’s the founder of the Corporate Investment Bank (CIB) Women’s Network, which she says helps women in their business units gain access to senior management. She’s also co-chaired the Women on Wall Street Steering Committee and is on the Board of Trustees for Girls Inc. New York.
Oh, and you also can add a stellar family on top of that enormous career. Stephanie lives in Manhattan with her husband, who also works in the financial services industry, and her two sons. She’s originally from Park Ridge, N.J., and attended Lehigh University, where she studied in Guatemala, Italy and Kenya.
With a resume like that, what could possibly come next? Read on to find out.
As someone who spent the majority of her career on Wall Street working for some of the biggest players in the industry, how did you discover that a job in TV was your next evolution?
It’s very scary to make those leaps. At the end of the day, it’s not like you’re in high school and changing your sport. You have the overhang of money supporting you and how it impacts your kids and your families. You find yourself feeling that it’s so indulgent to fill a passion, but it’s important to realize that if you make an educated and well-timed risk, it turns out not to be a risk at all.
I always enjoyed public speaking, TV and journalism, but my career in finance ended up being massively fulfilling. It was a love of working for a major international player that would give me the opportunity to travel, meet people and learn more. The moment I stepped on the trading floor, I knew this was a game I wanted to be in. But the longer I did that, the more I realized I also wanted to get into that dream of journalism and TV.
The truth is, everyone wants to do something next. If you’ve ever been an overachiever, everything is just a plateau and you keep climbing. It’s not about the grass is greener; it’s about experiencing more and the feeling that you’ve got to be in it to win it.
Once this idea to work in TV was in the back of your mind, how did this job come to life?
I’m a member of The White House Project, a nonprofit founded by Marie Wilson. The goal of the organization is to eventually one day put a woman into the White House and in leadership roles. President Tiffany Dufu and I were talking about this at length. Men, at certain points in time help each other. But as women, we have so many demands on us. So Tiffany and Marie charged the group and said, “What’s your next goal?”
I wasn’t sure what my answer would be when we were going around this room. Tiffany said I would be good on TV and said we need more women on TV who know these markets. Wall Street has gotten a really tough label and tough brand. I understand how people feel, but I also understand the industry really well. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this would be a great opportunity to take a leap like this.
Melinda Wolfe, who is also part of the nonprofit, leads all talent at Bloomberg and wanted to bring me in. Melinda introduced me to people at Bloomberg. I met with [Bloomberg Media Group CEO] Andy Lack. He said, “If you’re in, I’m in. This is a leap for me, too. Close your eyes and let’s do it.” All of my friends and family also said I had to do this.
Bloomberg is the media outlet that every professional in the industry uses. The weight of this job is massive to the markets. You can provide information and insights that change the way people look at companies and the economy. And that’s really heavy. Given my expertise and the market falling, the time just seemed right. I grew up with a mom who said every day, “You can do anything you set your mind to. I believe in the American Dream.”
But, it was hard to leave behind my previous career. Your career can be so much of your identity. And you think, “Life can’t go on without me.” But when you see that it can, it teaches you to learn to prioritize things. Work is massively important to me, but it doesn’t mean that I have to miss my son’s show at school. Instead, you have to have confidence in what you do. We convince ourselves we have to be at XYZ event because of insecurity. It’s a beautifully humbling wake up call. You’re not indispensable, so go for it. Try something new. I can’t tell you how extraordinarily rewarding taking that leap is.
What was it like when you began your new job at Bloomberg?
Television and news is extremely collaborative. I was able to bring in market insight and stories very quickly, while at the same time be a part of a team that was so supportive. I understand the content, know the players and I believe I can help drive conversations. What I didn’t know was the TV industry, but luckily, everyone was helpful.
At every meeting at Bloomberg TV, everyone is invited. Everyone can be more of a success. It’s so different from how things were for me when I was first in the finance business. In my previous role, it was very much about, “Where’d you go to school? What’s your experience?” It’s not like that here. If you can celebrate someone else’s skill set, it can make you more successful. And I think I learned this more as a mother than I did at work. By sharing your contacts it’s going to come back to you. I think it really does.
What types of responsibilities fill your day?
I anchor a show from 10 a.m. to noon [ET] called “Market Makers” with Erik Schatzker and another show called “Lunch Money” from noon to 1 p.m. I get into the office around 6:30 in the morning. My kids are young and wake up that early, so I spend time with my sons and get my day kicked off. I specialize at Bloomberg TV in what we call “Word on the Street,” so based on whatever’s the most buzzed about news, I reach out to my contacts and interview market insiders on how they’re reacting. I get my finger on the pulse of how the market is truly responding and why this really matters to professionals.
After our shows, I spend a lot of time with our print team, Bloomberg News, and we work on a number of stories. I seem to be focused on some of the bigger, more controversial stories. I also do a number of lighter pieces that focus on Wall Street culture. It brings about such interesting characters.
My afternoons are often spent doing special packages for our show, interviews with people who don’t necessarily come on TV and working with our print team. The stories and headlines we work on move markets and can affect, in part, what happens to companies and executives. And there’s a responsibility that comes with it. Unlike other news outlets, there’s no race to get the story out first and with the splashiest headline.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
For me, there are very few lines between my work life and my personal life because I’m sort of always thinking about both at all times. Especially in news, it’s hard to put your Blackberry down. News is always coming. It’s hard not to want to move things forward as quickly as possible. Knowing when to put that Blackberry down and say, “I just need to focus on myself,” is hard. It’s an intoxicating and very exciting business.
The only way you can be a responsible journalist and a respected one is to be evenhanded in what you’re saying. Getting myself to that place where I don’t believe one side or one angle was a challenge. It’s hard for me not to have opinions. But I know in order to be taken seriously, I need to be centered and I need to ask all the questions — not just the questions that, in my former career, mattered most. As soon as you move seats at a table, it opens up a different perspective and possibilities. It’s a different challenge and different perspective all the same.
Is work/life balance ever a struggle with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you can share for juggling the two?
I’m true to myself and work hard to not be influenced by ideas put in my head by society and social norms. This is the role of the wife/mother/TV anchor. All I can be is the best version of myself. If I do that, I can be the best mom I can be; I can be the best anchor I can be. So often we think in order to be the best at my job, “I have to be just like the CEO.” In order to be the best mother we think, “I have to drop them off every day and pick them up every day just like my mother did.”
If I gave up important causes or relationships that I have and devoted myself to one thing, I wouldn’t be the best version of myself. I think finding a way to be happy is your best recipe to being a great spouse, mom and employee. I don’t know what the definition of a great mom is, but I know my two children are the definition of the best kids, so that makes me feel we’re doing something right.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Never give up. I never, ever give up. I firmly believe that I, and everyone else, deserves a fair shot at everything. And if you get a fair shot, you can do anything. I really try to believe in that and block out any negative. Anything is possible. Being fearless and believing in yourself is so important. You need to be fearless when you walk into your child’s first day at Taekwondo and all the moms are all friends. You need to be fearless when you walk in to see a CEO who you’ve been critical of on TV. It doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive; it means you need to have that voice that says, “This is possible.”
The one thing we have every day is the chance to be a pioneer. None of us have it all because there is no “all”, but we can go for it in any way we know how. Knowing that you’ve tried to hit the home run every day is very gratifying.
You’re a strong advocate for female leaders. What distinguishing qualities do you feel it takes for a woman to be successful as a leader?
You need to be open-minded, driven, ignore stereotypes, be fearless … Most importantly, be respectful. Never do you have to treat someone badly or disrespectfully. You never have to step on anyone in order to climb the ladder. What you need are people around you to help build that ladder. You can be completely driven and not hurt anyone in your path. As long as you treat everyone — from the intern in your company to the president — with that same level of respect, that’s all anyone can ask of you. Focus on the task and not the climb up the ladder. That’s when you’ll fall.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your shoes?
Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask people around you for help, but realize there is no charity. Everything is a relationship. We hear so much about sponsors and mentors. Those two words are played out. These relationships are just that. They’re relationships. They’re two-way streets. If you’re a junior woman in the business thinking, “I’m just starting out,” realize you always have something to offer. If someone’s going to help you, you need to help yourself and you need to help them. It’s not just about you. It’s about the collective unit and helping one another.
Watch Stephanie on Bloomberg Television, available in your area, via livestream on Bloomberg.com, or on the Bloomberg TV + iPad app.
If you're a junior woman in the business thinking, 'I'm just starting out,' realize you always have something to offer.