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Mandell Crawley Inspires Young Professionals

Featured Events | Mar 05, 2021 |

By Andrew Clark

In celebration of Black History Month, the Gabelli School invited alumnus Mandell Crawley MBA ’09 to share his personal leadership journey and speak about his role as chief human resources officer at financial giant Morgan Stanley. In an inspiring discussion, Crawley shared his perspective on everything from the importance of self-confidence, the role of capital markets for driving societal change, and his efforts toward fostering diversity and inclusion.

Leaning into Opportunities

Prior to becoming an executive at Morgan Stanley, Crawley had no interest in finance. In fact, before joining the firm as an intern in the 1990s, he intended to become a teacher.

“I wanted to be an educator,” he said, “when I got this internship at Morgan Stanley it was very transactional.” The Chicago-native was one of five students at his high school invited to interview for the position, which quickly changed the course of his career. Eventually, he moved to New York City, where he acquired hard skills and took advantage of various leadership opportunities at the firm.

Speaking of the culture at Morgan Stanley, Crawley described an environment in which even the most high-ranking leaders took the time to encourage junior colleagues. The diversity of opportunities at the firm is something Crawley clearly values. “The place is absolutely collegial,” he said, “from the top down.”

When asked to share advice about how best to lean into new and exciting opportunities, Crawley prescribed a dedication to unwavering self-confidence and long-term strategy.

“Have a healthy degree of self-confidence,” he advised. “Your self-talk has to be the loudest voice in your head, and it’s got to be good.” Additionally, he touted the value of managing personal insecurities and exercising impulse control whenever possible – a skill, he noted, has been, “28 years in the making,” he said. “It takes time.”

Capital Markets and Societal Change

During the webinar, Crawley advocated for responsible capitalism, craftily describing the role of capital markets in innovation.

“For those who understand how our social eco-systems work, they understand how critically important capital is to fueling innovation,” he said.

According to Crawley, the intersection of capital and ideas is where positive change happens. He cited the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines as an example and said that even the devices we collectively enjoy and utilize for collaboration, as well as applications and services like Netflix or Amazon, would never have been realized without capital or the interest of investors, Crawley said.

“You can’t enable or unleash innovative ideas or change across our ecosystem without capital. To have innovation you of course need ideas, but without capital, they’re just good ideas.”

Inclusion, Belonging, and Optimism

Regarding his recent designation as chief human resources officer at Morgan Stanley, Crawley admitted that it may appear to be a “counterintuitive move” for an executive formerly focused on revenue generation, but that it was not a hard decision.

“We have this inherent responsibility to make the world a better place,” he said.

The Institute for Inclusion is an initiative Crawley is particularly excited about within Morgan Stanley. The Institute comprises a board whose sole function is to partner with the firm to create lasting diversity, inclusion, and belonging, both in the workplace and in underserved communities. Crawley said he also hopes it, too, will contribute to the goal of making the world a better place.

Ultimately, Crawley is an unflinching optimist, whose heroes include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and most notably his own grandmother, who endured unthinkable hardship and fought to raise Crawley and his siblings when their mother passed in her early twenties.

“You’ve got to be an optimist,” he said. “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Think about that.”


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