7 min readCareer 04 August 2020
Exactly 25 years ago today, I was a pit of nerves embarking on a vision that would change the way we cover the news. At just 27, I was tapped by CNBC and Dick Grasso, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, to be the first person, man or woman, to report live from the floor of the exchange.
This was not easy. It had never been done before. Remember, in 1995, we didn't have access to all the financial information we have at our finger tips today. Institutions paid a lot of money for their research and were reluctant to allow cameras in on the process.
That first year might have been one of the most challenging of my professional career — but I learned so much and the courage I found to take those chances early on helped me grow in ways I could never imagine.
But I believed in democratizing the information and empowering the consumer, so I faced my fears, and many detractors along the way, to help our viewers. I was also cognizant of how, if done right, this could be a turning point for women in business. Appearing on a national television as a women amid a sea of suits would help show the business world we had a place at the table. The stakes were high, but I was ready.
That first year might have been one of the most challenging of my professional career — but I learned so much and the courage I found to take those chances early on helped me grow in ways I could never imagine. And I made it my mission to help those embarking on their career along the way — sharing my insights in hopes their journey might be a bit easier than mine.
Today, I am working the hardest I've ever worked doing what I love and am proud of the path I've paved. As I reflect back on the past two plus decades in my career, I am able to point out what I got right and how I managed those pivotal moments.
If I could go back 25 years ago, here are the seven things I would tell my 27-year-old self.
1) Don't take it all so seriously.
Don't get me wrong, as journalists, we are covering very important issues every day. I am so proud of my teams' work and we are working harder than ever. But sometimes, it's also important to remember you are not curing cancer. It is okay to take a light hearted moment from time to time and not take it all so seriously all the time. Take a breath, and try not to take on so much stress at such a young age.
2) Take a chance.
When punk rocker Joey Ramone emailed me about the song he wrote about me — "Maria Bartiromo" on his posthumous album — I was so incredibly honored. We had connected here and there to talk about markets and the economy, but I had no idea he would write a song in my name. He told me to come watch him perform it live in the village in New York City at a famous rock bar. He would be taking the stage a little after midnight. Wow.
I made it my mission to make sure I knew more than anyone on the floor and didn't let anyone push me around.
But of course, I also had the responsibility to be on the show the next day at 6AM, which meant I had to be awake 4AM. He understood but suggested we send a cameraman to shoot the performance, so we did. When I saw the tape, I was floored. What an honor. I was so disappointed I did not go to see him perform. He promised to perform it on my show in the next few weeks, live from the floor of the NYSE. I had asked the exchange officials and a date was set. Unfortunately, Joey became deathly ill and he died soon after. I was so honored to know him but I realize now I should have just taken the chance and either taken the day off of work or stayed up all night. I regret not taking a chance for an unforgettable moment with an incredible talent.
3) Know what you don't know.
At the ripe age of 27, it is easy to think you know everything there is to know. I have news for you, you do not. Humility goes a long way and you need to know what you don't know. No one is expecting you to have answers for everything. It's okay not to know something. It's even more okay to ask questions.
4) Be yourself.
There has long been a double standard for women in business. Men can be blunt, but women have to be polite or else they are tarred with derogatory words. For so long in my career, I found myself starting messages and e-mails with a tremendous amount of pleasantries. "Hi, I hope all is well. Good to see you. I would love to discuss with you... and so on. But often, I would receive the most basic replies from a male colleague who answered: yup, okay, or agree. More and more, I started to question the time I put into my long, polite emails. Do yourself a favor and just be yourself. Don't worry about rocking the boat and don't reduce yourself to acting how people thing you should. As long as you do your work, know your facts cold, and are prepared who cares how you email? You are getting the job done.
5) You're exactly where you're supposed to be.
No matter where you are in your life, you have put in time and work to get there. Don't be nervous. When I was invited to throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, I was terrified. I had practiced for four months but when I ran to the mound, I was so nervous that I was going to bounce it. I had to remind myself how long I had practiced for and that it was exactly where I was supposed to be. This is the moment, and it was one of the most exciting of my life.
6) Stand your ground.
When I was tapped as the first person to report live from the New York Stock Exchange, it was innovative and exciting, but at the same time, extremely intimidating as I was entering a place where I was not welcome. TV cameras had never really been inside the trading floor and many times I was shut out by colleagues on the floor and even told by a highly influential trader to "run along" the work going on wasn't for my "little TV show." That situation was mortifying as he made sure to tell me that in front of an audience of my peers. But I didn't let it deter me.
Follow your passion — the money will come when you are truly doing what you love.
I made it my mission to make sure I knew more than anyone on the floor and didn't let anyone push me around. Sure, I avoided that one trader for a while, but I stood my ground, put my head down, and worked harder than anyone else to make sure I did the best job I could. And you know what, that trader, eventually apologized for giving me such a hard time. So what I'd tell you is don't let anyone push you around. Make sure you know your stuff and stay on your mark. If you do a good job, they will notice and come around.
7) Find what you love and do it.
Today, I am working harder than I have ever worked in my life, but I love it. When I was a field producer at CNN, I got a promotion as the overnight producer — a move which meant more money and a bigger title. It sounds crazy, but the thought of the new opportunity made me really upset because it was pulling me away from what I loved — and that was working in the field as a business journalist. So, while I took the promotion, at the same time I set my sights on landing a job at CNBC, when that was still a relatively new business network. The courage it took me to follow my passion led me to a much more fulfilling career. I am up at 3 AM every morning, live on air for 3 hours straight and anchoring 3 shows 6 days a week across 2 networks, but I am the happiest I have ever been. I am doing what I love and learning every day. My message to those starting out, don't follow the money. Follow your passion — the money will come when you are truly doing what you love.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist