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Kenza Himmi

Kenza Himmi

Kenza Himmi, Associate Investment Officer in the Sustainable Investing space, working for the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

  • Location: New York City, USA 

  • Title: Associate Investment Officer, Sustainable Investing 

  • Company: United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund 

  • Sector: Pension Fund / Intergovernmental organisation 

  • Degree: MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance – Imperial College Business School & BSc Business Studies – Bayes Business School

How does your usual day look like?

I usually start my day by having coffee at home and catching up with my partner and enjoying the view of downtown New York from the living room. It’s such a nice way to start the day and feel grateful for where we are!

I then take the subway to work and make the treacherous walk through midtown, from grand central to the office. I love soaking up the energy and the heat during summer days. I’m usually at work from 8:30 – 8:45, it gives me some time to settle in the office, grab a hot drink and catch up with various colleagues and my team. Although we have a flexible work arrangement, my team and I generally go into the office every day, which makes for a great work environment. My mornings are usually spent between internal meetings, meetings with external managers, and work on ongoing projects, with the occasional break to catch up with various colleagues.

At lunch, I usually head over to the United Nations cafeteria with colleagues. It’s such a great space, with big windows and an outdoor terrace overlooking the East River’s boats and seaplane landings. We take in the view and go back to the office for the afternoon. I usually spend my afternoon catching up with my team on the various strategic projects we collaborate on and focus on finishing any outstanding tasks.

My work day finishes at 6:30 – and because I am new to NYC, I try and make the most of the city after work, like I have a second day ahead of me. And this can mean going out to an outdoor exercise class with friends, trying out new bars and restaurants, going out to see some live music…I usually switch the lights off by 11 pm.

What are the things you like the most about your job?

I really enjoy working on strategic projects like Impact investing for the UN Pension Fund. This is a new area for us, and we are starting from a blank slate. I enjoy having the freedom to help set out the vision and build something. It’s exciting! The other thing I like is being able to work in this dynamic, international, and diverse environment. I think the diversity of backgrounds really does make for a more exciting environment to work in and learn from.

What are some of the skills you utilise the most in your day-to-day at work?

  • Functional skills: Applying critical thinking and analysis, sharing my knowledge of ESG topics when reviewing opportunities and funds. Especially as sometimes there can be little guidance on some topics in the sustainable investing space

  • Creativity and problem-solving: I enjoy working on new topics, helping build out something new

  • Interpersonal skills: dealing with a variety of internal and external stakeholders, showing empathy, and communicating

What was one of your happiest days in your career and why?

As you know, everyone struggles with imposter syndrome at times. And especially within the sustainable investing space, where it changes so fast, it’s important to keep up technically and stay on top of new developments. The happiest day was having to act as the ESG expert or spokesperson externally for an investment firm where I worked. And it was the realisation of how much progress my team and I had accomplished in a short amount of time. It’s hard sometimes to pause and reflect on the progress achieved. And that day I felt very comfortable and felt confident in what I delivered.

What was the toughest career decision you ever made?

Moving to New York City from London in August 2022. I had two exciting job offers, one for my current role (based in New York) and another one for an impact-focused boutique fund in London. I was excited about both opportunities, but I’ve always wanted to experience living in different countries. I’ve decided to leave my life in London and move to New York. This meant leaving the network I had built back in the UK, leaving a comfortable place, and changing my life even personally.

Today I am really happy I made the move and took a risk that is paying off.

What is something you had to learn to become better at your work?

I am a competitive person and I used to focus my professional energy on external success criteria, like promotions or titles. But I have worked on myself and learned to instead focus on more internal factors: the skillsets I learn and want to learn, working on projects I enjoy, and learning from people around me. I find this makes me a more grounded professional and also means I am more mindful of my career and myself.

What's the one piece of career advice you have for anyone interested in following your footsteps?

I would focus my advice on someone wanting to grow in the Sustainable / Impact Investing space. It is a wonderful market and it’s incredibly collaborative. My advice would be to reach out to people that you find interesting, get involved, go to events. People are always willing to help and talk to you, share advice and their journey.

What's your number one productivity hack / when or how are you most effective?

Identify when I am most productive and make it sacred, not letting anyone interrupt that. For me, it’s a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours afternoon. So I just plug into my music and focus on working hard during that time!

What makes you gracefullyBOLD?

Being empathetic helps me create a safe space and make people feel comfortable around me.

What would have been your alternative career path or alternative University degree?

When I was deciding on university courses, I was really interested in a degree in Philosophy or Anthropology. I think this could have perhaps led me to a behavioural economist career. It’s a topic I’ve always found fascinating, which I still read up on in my spare time.

What's one of the last things you learnt?

I am currently taking Spanish classes and have been practicing during my travels to Central America

Who is a female professional that inspired you along your career journey?

It’s a Female Portfolio Management at my previous employer. I immediately felt comfortable going to her with career questions. She really inspired me and showed me you can have an exciting, successful career and a successful personal life at the sometimes. When sometimes it feels like a trade-off.

If you could time-travel and meet any leader, who/where would that be?

Simone Veil, she was instrumental in advancing women’s rights in France and sadly a lot of countries are still behind on these issues, so meeting her would be amazing!

One word answers & quick fire round. Let's go!

  • Your superpower: "Guess the song" game.

  • Favourite restaurant: Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa.

  • Favourite fashion brand: Artizia.

  • Favourite beauty product: Benefit Blue mascara.

  • Favourite perfume: Orange blossom from the Marrakech souk.

  • Book recommendation: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, this book touched me really deeply!

  • Next holiday destination: Morocco, to visit my parents and enjoy some beach time!

  • Your hobby: Music and live concerts.

  • Who inspires you: My mother.

Thank you Kenza for sharing your journey & wisdom with us!

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