Women in Finance Awards Q&A: Courtney Panik, Symphony

Courtney Panik, HR leader and Business Partner, Symphony, won Excellence in Human Resources at Markets Media Group’s 2021 Women in Finance (U.S.) Awards.

What was your reaction to winning the award?

I’ve spent most of my career in media and tech. I am still fairly new to the financial services industry so to be recognized for the impact I’ve made to date amongst such a talented group of women is an unexpected honor. I am also honored to represent Symphony, the HR function, and women through this award. Listening to all of the winners and the impact they have had and continue to have, has motivated me to look for ways to amplify my work at Symphony and more broadly across the industry.

What have been the main drivers of your success?

My family and friends have always been extremely supportive of me. My husband left his
job in California so I could take an upward opportunity in New York. Such a selfless act so I could pursue my dream. It’s the community around me that has supported me, filled in, and helped along the way. I don’t think I would be where I am today without sponsors who have played a critical role throughout my career. Having people who speak on my behalf has resulted in opportunities such as stretch, cross-functional, and international assignments. These sponsors along with my managers and mentors encouraged me, early on in my career, to take on roles outside of my comfort zone. At times, these roles didn’t particularly interest me. What I came to find was that I ended up enjoying those experiences, I developed an understanding for the role and function, and it rounded out my skill set. I find that I apply those experiences frequently in my role today. Having roles in various parts of HR as well as living and working in Europe and India has broadened my perspective, allowed me to think more comprehensively and more globally.

What keeps you motivated?

I am excited by having smart, engaged, and motivated co-workers and leaders around me who push and challenge me everyday to be better, to excel, and to solve problems.
Collectively working in an environment where everyone partners to achieve the best
outcome possible is a great motivator for me. I have had many opportunities to see the next generation of HR professionals emerge throughout my career and seeing the enthusiasm and the willingness to look at the same challenges with fresh eyes and a different perspective is very encouraging. It’s also a great motivation for me to work hard to make sure these future HR professionals have all the tools and information necessary to succeed in their careers. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am motivated by retirement. My husband and I plan to move to a farmhouse in Tuscany. We have many dinner conversations that focus on this topic. It is a very clear vision for our lives and it informs the decisions we make in our careers.

Who have been the main influences in your career?

My work ethic comes from my father. He is the quintessential blue collar worker. He worked at the same company for over 40 years loading drums of oil on and off trucks year round, in the stifling heat of summer and in the blistering cold of Pittsburgh winters. He left the house every morning at 5am and after he returned and had finished dinner, he would be back outside working in the lawn or in the garage fixing something. My dad is a man of few words but he often said two phrases that have shaped how I approach my work. “There are not enough hours in the day. Use what you have wisely.” and “Leave it better than you found it.”
Throughout my career I’ve had the privilege of working with many extremely talented
people who have taken the time to coach, mentor and invest in me. Not a fully encompassing list but to thank a few:
● Lisa Utzschneider, CEO, Integral Ad Science, for trusting me as a partner and for
always including me at the table.
● Kristen Robinson, Chief People Officer, Splunk – for her unwavering support and
mentorship and for showing me how to define my own path
● Jennifer Hedding, Human Resources Executive – for her business acumen and
coaching and allowing me to make mistakes and helping me to recover quickly from
● David Windley, President, IQ Talent Partners for sending me all over the world on
assignments, seeing potential and giving me stretch experiences early in my career
all of which have broadened my exposure and differentiated me from other HR

What trends will shape HR departments over the next five years?

We are already experiencing a major shift in the workplace due to the pandemic: flexible
working arrangements, a reprioritization of where work fits into our lives, dispersed talent. This has fundamentally changed the talent market and is forcing companies to reassess their talent strategy and how they can optimize talent in different ways to achieve business goals. What I’m most excited to see unfold is the increased representation of different backgrounds and experiences across the workforce and in leadership. This will drive high levels of innovation and will break open opportunities in the marketplace. This is important work HR teams and leadership continue to do to build inclusive work environments for all.

What’s your advice to the next generation of women in finance?

● You can do it. Even if you haven’t done it before. You are smart enough to figure it
● Support and celebrate each other, be an ally for others in return, and be kind to
● Get a mentor. Get a coach. But more importantly get sponsors who will speak on
your behalf when you are not in the room.