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From telemarketer to CEO: Margaret Keane shares secrets to success

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind

Margaret Keane , president and CEO of Synchrony Financial (SYF) is one of the most successful women in finance today—in fact she’s one of only two women ever to run a U.S. bank valued at over $10 billion. Keane's road to success, however, had humble beginnings—she began her career as a telemarketer. Keane joined Yahoo Finance to share some tips on climbing the corporate ladder and a few secrets to her success.

Make sure you’re in the right place at the right time...and step up to the table

 “In some cases I do attribute my success to being in the right place at the right time,” Keane admits. But in some ways she made sure she was at the right place, “it’s about making sure I had a seat at the table,” she says. In fact, if she could give one piece of advice it would be, “don’t look for the back row, look to sit at the table as soon as you can.” Keane regrets not being as aggressive in her earlier career, and wishes she had made herself known and her voice heard.

Believe in yourself and your ideas

 Keane also felt encumbered along the way, as she was often the only woman in business situations—she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to behave within the realm of her traditional gender role. “I think the number one thing is to have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself. Deliver the goods and don’t hesitate—just go for it.”

Don’t be afraid to be different

Keane came from a family of New York City cops and was pushed to be a policewoman by her father; she was the first in her family to attend college. “I really wanted to do something different than the rest of the family.”

Find a great mentor

Keane worked her way through college as a bill collector at Citibank where she was lucky enough to find a mentor to bring her into a management-training program. “I always attribute my success to the fact that someone saw something in me and was willing to take a risk and sponsor me.”

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