It was the biggest trade of my career: I was about to sell $1.7 billion in mortgage-backed securities to one customer. The most respected salesperson in fixed income had just asked me to make the sale and I needed time to figure out how I could do it, and at what prices. A few minutes later, another trader requested some help on pricing a different, non-urgent deal, and I politely told him he had to wait. He didn’t like that answer, so he stood behind me, pestering me and telling me to hurry up. I stayed focused on the task at hand and, again, respectfully told him I would handle his non-urgent request as soon as I could. He stomped away.
Trading desks have something called a “hoot and holler,” which is a PA system that can be heard across the floor. A minute later, the trader who had been standing behind my desk called the whole floor to attention, shifting the focus of hundreds of people. His voice echoed as he proclaimed that “Jacki Hoffman was not capable of doing two things at once.” He blabbed on about traders needing certain talents he felt I did not possess and predicted my career would be short lived. Some people laughed while others came to my defense.
I was furious and humiliated, but remained focused on my trade. I called my salesperson, gave him the prices, and held my breath. Then I heard two simple words: “Jacki. Done.” As no one knew I had made a big trade, I worked quickly but quietly to cover some of the market exposure and secure profit on the sale. As soon as my risk was reduced enough to pause, I took off my headset and marched over to the desk of my accuser and let him have it, despite his seniority. I don’t remember my exact words, but they were pretty close to: “If you ever do that to me again, I will make it my mission to have you fired.” He was shocked and tried to tell me it had all been a joke, but I ignored him.
I marched straight to my “office,” the last stall in the ladies bathroom, and the tears of humiliation, stress and accomplishment started to flow. After a few minutes, I pulled myself together and went out to splash water on my face. As I stood there staring at my tear-stained reflection in the mirror, it hit me: I was a Wall Street Trader. I would make it.
And I did.
In 1996, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to ever make partner at Goldman Sachs.