Carla Harris describes herself as being “negatively motivated,” which means she rarely settles for “no.”

This Morgan Stanley managing director attained her mantra while in high school as she contemplated where to attend college. A high school advisor told her to forget about applying to Ivy League schools and plan to attend schools in her home state of Florida.

Harris did just the opposite, and was accepted at Harvard University. At Harvard, Harris faced a similar situation when she was told that she didn’t have a mind for economics. Again, Harris proved otherwise, and graduated with a degree in economics and later earned an MBA from the Harvard School of Business.

Her education and savvy landed her a job on Wall Street more than 20 years ago, where she quickly gained a reputation for excellence. Today she heads Morgan Stanley’s Emerging Manager Program, which identifies and provides resources to promising asset managers (Emerging Managers), with a specific emphasis on minority and women asset managers.

The job appears to be a perfect fit for Harris, a proponent of women learning to own their power. She also advocates that women learn the importance of having advisors, mentors and sponsors whom they trust, which she details in her book, Expect to Win, a collection of her “hard-earned pearls” of wisdom.

In several television interviews while promoting the book last year, Harris said she wrote the book because she wanted women to have very clear advice in their careers because the advice she had received was very general.


Harris also recently released a followup book, Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace.

Among many power lists and honors, Harris has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 50 most powerful black executives in corporate America,” and to Fortune’s “Most Influential List” in 2005, Black Enterprise magazine’s “Top 50 African-Americans on Wall Street,” and Essence magazine’s list, “The 50 Women Who are Shaping the World.”

Harris firmly believes in supporting her community and achieving a healthy work-life balance. She chairs the board of The New York City Food Bank, Food for Survival, and the Morgan Stanley Foundation and sits on the boards of Harvard Business School Alumni Association, and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), among others.

Music is another passion for the Wall Street power house, and Harris recently released her second CD, a gospel album entitled Joy is Waiting. Harris’ philanthropic endeavors include funding the Carla Harris Scholarship Fund at Harvard University and at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Harris’ eclectic interests, philanthropic efforts, and vast business accomplishments means there’s surely a great deal of value in those “heard-earned pearls” of wisdom.