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The world of finance fascinated Adena Friedman quite early in her life, as her dad who worked for the global investment and advisory firm, T. Rowe Price, took his son and daughter to office often. These trips sparked her interest in the industry and she joined financial services industry after her Masters. Started off as a newly minted MBA intern in 1993, she worked her way to being the first woman to lead a global exchange company, Nasdaq. She had spent almost her entire career at Nasdaq. After 17 years at Nasdaq, she worked with Carlyle Group LP for a short stint before embarking on her next adventure. Having served in a variety of leadership roles, she has a broad range of expertise in business and operational areas under her belt. She has spearheaded the strategic transformation of Nasdaq to a leading global exchange and technology solutions company with operations on six continents. She was actively involved in the acquisitions of the Inet and OMX trading platforms and the Philadelphia and Boston stock exchanges.

Adena has always been vocal about women in leadership and supports mentoring and career opportunities for women in the financial services industry. She also advocates financial literacy and education. She hopes that her role draws more women into the financial services industry and makes them realise that it is possible.

Initial years at Nasdaq...

The young grad thought it is cool to join the company that listed Microsoft. Straight out of B-school, Adena landed at Nasdaq for an internship in trading and market services in 1993. She walked in for a defined role. But that changed quickly, as she was curious and inquisitive. She said yes and took up whatever came her way early on in her career – be it writing business plans or doing budgets. She did not miss any opportunity to learn something new or to improve her skill. With the power of Yes, she soon became the go-to person to ask anything and earned an early reputation as a doer, someone who was getting things done and someone who people liked to work with. The first business plan she was assigned to draft was for a product called Portal. After a short stint in marketing, she got the opportunity to be the product owner of the one she wrote her first business plan.

In 2000, seven years into the career, she was named as the Executive Vice President to lead the data product division. At the age of 30, she took a giant leap from managing products that generates $10 million to managing a group that manages over $100 million. When Bob Greifeld became the CEO in 2003, his first priority was to change the way Nasdaq set the closing price of shares. The project had a lot to do with data division. The successful execution of the risky project was much appreciated by her boss. The CEO recognised her potential and gave her an additional charge of heading Nasdaq’s corporate strategy. The new role exposed her to the financial and operational side of the company. In 2009, the Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Data Products was promoted as the Chief Financial Officer.

A quick detour to Carlyle...

In 2011, she moved to the private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, after her 17 years in Nasdaq. As its CFO, she oversaw the firm's Finance and IT organisations for three years. To be on the buy side of the investment world was a different story for someone who has spent the whole career at Wall Street. In 2012, she led the firm's initial public offering and transitioned it into a great public company. Taking Carlyle public vouches her ability to convert seemingly ordinary conditions into remarkable results. When an offer which was too good to refuse came calling, she left Carlyle.

Back to Nasdaq...

Friedman rejoined Nasdaq in 2014. But this time, to hold one of the most senior positions on Wall Street, as the President, responsible for overseeing 3 of Nasdaq's 4 business segments - Global Information Services, Global Listing Services, and Global Technology Solutions, totalling more than half of the company's profit. After an year, she was given to the additional role of Chief Operating Officer where she was responsible for overseeing all of the company’s business segments with a focus on driving efficiency, product development, growth, and expansion.

In charge of a Wall Street institution...

Aden Friedman assumed the role of President and CEO of Nasdaq on 01 January, 2017 upon the retirement of her mentor, Bob Greifeld. Her vision is to build upon Nasdaq’s foundational legacy as a leading provider of the technology that powers financial markets. In her first year as the CEO, Nasdaq Composite Index went up by 28% and posted one record close after another, crossing the 7,000 level for the first time ever. With more than 130 IPOs, Nasdaq took the lead.

Personal life...

Schooled in an all-girls environment, co-ed college was a new experience for Friedman. She holds BA in political science from Williams College and Master of Business Administration from Owen Graduate School of Management, Tennessee. Fascinated with politics for a while, she interned for her then-Congressman, Ben Cardin and then the Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore.

She is married to Michael Friedman, whom she met at Williams College. A black belt in Taekwondo, she has been training with her husband and their two boys for a long time. As a working mother, she made sure that she struck the balance between career and family. She worked part-time for the first five years of motherhood - three days a week for the first three years and four days a week for the following two years.

Overcoming hiccups...

Soon after she started at Nasdaq, she was put in charge a product, which none of her seniors thought had a future. Knowing well that the product is almost dead, she got into it with energy and excitement with a strong vision to rebuild the product. She listened to her clients and came up with a plan. But unfortunately, she found that none was interested to work on that small product. She finally convinced a veteran and a few others, who agreed to join her more because of the entertainment side that would come with seeing her fail. She laid out a brilliant plan and presented it to the team. Her detail-rich project schedule, clarity and optimism blew them away and changed their attitude instantly. The rebuilt product was a huge success and she got into the spotlight.

Her two cents for the future executives...

Play well with others.
Ideas are only as good as your ability to communicate them.
Always be listening and learning.
Be the optimist in the room.
Be the brains, but also the boots. In other words, value execution.

Associations and memberships...

Served on the Board of the Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter of Junior Achievement
Works closely with Community of Hope, a non profit offering services and housing for homeless and low-income people
Member of Board of Directors of Nasdaq Educational Foundation

Awards and accolades...

Named as #20 on The World's 100 Most Powerful Women list by Fortune in 2017
Was a featured speaker at 4th Annual Forbes Women's Summit 2016
Named in the 40 under 40 list by Craine in 2005


When you leave an organization, do your best to leave on good terms. As I see it, the world is a small place; you never know when you might work with or for some of the same people again, nor do you know if you’ll become a client of that company or if the company will become your client. Regardless of the reason, leaving on good terms is the right thing to do.
Saying yes when your employer offers you a new assignment keeps you challenged and allows you to prove your worth to the organization; both are essential.
You want to make sure that every employee, whether it's a sales person who's engaging with the client, you want them to be curious about what the client is looking for next.
Give yourself the time to learn and really grow and go deep into something actually in the long run will give you a huge advantage as you continue up the chain.
When you’re in a business and you’re running a business, you should make sure you know as much as you can. But anytime you’re making a big decision, whether it’s an acquisition or getting into new business, there are going to be unknowns and you have to be willing to use your gut.

Hope readers caught up the spark...