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Robin Harris, BS '98

Managing Director, Morgan Stanley

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For Robin Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, the path to an undergraduate degree from NYU Stern was far from conventional. The eldest of eight children, his life changed dramatically, when at age 15, his family moved from New York City to Alabama, and again when his stepfather passed away during his freshman year of college. At that time, he decided that the best thing he could do for his family was to leave school, get a full-time job, and begin earning money. Recognizing that his long-term goals would not be possible without college, he moved back to NYC to live with his grandmother, joined the National Guard, and looked for work.

As a young man with a great deal of discipline and respect for authority, Harris and his military credentials were a perfect fit for an entry-level stock processing job at a commercial bank on Wall Street. While some may have found the duties tedious, Harris applied his strong work ethic to make the most of the opportunity and quickly moved through a series of operations positions at numerous firms, which allowed him to learn “the front end, the back end, and all the steps in between,” he explains. He eventually landed at Goldman Sachs and became an integral member of the custody department, as well as a representative at the company’s on-campus recruiting events, which ultimately led him to question his own decision to drop out of college many years earlier.

Some 15 years into his career, Harris decided he needed more schooling to take the next step forward and so enrolled at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies to earn his bachelor’s degree in technology. Soon after beginning his coursework, a faculty member advised him to consider finishing his undergraduate degree at Stern, which ultimately proved to be the right move. While classes at the School were intense and demanding, the experience was also extremely rewarding. He relates, “I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without my bachelor’s degree from Stern. Learning how to create and support transformational change was invaluable.”

Since earning his degree, Harris has consistently sought out opportunities to become an agent for organizational change. Today, he heads Morgan Stanley’s business services center in Baltimore, which employs more than 1,100 people and provides global support for a wide range of operations, finance, and compliance functions. Hired in 2008, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders, he has implemented a number of new programs that have helped realize the center’s tremendous potential, including new recruiting and employee-engagement strategies, and has turned the Baltimore center into a real growth and success story. He also truly embodies Morgan Stanley’s core value of “giving back” by volunteering with a number of organizations focused on mentoring and creating opportunities for veterans and other under-represented groups. He serves as a board member of several nonprofit organizations that enrich the local community, including the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, and Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and serves on the Towson College of Business and Economics’ Advisory Board.

Harris’s advice to Stern students and fellow alumni is the same wisdom he shares with new Morgan Stanley hires on day one: “Value the network you are creating. Its importance may not be evident instantaneously, but have confidence you are building something you’ll be able to leverage throughout your professional life.”