The CEO of Nasdaq took a project at age 28 that taught her 2 lessons and changed the way she shaped her career

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderAdena Friedman spent two decades at Nasdaq before becoming CEO.
  • Adena Friedman was named CEO of Nasdaq in 2017 after being with the company for two decades.
  • Friedman said her career was shaped after taking on a project at the company that “people didn’t care as much about” when she was 28 years old.
  • Friedman said she learned two lessons from heading the project: Take all opportunities and surround yourself with smart people.

After two decades at Nasdaq, Adena Friedman was named CEO of the world’s second-largest stock exchange in 2017 – but she doesn’t attribute her success within the company to the amount of years she’s worked there.

Friedman joined Nasdaq in 1993 after completing her MBA at Vanderbilt University. A few years later, Friedman, then 28, was put in charge of the Mutual Fund Quotation Service – a mini-business that nobody else within the company wanted to touch, she told Business Insider on an episode of our podcast “This Is Success.”

“It was a small product that hadn’t really been revamped for a long time,” Friedman said. “Since it was kind of a pretty standard service, it really hadn’t been touched for probably 10 years or more by the time I took it, and I had written a business plan about it a couple of years earlier, saying, ‘Well these are the things we could do to maximise the opportunity in the business.’ And they said, ‘OK, well, here you go.'”

Friedman describes the product as a support to Nasdaq’s operations but not central to trading. “And they kind of said, ‘Well, she’s a young person – let’s try to see what she can do with it,’ essentially. And they did give me complete autonomy to do with it what I could,” Friedman said.

Friedman said heading this project shaped her career because she was able to prove that she could pull resources, build a team, and shine “by taking something that people didn’t care as much about.”

Friedman said she learned two valuable career lessons that helped her find success after taking on the project. The first takeaway: accepting opportunities that are given to you – even if it doesn’t seem like a golden ticket.

“It actually makes it so you can have a lot more impact on it and you can have a lot more autonomy,” Friedman said.

The second lesson she learned is finding other people who can help. “Don’t assume you’re going to do it yourself,” Friedman said. “You have to have those people, those experts around you who are better at their jobs than you are, to help you find success.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.