We welcomed Jerilyn Castillo McAniff to the podcast to celebrate Women’s History Month. She is the Managing Director and Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Oaktree Capital Management. In 2007, she co-authored a book with her husband titled, The Practitioner’s Guide to Investment Banking, Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance.
Jerilyn is originally from the Philippines. She immigrated to the Bay Area with her family in the seventies when things there were getting complicated. The Bay Area was a welcoming place for Filipino immigrants to come at the time. They had to start from the beginning, however, with the support of a large extended family, her parents and grandparents decided to stay and raise their family there.
In this episode, Jerilyn talked about going to Haas, her career in finance, how she got introduced to investment banking, and her transition to a career in alternative investments. She also shared the importance of mentorship.
Jerilyn is passionate about teaching new professionals and students interested in careers in finance. She is actively involved with AltFinance: Investing in Black Futures, Girls Who Invest, and the Bloomberg Buyside Women’s Network.
Why she believes so much in the power of mentorship
I saw it transform me. If you have somebody in your life at a very early stage showing you how to do things, it helps bring so much confidence. And I know how transformative that can be for a person of color, a woman, or anyone when you didn’t grow up in the same environment.
On having a growth mindset
No matter your profession or how you were raised, or what kind of life you have, we all face challenges. Every day presents challenges. And so much of it is how you look upon your life. Are you a half-glass full or half-glass empty kind of person? And when there’s a road bump or something really difficult, do you look at it and say, Okay, what can I learn? What am I getting out of this? How is this going to help me grow as a person? Having that attitude that every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new, meet new people, do something you’ve never done before—when you have that outlook, everything is an opportunity. And it’s a really great way to look at life.
Why she and her husband wrote a book about investment banking
Peter and I wrote it with the goal of helping anyone interested in the business learn with a practical lens how to do the basic types of analysis that are expected on the job. That was really born out of this interest in trying to help people. It’s an industry that can be very intimidating. And we wanted to eliminate that intimidation.
What gets her up in the morning?
I love helping others who are interested in learning about this (finance) business, this wonderful industry that has been so rewarding to me in many respects. Just being able to satisfy so much intellectual curiosity. I want as many people who have an interest in it to stay for the long term because it is so intimidating on the front end that people decide to leave and tap out. I want to teach and train them to stay engaged.
How can people support other people?
Whatever industry or career you’re in, find out the mentorship and early education programs that feed into your business and see what you can do. Everybody can support someone new or younger than them in their own professional journey. So much of the opportunity that I’ve been given is because others made that investment in me. And to turn it around, pay it forward, and support the ones that come behind you, that’s how we build stronger organizations. That’s how we build better communities.
- LinkedIn Profile
- The Practitioner’s Guide to Investment Banking, Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance
- Girls Who Invest
- Bloomberg Buyside Women’s Network
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. Today, we’re thrilled to have Jerilyn Castillo McAniff with us, who is the Managing Director and Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Oaktree Capital Management.
Jerilyn is also a Haas alumna from the class of ’97, of the Haas undergraduate program. We would like to welcome you in the podcast.
[00:27] Jerilyn: Hi, Sean. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
[00:32] Sean: Yeah. Thank you for joining us today. So, Jerilyn, first off, we’d love to hear your origin story — your family’s background and your upbringing — before we get into anything boring.
[00:42] Jerilyn: Absolutely. I like so many students at Berkeley. I was not born in the United States. I was born in the Philippines, a suburb of Manila called Quezon City, but my family immigrated to the Bay Area, California in the ’70s. Most of my dad’s side went over, and that’s where my family’s origin in California began.
My grandfather, when he was still in the Philippines, actually worked very closely with President Marcos on… I believe it’s called… and my uncles and aunts might give me a hard time for getting this wrong, but something akin to the Federal Housing Commission in the Philippines. But during the ’70s, things started to get pretty difficult there. And my grandfather, who was an attorney, just really felt strongly that he wanted to bring the family to America.
And so, I was the oldest of the grandchildren in my generation, and actually the only grandchild on my dad’s side that was born in the Philippines. And we immigrated over. And the whole family, my father had eight siblings… or he had seven siblings, there were eight of them. They all moved over to the East Bay of the Bay Area, and that’s where our family’s life began.
[02:12] Sean: Do you know how they came to drop a pin on East Bay?
[02:17] Jerilyn: Yeah, my grandmother had a sister who already was in the Bay Area. And like most immigrant families that come, they joined a relative who was already here. And at that time, the Bay Area was certainly a great place for Filipino immigrants to come.
There were many who were immigrating into the area. So, I think very early in the first few years in America, they found a lot of other and met a lot of other Filipino families, friends, and ultimately decided that the Bay Area was where they wanted to stay and raise their family.
[02:55] Jerilyn: So, we came to America, and we started from the beginning. My grandfather was an attorney in the Philippines, but he wasn’t at a stage in his life where he could start over and become an attorney in the U.S. So, he went and worked for a bank and started from the beginning. He really started his career from the very beginning.
[03:16] Sean: Wow.
[03:17] Jerilyn: I really admired him. I admired how hardworking he was. I admired how much he had given up, leaving the Philippines and the life and the professional career that he was leaving behind, really, in search for more opportunity for all of us.
He passed away many years ago, but I really think of him as one of my heroes. Because in truth, everything about my family, my life, my cousin’s lives are really because of him and the decision he made to move to America in the ’70s.
[03:47] Sean: How do you decide to go to Haas?
[03:50] Jerilyn: Yeah. That’s a great question. Berkeley, a remarkable institution. I always knew, when I was younger, I think I knew I wanted to do something in business. In truth, I thought I’d be an accountant and Berkeley’s Haas Program has a wonderful accounting department.
There were many accountants in my family, that’s a very common career-path for Filipinos. I had an aunt, my Auntie Eva, she was an accountant, and I had another aunt, my Auntie Malloy, she was an accountant.
So, that’s what I thought I would do. I knew the program at Berkeley was wonderful. So, I really started at the Haas School thinking I would have a career in accounting and go work for, at the time, there were… it was the Big Eight.
[04:31] Sean: Yeah.
[04:32] Jerilyn: And it was really at Haas that I learned about finance, and opportunities, and career opportunities beyond accounting. I took a class, my junior-year, that I loved so much with Professor Steve Etter. He’s actually still teaching there Corporate Finance 134, and that class was a finance and valuation class. He taught case study method. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was one of those classes you take in college where you feel like, “Gosh, I wish I could take that every semester I’m here.” And Professor Etter, he had just started teaching, I think that same year. And I met some of my closest friends at Berkeley in that class. And it just ignited this idea in my mind about career-paths in finance.
I also had a really close friend. He’s still a very close friend today. Our families live very close together. That was at Haas with me. His name is Nelson Shing, one of my best friends. And he turned on this idea in my mind about thinking about a career in investment banking. And I didn’t know much about it. I grew up in a family that didn’t know anything about investment banking. And Nelson did, and that community at Berkeley, you share ideas, you’re always talking to each other about internships and jobs.
And Nelson really got me thinking about a career path in investment banking. And so, that’s how I started. He ignited an idea, Nelson and Steve Etter, with this class. And I started interviewing for full-time roles, and I landed a job at J.P. Morgan to start in 1997 in their investment banking group.
[06:20] Sean: That’s amazing. Things have changed since 1997. I’m curious to hear, correct me if I’m wrong, especially as a woman in finance back then when people were not as cognizant of diversity, inclusion, equity, are there any stories that you could share with us about back then?
[06:42] Jerilyn: Sure. I’d say, from a challenge standpoint, I went to J.P. Morgan, and I went to New York very confident, technically, because of the experience I had at Haas. The program at Berkeley, the business school is relatively small, especially compared to the student population at Berkeley.
So, I did feel like I had this small college experience where I really got to know my professors. But the rigor and what I learned from an accounting, communication, business, finance standpoint, I went to New York and I started my training program at J.P. Morgan feeling very, very good about my technical skills. And so, that started me with a tremendous amount of confidence, analytically and technically.
The areas that were harder for me, just given how I grew up, were more on the soft skills side. Some of the restaurants that I had got to go to when I first started as an analyst in New York, and some of the client meetings, some of the travel, all of that was very new. Exciting, certainly exciting, and I embraced it, but all of those experiences were very new. And I really credit a number of mentors who took me under their wing when I first started at J.P. Morgan, who really helped teach me those soft skills.
They are wonderful mentors who I’m still quite close to today. Burt Baldman, Roger Wood, Jimmy Elliott, Paul Debar, they were all colleagues who I worked closely with in the M&A group at J.P. Morgan. And they helped me. They taught me how to do all the things away from the technical and the analytical that I hadn’t been exposed to before.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate, and I believe so much in the power of mentorship is I saw it transform me. I saw how it affected me as a very young professional in New York. I just know that if you have somebody in your life… and lucky for me, I had four people in my life at a very early stage. When you feel like somebody’s really showing you how to do things and how’d you go to a restaurant, how to travel, how to order a drink, how to meet with clients, it also helped bring so much confidence for me. And it was wonderful. And I just know how transformative that can be for a person of color, for a woman, for anyone, really, when you haven’t grown up in the same kind of environment, what you might be experiencing when you first start first professional job.
On your question about challenges facing your career, I had one of those amazing moms who raised me and my sisters to always be grateful about whatever situation you’re in and use it as a learning opportunity. My mom had a tough go. She was raising the three of us, four, eventually. She was divorced. My dad, I love him so much, but frankly, he just wasn’t around all that much. Came in and out. And life was hard for her. She was a secretary, so she didn’t make very much money. But growing up, she never really complained ever. She never wanted to ever feel sorry for herself. And she certainly didn’t want us to ever feel sorry for ourselves.
We moved to a new city after the divorce, maybe about 20, 30 minutes from where we had grown up. And instead of it being a negative and feeling like we didn’t know anyone in this new town, she was so positive and, “Look at this amazing new city that’s got so many opportunities for us. It’s so safe.” It’s close to her work.
She was always just very positive about everything. She raised us, every time we would do something in the house, she would say, “If you’re going to do anything, you do it right. You do it excellent.” As simple as vacuuming the floor, if you were just doing it in a lazy way and not doing a great job, she’d get angry and say, “The opportunity to clean or the opportunity to do something is a privilege. If you’re going to do it, you do it right.”
And she’d just ingrained that in us. And as a result, I was raised always with so much positivity and so much gratitude for whatever opportunity came before us. And I really credit that to my amazing mom. I tell her that now, of course, maybe growing up I didn’t appreciate it as much.
And quite frankly, on the question of challenge and what’s hard, everyone, no matter your profession or how you were raised or what kind of life you have, we all face challenges, my goodness. Every day presents challenges. And so much of it is really, how do you look upon your life? And are you a full or half-glass empty kind of person? And when there’s a road bump or something really difficult, do you look at it and say, what can I learn? What am I getting out of this? How is this going to help me grow as a person?
And having that attitude about, every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new, meet new people, do something you’ve never done before, when you have that outlook, everything is an opportunity. And it’s a really great way to look upon life. So, certainly, are there times in my career, in your career, and anyone who’s listening’s career where it was hard? There was a challenge, of course, for all of us. And frankly, those challenges are all relative to the experience we each go through. But they’re also always growth opportunities.
Just last week, I attended a dinner, an award ceremony that I enjoy so much. It’s called the International Woman of Courage Dinner. And it’s an award that the state department gives out every year to nine to 10 women around the world that are nominated by ambassadors for the excellent work they’re doing, supporting women’s rights and children around the world.
And I love this dinner so much because it always resets me about what real challenge is. These women, some of them, many of them, are fighting for women’s rights, for children’s rights, for family rights, for LGBTQ+ rights in parts of the world where fighting for those rights is very difficult. Many of them, over the years, have either been imprisoned, or somebody has tried to take their life. And they keep fighting. And they’re so positive. Many times over the years at this dinner, two or three of the awardees speak. And they’re so positive. And they see their work also as a privilege to help others.
And I always think when I go to this dinner every March, I always bring a number of friends to it. “Gosh, our life here isn’t hard. These women, their lives are hard.” And it resets me to remember that, work, when it feels difficult or challenging, it’s also a privilege to be able to do it, to be able to have this opportunity to work in this industry with so many talented people, the opportunity to meet other business owners and leaders of other companies. It’s wonderful. It’s an opportunity for me to grow every day at work. And so, I really do love this dinner that I get to attend because it resets me about the relativity of what’s hard in life.
And these women, if you’ve not heard of this award, I encourage you to look at it online and read some of the profiles of these women who are doing such amazing work around the world. Really, I’m so humbled whenever I get to hear their stories.
At this year’s dinner, I sat next to this really remarkable woman and her sister. And she was an awardee winner several years ago. And she was a journalist in Kosovo, reporting on different things taking place during the war, post-war. She grew up during the war, and she had to seek asylum in America. She came to America with her two sons the night before we had had dinner. And there was a woman who was the first fighter pilot in the military in Afghanistan.
So, again, everything about hardship is relative, and we should see it through the lens of what so many others are doing. And so, my challenges at work, again, I really don’t dwell on how difficult they are or, gosh, that was a tough obstacle. I really have tried. I don’t always succeed, but I have always tried to approach it with this mindset of, “That was hard. What did I learn from it? And how can I do that better so I don’t make that error or do that again next time?”
[15:11] Sean: That’s amazing. I’m glad you’ve talked about mentoring young people because I know you co-authored a textbook, Investment Banking M&A. But can you share more about that and your passion of mentoring young people from diverse backgrounds?
[15:32] Jerilyn: Absolutely. So, at a very early age, even when I was at Berkeley, actually, I so enjoyed the opportunity. I did quite a bit of tutoring — finance and accounting tutoring — when I was at Cal. So, from a very young age, I knew how much I enjoyed teaching and interacting with others and helping explain concepts that might seem confusing or complicated in trying to simplify them.
I enjoyed that very much at Berkeley. When I started at J.P. Morgan, I really enjoyed doing that with new hires, and helping onboard them, and helping getting them integrated into the M&A crew.
My now husband and I, we worked together in the same group. We didn’t work on the same team, but we met at J.P. Morgan. And one of the things that first brought us together was, we both really enjoyed teaching and training and working with younger professionals coming into the organization.
And so, after we left J.P. Morgan, and before I started at Oaktree, Peter and I wrote a book on M&A in corporate finance and investment banking, really, with the goal to help anyone interested in the business learn with a practical lens how to do the basic types of analysis that are expected on the job. That was really born out of this interest in trying to help people take it down to first principles. It’s an industry that can be very intimidating for people. And we really wanted to write a book that eliminated that intimidation.
And so, that’s what we did. And so, when you ask me what excites me, what gets me up, what gets me going, I really love helping others. I love helping others who are interested in learning about this business, this wonderful industry that has been so rewarding to me in many respects, in particular, just being able to satisfy so much intellectual curiosity. Finance and investing, for someone who just loves to read and learn about new businesses and meet different management teams, it’s such a wonderful career path.
And I really want as many people who have interest in it to stay in it for the long term, because it is also an industry and a business where you get better with repetition. You get better with practice. The more cycles you see, the more types of companies you see, the more situations you see, that’s how you learn. And it is very much an apprenticeship business, but I do think sometimes, because it is so intimidating on the front-end, that people do decide to leave and tap out.
And so, that’s one of the things that excites me so much, I really enjoy helping younger people in high school, in college, those first new to the business, our analysts, our associates, help them really learn the business. I love to teach. I love to support different people in the industry, not just at Oaktree, but across the industry.
And it gets me very excited. It fills my cup. I think, every one of us, when you think about what you might want to do professionally, one of the things you have to ask yourself is this question you just asked me, Sean, “What gets you going? What gets you motivated?” And that can be several different things for each person. And for me, one of them is helping others and helping teach and train others and helping them stay engaged in this very interesting business that can and often feels very intimidating at the beginning.
[19:09] Sean: What’s your advice for people, in general, to seek out mentors within their industry or even across industries?
[19:18] Jerilyn: A few things. I think, if your company has a program, a formal mentorship program, you should absolutely sign up for it, and get paired with somebody in your own organization. I think a lot of companies have spent a lot of time really curating internal mentorship and sponsorship programs, and many companies are quite thoughtful about that. So, take advantage of that.
But apart from that, you certainly should seek out mentors away from the formal programs. And I think, in terms of advice on how to do it, really keep your ears and eyes open, and pay attention. And when you see or meet someone, where you like how they’re interacting with others or you see them in a meeting and you say, “Wow, I really like how that person delivers a message or can listen to others or how they’re interacting,” do what you can to try to get to know them. If you work in an environment where it’s easy enough to swing by their office and say hello, stop by. There’s a lot of organizations, I think, where it is totally acceptable and normal to just walk by somebody’s office and knock on the door and introduce yourself.
That is certainly welcome at Oaktree, and people do it all the time. Asking people to go to coffee after you’ve had that introduction is the first way to get to know them. And coming to those coffee chats with questions and coming prepared allows you to, hopefully, have the other person want to spend time with you, because you’ve asked to spend time with them, and you’ve come prepared so that you’re not wasting anybody’s time.
Attend as many networking events or opportunities to meet others as you can. One piece of advice I have is, when you go to those things, don’t spend the entire evening chatting and catching up with the people you already know. A lot of times, people go to events, networking events, or business events, what have you, you go with someone you know, and that’s very comfortable, but go and make a pack with whoever you arrived with and say, “Let’s spend 20-30 minutes trying to meet others, and let’s come back and see each other at the end.” And be intentional about that, because the more people you meet and the more things you do, it certainly can help your opportunities grow. And it also helps you grow professionally.
[21:40] Sean: Couldn’t agree more. So, Jerilyn, how can our listeners support you in your work?
[21:45] Jerilyn: I mentioned earlier these many different, early education programs that we support at Oaktree and that so many in our industry support, AltFinance, Girls Who Invest. There’s others, Phelps Forward, The WeGo! Foundation. I think, whatever industry you’re in, whatever career you’re in, find out what are the mentorship and early-education programs that feed into your business, and see what you can do. Everybody can support someone new or younger to them in your own professional journey. Ask anyone in your own organization or with the organization that supports your career or your industry, “What do you need? How can I help you? Do you need mentors? What type of volunteerism do you need?” But just being able to know and say so much of the opportunity that I’ve been given is because others made that investment in me, and to turn it around and pay it forward, and support the ones that come behind you, that’s how we build stronger organizations. That’s how we build better community.
Always picking up the phone when somebody has a question for you and taking the time to answer it thoughtfully and with humanity, that doesn’t really answer the question, “how to support me in my work,” but I do think that’s what everyone should try to do in whatever work they’re doing.
[23:04] Sean: I think it absolutely does answer it. The core message is to pay it forward. You remind me that, even for myself, I think, especially for the people that are more senior in their roles, it’s also important for them to be examples of vulnerable leaders as well, to show some vulnerability, because then it does make it more welcoming.
I recently sent out my first annual review, annual update email, and you’re reminding me of this because I got a bunch of responses back that said, “You’re so brave to be so vulnerable in this email that you shared.” At first, I was surprised that people felt this was vulnerable, because I guess maybe coming out of Berkeley didn’t feel that vulnerable to me.
But the beauty of it was it created the space for them to also open up and for us to have very honest conversations with each other about our lives and the challenges and whatnots. And it was amazing, because then you really feel that connection, that bond, versus some superfluous conversation about, “Hey, this is what’s up. Kids are doing this and that.”
[24:11] Jerilyn: Yes.
[24:13] Sean: And I think it’s just such a wonderful thing, wonderful way to live.
[24:18] Jerilyn: The idea of paying it forward, my mentors today at Oaktree, Howard Marks, one of our co-founders, and Jay Wintrob, our CEO, I see them, whenever they get asked to do something with younger people or to spend some time with new employees at the firm or people in college, they always say, yes. And so, it’s this idea of, no matter where you are in your own part of your own professional journey, the ones who I admire so much are the ones like Howard and Jay, who I work with now, and the four that I spoke about that I met 26 years ago, the ones who are just willing to take time, to spend time with people who are newer to the business, who are younger, who are interested, and to make that investment and that ability to pay it forward. It really, I think, differentiates in any business.
[25:13] Sean: Well, we really appreciate your perspectives on everything, from mentorship to career advice, today. So, I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
[25:23] Jerilyn: No, Sean, thank you so much. What a pleasure to spend time with you. Thank you. And thanks for doing this for Berkeley and for Haas. How wonderful for our community.
[25:33] Sean: Well, we hope to catch up with you again, soon.
[25:36] Jerilyn: Likewise. Okay. Take care.
[25:40] Sean: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please remember to hit that Subscribe or Follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review.
You’re looking for more content? Please check out our website at haas.fm. That’s spelled H-A-A-S.F-M. There, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time. Go, bears.