Zaneilia Harris is the President of Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group, LLC. Her passion is working with executive and professional women who are going through major life transitions and need her financial guidance to achieve their personal goals.
Zaneilia is the author of Finance 'n Stilettos: Money Matters for the Well-Heeled Woman. She's a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council, a financial educator, blogger, and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ who is passionate about finances and sharing her expertise with other professional women so they can become financially savvy. Connections and relationships are very important, that's why she enjoys getting to know and understand her clients and spending time with family and friends.
She brings a wealth of knowledge gained from her more than 20-years of experience in the financial and accounting industry. Her expertise has been featured in prominent publications and media outlets such as CNBC, Forbes, Today Money, Women's Day, Essence, Black Enterprise, and PBS. She resides in a Maryland suburb just outside of the Washington, DC area with her husband and daughter.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up with my Grandmother has taught me so much about life. She exemplified the meaning of strength and determination, and was very wise. Watching her balance working, taking care of me, being there for her children, volunteering in her church and managing the family's finances taught me how important my role is as woman, wife and mother. While she didn't have much financially, I learned the impact of financial independence from her. She's my role model. My shero! I later learned that because of her generosity, people would want to help her, be there for her and support her.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Harris and Harris?
I have a rainbow of employment experiences and they have all contributed to me understanding the importance of professionalism and esthetics. I feel that I have one chance to make a first impression and it's up to me to determine what that's going to be and how that's going to look. My criteria is unapologically high. It's the little things, the details, that makes the difference. It shows you care and what you value.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I believe that life is about finding purpose. When you have purpose, you know why you are doing what you do. Your focus is there, and when the stresses of life happens, it doesn't deter you from your mission. You can focus on what you need to learn from the experience and use that to propel you forward towards fulfilling your purpose.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I'm learning to master patience. Everything happens in its own time. Enjoy the journey no matter where you are along it. Don't rush the process. Also, value people. They have stories that teach, inspire and encourage you. You should always be listening because sometimes the answer is interwoven within those moments you share with people.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Put it on the calendar. If it's important to you, put it there and honor it. I've been told this a few times and I'm still reminding myself to practice this habit. Your life is a collection of adventures and experiences. I feel if you neglect one, it affects the other because they are intertwined.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Balancing your ambitions with managing your personal life. I do not believe you can have it all at once. There are going to be moments when you have to make sacrifices. Determine what they are for you. Give yourself permission to change your mind. I know I have.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I don't know if I've had a mentor but I've had many influencers. It just so happen that they were all women. They have corrected me when I was wrong, guided me when I was blinded with doubt, inspired me to believe and trusted me enough to show me their vulnerabilities. From their experiences I learned the importance of listening to stories and discovering the message being shared.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My grandmothers. They weren't world leaders but they represented my first experience with female strength. Despite circumstances, they rose up and did what needed to be done to protect their families. They were two very different women but I'm who I am because I stand on their shoulders.
Jennifer Lawrence because she speaks her mind and it's honest and pure. Oprah because of her unselfishness. She has catapulted so many people into their own success and she did with an open heart. That's so powerful.
Harriet Tubman was brave and fearless. Despite all odds, she believed in freedom and was willing to share it with others if they were willing to open their minds to see it.
Michelle Obama because she seems so classy, intelligent, articulate, inspiring, graceful and compassionate. Anyone who can face the criticism she has faced and still carry herself with dignity, pride and confidence, is admirable to me.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
Each year I'm one step closer to changing the world. I want it to be a change agent in the finances of women. That's why one of my goals is to sell my book and speak to as many women as possible.
I am hosting my inaugural Finance 'n Stilettos Wealth and Wine Retreat designed for busy, high-achieving professional woman who have confidence in every aspect of life BUT their finances. It is a luxury educational excursion designed to align their life with their money.
The understanding of finance is a powerful tool that can change the future of those who control it. Empowering women who then teach their children is how we begin to change the world.