How This Nasdaq Leader Went From Intern To CEO—And How You Could, Too

Liam Berry
How This Nasdaq Leader Went From Intern To CEO—And How You Could, Too
Sponsored by, Nasdaq

Adena Friedman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Nasdaq. Chances are, you’ve probably heard of the company, which started out managing the world’s first electronic stock market.

Friedman began her career at Nasdaq after graduating from Vanderbilt’s MBA program. Looking for her way into both finance and the product management side of the tech world, she landed an internship at Nasdaq. She’s since seen (and overseen) the company’s evolution from stock exchange to global technology leader.

WayUp Co-founder and CEO Liz Wessel sat down with Friedman to learn more about Nasdaq, her story, and how you could be the next intern-turned-CEO (with her advice).

What Is Nasdaq?

Nasdaq originally stood for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations. It was an electronic quotation system (providing potential buyers with stock prices) and the world’s first electronic stock market.

Being the more technologically adept stock exchange, Nasdaq also manages the Nasdaq Composite, which—like other industrial averages—tracks the combined stock prices of major technology companies. Traders and economists use the Nasdaq composite as a bellwether for the health of what is arguably America’s most important industry: tech.

But Nasdaq has evolved a lot over the years. They’re a leader in technology in financial services, working on integrating everything from artificial intelligence to the blockchain technology behind digital currencies into exchanges.

“It really is a technology product company in the financial space,” Friedman explains to Liz.

Essentially, Nasdaq works on everything that changes the way financial markets work. If there’s a new technology that affects trading, pricing, or transactions, you can safely bet that Nasdaq already offers it (or it’s in the works).

That’s what excites Friedman so much about being its leader: She grew up alongside the company, and they’ve both come a long way since her first day at Nasdaq.

How Adena Friedman Went From Intern To CEO

Friedman credits her success to not only seizing every opportunity but also adding something more to them.

As Friedman sees it, you can’t just do what’s asked of you. You have to understand the business and go above and beyond in your work to make sure you’re genuinely adding something to the company’s value. That kind of holistic business curiosity is something Friedman says she values in all her employees—no matter what their roles are.

“Something that we look for in all our candidates is intellectual curiosity: We look for people who want to understand more about the world around them. We look for people who want to understand more about the capital markets and how they shape the economy,” Friedman says.

Friedman and Nasdaq hope that this viewpoint will influence the way potential employees do their jobs. That sort of forward-looking thinking is how she managed to advance her career (plus Nasdaq’s entire profile and service portfolio).

Friedman’s climb up the corporate ladder took her to the CFO role at the exchange, followed by a stint at a private equity firm. When she returned to Nasdaq, she did so as their President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). In January 2017, Friedman was promoted to the role of Chief Executive Officer.

And you could be next.

“One of the great things about Nasdaq is that you can find your way into the organization through one group, and move to other parts of the company,” Friedman says. However, those moves and promotions won’t come for free.

“You have to have your own sense of self-reliance, self-starting,” she says.

Interested in following Friedman’s philosophy of holistic business thinking and taking the entrepreneurial initiative for a company that’s always growing? Check out fun facts, videos, and amazing opportunities from Nasdaq on WayUp right now!