What advice would you offer to women
just starting out in the industry?
Ask questions that help you understand
the big picture of our industry and your
institution. Particularly when you have
an opportunity to attend calls or meetings with more senior team members, use
those opportunities to learn more about
the issues they are raising. Of course, be
mindful of finding the right time, and the
right person, but it is critical in the early
years to develop a solid foundation of
industry and institutional knowledge,
because information builds on itself.
Persistence and risk taking are also
important to having a lengthy and
successful career in our industry. Have
personal career goals, and know that
there will invariably be obstacles. Keep
asking for opportunities to learn the
tasks you want to learn, and don’t let
the first (or second) “no” be the answer
for too long. Take risks by seeking and
accepting assignments outside your
comfort zone, or from demanding team
potential on day one.
What kind of role has mentoring and/or
sponsorship played in your career?
Mentoring and sponsorship have played a
huge role in my career. Mentors are critical
to filling in so many gaps in information
that are useful for career success – providing institutional knowledge and advice,
explaining the big picture and providing
important feedback. One early mentor
was a senior partner and we traveled frequently to New York for in-person negotiations. I am grateful for those trips because
they provided tremendous opportunities
for unstructured mentoring time, whether
waiting around in airport lounges or sharing taxis and meals.
What do you think the industry could
do to attract and retain the best and the
We all know the Millennial generation
is looking to make an impact through
their careers. I think the most important
thing our industry can do to attract and
retain them is to listen to them. Our firm
has done so to a greater degree than in
past years, and I think we’re starting to
see benefits from doing so. Whether it’s
greater flexibility in work locations, more
frequent and specific feedback, increased
transparency in decision-making, or other
issues raised by more junior ranks, I think
institutions can benefit from those ideas.
leaders, and using those experiences to
learn new skills.
Finally, it is critical to know that we
work in a relationship-driven industry.
No matter what the role or institution,
verbal and face-to-face interactions are
important. Also important are each and
every contact you have with someone,
whether it is a colleague or client, or
even opposing counsel, client of clients,
and other advisors.
What do you know now that you wish
you knew in the beginning of your
I wish I’d known how much value a
junior team member can bring to an
institution and to a transaction. I
recently read an article analyzing the
benefits to patients from doctor teams
with varied levels of experience, and I
think the same thing is true for lawyers.
Those coming out of law school today
often have a number of years of prior
work experience, often in a different industry, and they bring a fresh
perspective from those experiences.
Law school is different today than it
was 20 years ago, and current students
have many more opportunities to have
practicum and clinic experience. And
recent graduates are much closer to the
ever-changing technology landscape.
These factors allow for tremendous
essica DeBruin is a principal in the firm’s Commercial Finance Group. She
represents banks and other commercial lenders in structuring, document-
ing, negotiating and overseeing due diligence for asset-based and cash
flow loans. Jessica’s work crosses a wide range of industries, including
manufacturing, restaurant, technology, software, business service, food
and beverage and energy, as well as all levels of the debt capital structure.
Jessica is a four-year member of the firm’s Management Committee and is chair of
its Administrative Committee. She is a member of the CFA Women in Commercial
Finance Committee and its Strategic Planning Subcommittee, as well as the Women’s Committee for the Midwest Chapter of the CFA. Jessica has also led Goldberg
Kohn’s annual Women in Commercial Finance and Bankruptcy event in Chicago for
the past five years, and will be hosting its sixth event this fall.
Jessica is admitted to practice in Illinois and is a certified public accountant. Jessica
received her law degree from New York University in 2000 and her B.S. in accounting,
with honors, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997.