Logging several decades at one employer did not seem possible to a young Mella, back then an eager student with an unending thirst for forward movement. Mella studied engineering at Rutgers University and took an internship at Johnson & Johnson. But he filled the summer months mowing lawns and washing dishes. He worked as a soda jerk, landscaped cemeteries, and even sold vacuums door to door.
Most of the jobs were just a means to an end and a way to earn some extra pocket cash, but one temporary job changed Mella’s life forever. He took a gig in the back-office operation at a bank. Watching the finance pros conduct business and seeing the speed of activity dazzled Mella. He learned a bit about Wall Street and, suddenly, a whole new path opened before him. Mella realized he wanted to move away from engineering and toward finance.
Leaving what he knew for something unknown represented a risk, but Mella was willing to take the leap. He accepted a job in the controller’s department at a growing private company with about five thousand employees. The year was 1987 and the company was Goldman Sachs. Today, Mella’s risk has paid off. He’s enjoyed a long career and is a vice president in the corporate and workplace solutions division, focused on strategic outsourcing opportunities.
Mella entered the Goldman Sachs ecosystem around the time of Black Monday. October 19, 1987, saw the first modern worldwide financial meltdown after the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by more than 20 percent in just one trading session. “There was a lot going on when I first came to Goldman, and I had the good fortune to be able to observe how some of the leading thinkers of the time responded to global events,” Mella explains. As Goldman Sachs grew, Mella—always the adventurer—took on more responsibilities at the firm and found himself developing skills in many different niche areas.
After a decade spent in various roles, leaders at the investment bank asked Mella to move across the Atlantic to London, where he led several international expense management departments. What was supposed to be a twelve-month assignment lasted for four years. Leading a European team as an American posed several challenges for Mella to navigate, but the experience gave him new leadership tools. “Whenever you accept an unexpected assignment and take on something new, you acquire expertise you can later leverage in meaningful ways,” he says.
After roles in the finance, operations, and technology divisions, as well as working in human resources as global head of recruiting, Mella became chief of staff to the controller and chief administrative officer for the finance and risk divisions. Now, he is leading strategic outsourcing for the firm. The strategic sourcing department finds and creates value, improves leverage in strategic areas, and identifies commercial advantages for Goldman Sachs. The bank has approximately $2.4 trillion assets under supervision and about 49,000 global employee
While company loyalty was once common, it’s less popular today. Mella, however, says he’s had no reason to venture outside of his long-time employer. “The firm has provided a stable foundation that I’ve developed in. It’s flat and united. Leaders are approachable at all levels, and there is always something new to do, learn, and experience,” he says. When Mella lived in London, he led teams in Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland. He’s also been to China, Japan, Africa, India, Singapore, and elsewhere.
Mella has walked away with more than a worn-out passport; he also has amassed experience that can help other people and groups chart their own courses. The leader is on several boards including St. John’s University, the Association of Latino Professionals For America, and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. He also served on the board for the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for six years and was an advisory board member at the New York Times and Pace University.
In his role, Mella finds commercial advantages to do things with improved value by eliminating costs or freeing up resources in new ways. The creative work requires deep internal relationships and legacy knowledge of the bank, making Mella the perfect person for the job. He’s harnessing his long career history to prioritize work and create the greatest value for the firm going forward.
Making it work
In addition to being a leader at Goldman Sachs, Joe Mella is a devoted husband, dedicated father, passionate board member, and tireless volunteer who lends his talents to causes that elevate the Latino community. Balancing his many commitments and staying effective is never easy, but Mella has developed the following best practices that help him find success:
- Stay true to yourself. Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing and who you’re with.
- Delegate and be collaborative. Allow others to grow.
- Be nice to everyone. Lift while you rise. Be available.
- Network, but be sincere. You never know who may help or who you may be able to help.
- If you commit, commit. Add meetings to your schedule and don’t change them.
- Leadership comes down to being present.
- Don’t just be on a board, be active on a board.
- If you have a supportive family, tell them you appreciate them.
Deloitte: “I extend my congratulations to Joe Mella for the well-deserved recognition as an outstanding leader at Goldman Sachs. It is a pleasure working with Joe and his team at Goldman.”—Sam Lowenthal, Lead Client Service Partner at Deloitte.
“KPMG proudly joins Hispanic Executive in recognizing Joe as a talented, highly regarded professional. Joe is hard-working and enthusiastic and is an impactful mentor and board member to the organizations he supports. We value our relationship with Joe and look forward to continued partnership.”—Jitendra Sharma, Global Lead Partner at KPMG