Global Business Executive Dasha Smith Dwin '98 to Welcome Class of 2019
Dasha Smith Dwin '98, an executive with global investment and advisory firm GCM Grosvenor, will welcome the Class of 2019 to the University of Virginia School of Law during orientation Monday.
Dwin is a managing director, a member of the Office of the Chairman, and chief human resources officer at the firm in New York City.
It seems like your job is a perfect marriage between your undergraduate degree in finance and your J.D. How did your career progress after law school? Was it a goal to be involved in the financial industry?
After two college summer internships on Wall Street, I knew that eventually I wanted to work in the financial services industry. However, my path back to the financial services industry was anything but linear. Following my time at UVA Law, I worked at large international law firms as a corporate associate in both New York City and London. Four years out of law school, I decided to take a role as in-house counsel for Time Inc., the then-magazine publishing division of Time Warner. Over a nearly 10 year career at Time Inc., I was able to leverage my legal skills in various legal and business affairs functions and eventually found my passion in the employment and human capital management field. Five years ago, I began my current role as managing director, Office of the Chairman at GCM Grosvenor, a leading alternative asset management firm. In my role, I assist with the day-to-day management of GCM, as well as overseeing the human capital management, corporate social responsibility, diversity and administration functions within the firm.
What's a typical day like for you?
"Typical day" is a myth. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy what I do so much. Each day I am presented with new challenges and opportunities. I travel quite a bit and I spend a majority of my time in meetings and collaborating with colleagues on various firm-wide initiatives. I am very blessed because I get to spend my days doing what I love most — looking after our most valuable assets, our employees.
What are your greatest challenges at work?
Work-life balance. As a wife and mother of two, it can be difficult at times juggling the various personal and professional priorities.
What would surprise people about the work you do?
Diversity in the financial services industry matters. Every day I work with exceptional women, people of color and members of the LGBT community. It would surprise most people to know that in financial services the convergence of diversity and broader challenges of society are on display. Simply put, diversity is a competitive differentiator. My work enables me to have a voice on this very important matter.
My position also involves giving back to the community. Our firm is very active in supporting and improving the communities where our employees and clients live and work. We provide local and national civic and charitable organizations with financial support, employee volunteers, board members and mentors — all with the goal of making a difference.
Diversity and inclusion and community engagement are the most personally satisfying aspects of my work.
Do you have any advice for UVA Law students seeking a similar career path?
Keep an open mind as you explore career options. Opportunities were presented to me because I always worked for and with great people who were invested in my career development and I was open to learning and taking on new challenges. Don’t be afraid to take risks and explore unconventional career opportunities.
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
Originally I wanted to become a lawyer because as a child I was a master negotiator and, as a result, my parents encouraged me to become a lawyer at a very young age. Later in life, I decided to become a lawyer because I recognized and appreciated that it was the U.S. legal system (led by lawyers) that provided me, an African-American and a woman, a path for access to opportunities. I wanted to be a part of a profession that could enable positive change and justice in a meaningful way.
If you could go back and counsel yourself as a 1L entering law school, what would you say?
Spend more time building relationships with my classmates. Networking and building strong relationships is one of the most important professional skills one can develop. The people you meet in law school will be lifelong friends and in many cases will be an important business network and valuable source of support and advice.
How did UVA Law help prepare you for your career?
UVA Law prepared me in so many ways for my career. Aside from receiving a first-class legal education, I became a better writer and critical thinker. These are valuable skills for any career. Most importantly however, the experience at the Law School — through the teachings of the very talented and thoughtful professors — emphasized the importance of compassion, empathy and integrity. I utilize these values each and every day, not only in my career but in my overall life.