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For me, the idea of stagnating and not learning is terrifying.”
In her quest for learning, Portfolio Manager Ankur Crawford responded to an online job board posting at Stanford University, where she was completing her doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials science. The post read: “We’re recruiting undergraduates and business school students for money management.” Never one to say no to a challenge, Ankur applied for the opportunity. By her own admission, she knew virtually nothing about investing. Later that evening, she met Alger CEO Dan Chung at a recruiting event. After they debated the pricing of NAND flash memory versus hard disk drives, Dan offered her a position on the spot, perhaps sensing her quick mind and insatiable curiosity. Ankur has picked up a lot since joining Alger in 2004. She spends her days on a quest for learning by posing a steady stream of questions to her portfolio companies’ management teams and her colleagues.
You grew up in Saudi Arabia and India. What kind of impact did these experiences have on you?
I grew up aware of the stark differences between cultures and religions and the different ways people see things. When I was five, my family sent me to boarding school in the Himalayas. In Saudi Arabia, women couldn’t drive and had to wear burkas. I carry some of that experience with me today. When I meet someone new, I always think, what could their perspective be on a problem or situation?
You grew up wanting to be a scientist?
When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut. Later I was interested in natural science, partly because my dad was an engineer. I loved learning about the inner workings of everything. This curiosity led me to materials science because I was fascinated with understanding how everything in our world is bonded together.
Yet even after getting a doctorate in science, you decided to change direction. Why?
I wasn’t happy. There was something missing. The quest for knowledge had become too narrow. I enjoyed the continuous learning but at a point I realized that I had plateaued, and I didn’t want to plateau. So I decided I would pivot my career and see what else was out there. For me, the idea of stagnating and not learning is terrifying.
What makes your job as a portfolio manager at Alger exciting?
It is a business where you never stop learning. The market is ever changing. No matter how long you are an active market participant, there is always something new to learn. In some ways that can be frustrating but in other ways, it can be humbling.
Does your science background help?
It definitely helps and I use it daily. I have been trained to look for patterns, whether they are patterns in data or patterns in solving problems. If you can recognize and synthesize information, you are not reinventing the wheel every time. That is part of my DNA and it was reinforced by my science and engineering education.
Do you get to teach as well as learn in your job?
I love to teach and to see a young mind blossom. When I was an undergraduate student, I taught underprivileged children and found it gratifying to see someone young absorb concepts. At Alger, I take great pride when our young associates really “get it” on their quests to becoming good investors. Their growth is amazing as they develop during our research training program. I interact with them and often enjoy teaching moments.
I understand you are involved in supporting women in the money management business. What barriers do they face?
Showing young women a path to success and being a role model to them are very important to me. I want to help them face their fears and I don’t want to lose them during their journey. I look forward to the day when my daughters are entering the workforce and their gender isn’t a consideration.
What do you do to unwind?
Given that I have three children, ages twelve, eight, and one and a half, the concept of unwinding is almost foreign to me. On Friday nights, my husband makes homemade pizza and we invite families over to spend the evening together. It’s a way to catch up with people face to face, and it is a nice way to start the weekend by interacting with a bunch of people I care about.
Your family and career obviously keep you extremely busy. Do you ever get any alone time?
I make time to meditate and run. Running is a form of meditation for me. My favorite time to run is early in the morning. I live in lower Manhattan and at 6 a.m., the parks and streets are virtually empty except for dads with babies and people who have been out all night long. It’s such a juxtaposition of two worlds; I always like being reminded of it.
Do you find any time for other outside activities?
I am on the board of an organization called The Knowledge House. It is a Bronx-based charity whose mission is to educate, empower, and mentor students from low-income communities to help them build the skills they need to have successful careers in the tech industry. We are at the start of a technological revolution, but workers need a completely different skill set in order to thrive. It’s about reskilling an entire population that had been left behind for years. This is a pivot point for these communities and they can contribute greatly to this new industrial revolution. I am fascinated by the idea of being able to do that for a whole group of people.
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