Witad Awards 2022: Traiblazer (lifetime achievement) award—Mona Eldam, Morgan Stanley

Mona Eldam, managing director and distinguished engineer in the Institutional Securities Technology (IST) division of Morgan Stanley, is the recipient of the trailblazer (lifetime achievement) award at this year’s Women in Technology and Data Awards. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Eldam moved to the US after her schooling and studied computer science at the UCLA School of Engineering. She joined Morgan Stanley in July 1999 and until recently was based in New York, before relocating to Bangalore, India, which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. “My team is spread across many countries, and one of the amazing things about Morgan Stanley is that no matter where you are in the world, it’s still one company,” she says. “It has the same feel and culture, irrespective of where you are. So when I moved to India, I did not think twice about it from a work perspective―it was more about how I was going to adapt to living here. We talk about diversity, but if you want to see true diversity, come to India. Plus, my move coincided with the start of the Covid pandemic.” 

Eldam has achieved a lot during her 20-plus years at Morgan Stanley. On the technical side, she is most proud of the team of data engineers she has created. “There was no such thing when I started at Morgan Stanley, and now I have a large global team sitting in tech centers around the world,” she says. 

On the diversity and inclusion front, Eldam played a pivotal role in the formation of Morgan Stanley’s Women in Technology (WIT) group, which has since evolved into a standalone brand within the bank. “I am proud of the role I played in fostering the next generation of technologists with key initiatives such as our involvement with the Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Celebration,” she says. “We started out with a small group of attendees, but soon evolved our engagement into an exciting opportunity for our women internally to get inspired by the experience and participate as presenters, in addition to leveraging the event to educate, inspire and attract the next generation of women technologists.” 

She recalls that when she helped found the group she had never personally felt “out of place” or that she didn’t have a voice or a seat at the table. She even describes herself as “a bit skeptical” at the outset. “But some of my friends and family members really struggled, and I heard a lot of stories from other women that made me feel really lucky, and that inspired me to do something about it,” she says. 

As for mentors, Eldam acknowledges that everyone needs help from time to time in order to progress in their professional life. “We never get to where we are without someone else’s help,” she says. “I did have mentors along the way―some were official and some I just met along the way. Often, I would speak to a mentor who would provide me with some advice that I liked and so I kept going. Those were the best mentors for me.”  

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