Zane M. Massey was born in Kingston, New York to an African-American mother and a Jewish father. He lived there until the age of two with his grandmother while his mother was stationed in Mississippi with the U.S. Air Force. When she returned from active duty, young Zane moved to Harlem, New York.
At the age of nine, Zane exhibited an interest in earning his own money while working his first job as a fruit salesman on the back of a local food truck in Harlem. From that point on, he realized that in order to become a highly successful executive or business mogul, you had to have a passion for learning, an interest in entrepreneurship, and most importantly – an education. Outlets such as work provided Zane a welcomed distraction from his often chaotic home life, where he moved frequently as his mother battled unemployment and drug addiction in order to provide a stable environment.
Zane’s academic and athletic talents led him to Xavier High School in New York City. At Xavier, he excelled in academics as well as in athletics, playing on the varsity basketball team. After high school, Zane attended Clark Atlanta University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. While at CAU, he was initiated into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, a Greek organization exemplifying the ideals of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service while taking an inclusive perspective to serving the community through its various programs. After graduation, Zane returned to Harlem where he applied for and received a fellowship through Fordham University to teach English and mathematics to seventh and eighth graders.
In 2001, Zane received an offer of employment from global insurance company Marsh & McLennan. One of the toughest decisions he had to make was to leave the education profession but he realized that he could not pass up the chance to improve his financial situation while learning invaluable business skills. He accepted Marsh’s offer, working within their Investor Relations department. While at Marsh, Zane obtained a Master’s Degree in Finance from Fordham University’s Executive MBA Program. After parting ways with Marsh, he went on to hold several finance positions with healthcare companies, namely Becton Dickinson and Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.
Outside of Corporate America, Zane aspires to educate the youth about access to various professions while promoting the emotional development of the youth through his first book, entitled “Beyond the Statistics.” He hopes to continue in the footsteps of strong community leaders in their efforts to foster the intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being of inner city youth.
Q & A with Zane Massey
BS: What inspired you to pursue a career in Finance? Where did your interest in serving the community and its youths initiate?
Zane Massey: I actually think Finance picked me in a sense. While attending Clark Atlanta University, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I actually majored in Marketing, because tapping into the mind of the consumer really interested me. I wanted to learn the psychology of business and why people buy what they buy. Finance, however, is something that I view as necessary.
While it is important to understand how the customer thinks, it is just as crucial to be able to measure profitability or how valuable your company is. If you are doing business and not making any money, then it doesn’t make since. Finance is necessary in every business in any industry. It was all about being well-rounded for me.
My interest in serving the community came about, because I am a product of the community. I am from Harlem, NY and I was considered an “at risk” youth, when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. While the demographics of my community has changed over the last decade, young African-American and Latino men and women born in my community are still particularly underserved.
Yes, it is true that there are more economic resources and general information on jobs, health, and other programs available, but there is a genuine lack of more established people taking a vested interest in our youth. These young men and women are deemed the “lost generation”, but what some people fail to understand is that some of these young people have a lot to offer and can be “saved.”
Personally, if I can help any young person out, I will do it, because once upon a time, I was one bad decision away from jail, drugs, or death.
BS: How important is education to you? How much of a role did education have in your success?
Zane Massey: Education is of the utmost importance! Carter G. Woodson, one of the most important civil rights figures in black history, had a saying in his book “The Mis-Education of the Negro”, that stuck with me.. He said, “every man has two educators: ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself.”
Woodson said that the latter was more important. This education that man gives himself will teach him (or her) to live a more purposeful life. You can learn this through independent study, exploring the world, following a dream – this is all an education that will allow you to be the best person you can be. Also of importance, by today’s standards, is receiving a formal education through higher education. There are some brilliant people who are billionaires that never went to or completed college. However, these are very exceptional and blessed people. For most people, I believe that you can use a formal education as a platform to educate yourself in order to be successful on your own terms.
For me, formal education – receiving my undergraduate degree and MBA – is helping build my dream of achieving financial freedom. The salary I make as a bi-product of formal education has essentially provided me the seed money to write a book, start a publishing company, go into business with my family (ZionsEssentials.com – I had to plug it). So for me, I needed both types of education and they both are serving me well.
BS: What were 3 of the most important lessons that you have learned over the history of your career?
- 1. People respect your integrity more that your intellect.
- 2. At the end of the day, it is important to maintain your dignity, no matter what professional obstacles you have thrown your way. Always be respectful and always command respect.
- 3. It’s always better to be a good listener as opposed to a good talker. The more you listen, the more you understand what people are really thinking. This can help you understand people and their true motives. Tapping into this aspect of listening will also allow you to tap into ways that you can improve your performance.
BS: What motivates you in difficult times?
Zane Massey: Having a wife and family to help support is my biggest motivator. Knowing that they always “have my back” really inspires me to do my personal best for them. Also, I really want to help people – I really care. So at the end of the day, if I can help someone to be better – even if it’s just baby steps – then that motivates me. Being impactful is motivation!
BS: What are your thoughts on mentoring? Did it have any impact on your life?
Zane Massey: Mentoring is a vital component to our community and who I am as a person. My personal motto is “You never know who you are to someone else.” Some people think you have to be famous or affluent to mentor. That’s ridiculous! My 5th grade teacher was one of my greatest mentors. He made a difference in helping me to understand how valuable I am as a person. What if he was only concerned with receiving his paycheck and maintaining the status quo? I’m so thankful for this man, who was just a “regular guy” from Harlem. If it wasn’t for him putting in the time with me with schoolwork, sports, and just being there for me – I would not be here today!
BS: What did you enjoy most about your teaching opportunity through Fordham University, teaching 7th and 8th graders?
Zane Massey: I enjoyed being able to connect with some of my students. I think teaching is one of the most important professions in the world. The real teachers out there really don’t get enough credit. When I say real, I mean the ones who take a vested interest in our youth. These are the teachers that tell stories of overcoming their own obstacles, expanding lessons beyond the basic curriculum. These are the teachers that stay afterschool to work with their students even though they aren’t getting paid for it. Some of my former students are in their twenties and when I see them in the street, they remember me as “Mr. Massey”. It still bugs me out when I hear someone calling me that! Being a young teacher at the time helped me to gain respect with many of the 7th and 8th graders. They saw me as “one of them”. To be honest, I really am one of them. I’m cut from the same cloth as them.
BS: Describe your journey leading that lead to you writing your 1st book, “Beyond the Statistics”.
Zane Massey: I tell this story all of the time. I was at work, sitting at my desk several years ago and it was like a message from a higher power just hit me! Sitting there, I began to reflect on all the bullets that I had dodged as a young man. I can go back to my old neighborhood and most of the guys I used to play basketball and hang out with are no longer there. Sure, some of those guys are doing well and providing for themselves and their families, but the majority of them died as a result of the drug game or AIDS/HIV. The rest of them are in jail.
I began to think about why I “made it” and why they didn’t. First of all, I had had faith. I wasn’t in Church every Sunday, but I had a mother and grandmother who made sure I had a decent spiritual base. Next, I chose to hang out with people that were doing positive things, like playing sports and getting good grades. That was very important. So I thought that writing a book about some of these experiences, while incorporating some of my closest friends, was a great way to potentially inspire our youth through the written word.
BS: Was there ever a time when you felt defeated? How did you cope with that feeling?
Zane Massey: I wouldn’t say defeated. I honestly felt more “delayed” than defeated. From the time I was able to think and rationalize, I strongly believed that I had a purpose. There are times I feel that things aren’t happening fast enough or at the speed I would like them to, but in the end, I know it’s going to happen. Everything happens when it’s supposed to.
When I feel delayed, I just take a deep breath and smile. Then I say to myself, “It will happen when it’s supposed to.” In the meantime, I try my best to put positive thoughts and feelings out into the world. The power of thought and pure consciousness are very real. Whatever you put out, you will get back.
BS: Why do you have such a passion for Education and Finance?
Zane Massey: I have more passion for knowledge. As one of my good friends, Dr. Kwame Ohemeng reminded me, knowledge is the only thing in this world that is portable. Your house or apartment can get burned down. You can lose your wallet or have your car stolen. Whatever you commit to learning, no one can take that away from you.
BS: What is the secret to your success?
Zane Massey: Honestly, I just try to be the best “me” that I can be, that’s all. I don’t worry about what I can’t change. Help yourself, help others. It’s just that simple.