Q&A with: CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo

Maria Bartiromo is the anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo” as well as host of “Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo,” seen on over 200 cable systems.

In her new book, “The 10 Laws of Enduring Success,” (with Catherine Whitney, Crown Business) the Brooklyn descendent of Italian immigrants, shares the basics of not only achieving success but holding on to it during these uncertain times.

Having interviewed everyone from Bill Gates to Jack Welch, Bartiromo found that these captains of industry share similar traits that keep them atop of their respective fields. She also steps outside the board room to learn lessons from the likes of Deepak Chopra and Condoleezza Rice.

Q. Would you say your work ethic was a torch passed along to you by your parents?

A. No doubt about it. I had visions of my parents working incredibly hard, and that really set the tone for me.

Q. They ran a family business.

A. My dad had a restaurant called the Rex Manor (in Brooklyn), and he inherited it from his father, Carmine Bartiromo, who came to America in 1919 when he got on a ship called the Rex. He boarded the ship in Naples, and you can imagine the courage that all of our ancestors had and how they felt to leave family and friends and an area they knew so well and get on a boat with the promise of prosperity and success.

The Rex Manor happens to be where I had my first job. I’m very proud of that and very proud of my heritage, knowing that I had this first job and a beginning of a career of hard work in a restaurant because my grandfather came to this country. Hard work and initiative are critical to succeeding in anyone’s career.

Q. Lou Dobbs, who you worked with at CNN behind the cameras, thought that your taking a job on-camera at upstart CNBC was career suicide. Has he ever acknowledged how well that move turned out for you?

A. Actually, he hasn’t. I was Lou’s producer at CNN, and he had promoted me to a job that I felt I already had. It was more money and a better title, but at that point in my career I was young at 26. I realized I had found what I was good at. I had that self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge is the number one law of enduring success. By the time I got the promotion at CNN Business News, I knew that I wanted to be out in the field meeting people, but he promoted me to senior producer in-studio. I was very upset and begged him not to give me this role.

I said, “Look, I’m the hardest-working person in this place, please don’t move me.” He said, “Maria, you’ll never get anywhere in this business if you’re behind the scenes, you’ve got to go and be the producer and do this job,” so I basically took it reluctantly and used it as a steppingstone to put together a tape to send to other networks.

When I went to his office to say, “I have an offer from CNBC, and they want to put me on camera ,” he said to me – and I’ll never forget it to this day – “Maria, you’re making the worst decision you could ever make in your career.” I said, “You know what? I have to take a risk.”

Q. Another one of your laws of enduring success is to have an inquiring mind. Bill Gates struck you as a big example of this.

A. First of all, Bill Gates is on an unbelievable level above any other CEO I’ve ever spoken with, because he truly cares about what he’s doing. And he has his heart in everything. Bill Gates wasn’t always the Bill Gates that we know. He was a young boy going to school sneaking out of his house at night so he could go back to his classroom because he had discovered this computer that he was fascinated by. And when he went to Harvard, he was still talking about this computer and creating a company based on what he learned from this computer.

He came back from Harvard one day and said to his parents, “Mom and Dad I’m dropping out of Harvard.” And they were horrified. But he too had the self-knowledge, this knowledge about what turned him on.

So he went and started this little start-up called Microsoft, and I think his story is so emblematic of really the beginnings for all of us. We must understand what we’re good at and where the fire is in our belly.

Q. Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at NYU, was referring to the collapse of the financial markets when he said, “There was greed and arrogance on Wall Street.” It seems that attitude hasn’t changed much as the economy begins to recover.

A. Not a lot has changed yet, but it is changing. First of all, there’s a different perception about Wall Street. It used to be that Wall Street was the place that everyone wanted to work at because of the allure of compensation. And over the last 10, 20 years, financial services have become so big – it was 15 percent of the S&P 500, and it was also sucking up all the talented people coming from good schools, smart people who the economy truly needed in terms of creating other areas, the underpinnings of our economy.

So instead of going to places like health care, biotech and manufacturing, intelligent, informed students coming out of school went to Wall Street. They didn’t go to the Procter & Gambles of the world or the Mercks or Pfizers, because they followed money.

That’s changing. Now financial services is a smaller portion of the economy. We’ve seen some change, but the change is yet to come. And I think as things change in this economy, we need to be ready as individuals to thrive in this changing economy, which is why we really need to be adapting to this changing economy and to be able to recognize where the growth in jobs are, where the innovation is and we need to insure that our skill sets are up to par.

Q. In 1994, as a woman and first person to do televised reports from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, you weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by some, were you?

A. Not at all. There were a lot of people who didn’t want me there because it was a boy’s club. Now today, I have a lot of friends, and there’s a lot of camaraderie, but there were incidents that I remember on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange where they just said, “Run along little girl. We don’t want you here. We don’t need your little camera here and it’s not going to go on your little TV show.”

It was humiliating for a little while. But I kept coming back and I made sure I knew my stuff. I studied hard so that I knew that they couldn’t push me around and they could not dictate my fate. I was controlling my own fate.

Q. Warren Buffet once said he wants his epitaph to read, “My God, he was old.” Along those lines, will you work till you’re 104 years old like your Uncle Charles did?

A. I’m probably going to work as long as I can as well because I love what I do. I think one of the most important things is to love what you do. Have that fire in the belly.

I talk about this guy, Paul Bond, of the Paul Bond Boot Company in Nogales, Ariz., right on the border of Mexico. He’s 93 years old, he goes to work every day and what does he attribute his longevity to? The fact that he is engaged. We all need to be engaged. We’re living longer. We need to ensure that we’re engaged and loving what we’re doing, and it doesn’t mean working on an assembly line killing yourself until you drop dead. It means dying incredibly young at an old age.

But you need to take care of yourself to ensure that you have physical strength and the ability and desire to leave the house every day and do something and be engaged. That’s really important.