Ruth Porat is a survivor, professionally and personally.

In only her second year as an associate at Morgan Stanley, she was given a surprise assignment to lead a board presentation for a client selling women's consumer goods. She was"petrified," she told authors of a 2009 book, "How Remarkable Women Lead." But a managing director told her there wasn't a choice. "He said, 'Sink or swim. You're in. Go.'"

She dove in, and it went swimmingly, as has the rest of her career.

Over the past 25 years, Porat has become a powerful adviser on Wall Street, with an IPO resume that includes eBay, Amazon.com and Blackstone Group.

She was previously vice chairman of investment banking and global head of the financial institutions group. In the past two years, she has advised on government bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG.

Porat's accomplishments are profound given her 1993 decision to leave Morgan Stanley for Smith Barney could have been a career-killer. She came back three years later in a lesser role, according to the book on women leaders. She also overcame cancer in 2001.

The English-born Porat has stern advice for women following in her shoes: Make sure to get credit for the success you bring the company.

If you are working for a boss who doesn't recognize you or give you new opportunities to stretch, "you will more likely than not end up in a dead-end role or underperforming your potential," she says.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.