Mod Note (Andy): #TBT Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted on 3/9/13.
Hi there, fellow monkeys. Hope all is well.
I've been lurking here for a few years and didn't really get to posting until just recently. After some PMs regarding my story/background via mythread, I figured I'd share my story and try to give back to WSO as much as it has given to/helped me. I fear it won't happen, but this can be considered a start. Let's get to it.
The backdrop is early 90s NYC. I grew up in an extremely conservative immigrant family from a strict military background. As much as I want to forget it, the circumstances were dismal for us; living in a one-bedroom apartment with 12 other family members and going to sleep, starving, on the cold, dingy floors of this apartment were memories that accurately reflect my childhood. This was life. This was a painful, albeit necessary step towards the American Dream.
I have no qualms in admitting that my family was comprised of no-hustlers. In their eyes, success was, more or less, measured by the number of zeroes in your bank account. Coming to America from a war-ravaged third world country with no money in their pockets, in a way, justifies and further strengthens this mentality. However, they never failed to emphasize the importance of education to me, to the point where, if I didn't appreciate this fact or count the blessings in my life, I received some pretty severe beatings (many of which I admittedly deserved). I pushed all the way through school, did well, and I guess you could say I went to a rather "preftigious" high school.
High school and the first few years of college tested me. I like to think that I've always been a cynical realist masquerading as an optimist. Coupled with my incessant tendency to see the crap in the world, my light dabbling in drugs steadily increased. The imminent downward spiral was written on the wall, but I really didn't care. Unfortunately, I possessed this mentality that I wasn't deserving of happiness and as a result, I started getting seriously depressed, so much that I was depending (read: addiction) on drugs to pass the time, to get through the days, to essentially have a reason for living. I feigned laughter as a defense so I wouldn't break down and go through with suicide. Beyond the psychiatrist sessions, this is the only time I've expressed my thoughts on paper or in the case of WSO, on a public platform.
Children saved my life. How? On a whim, I visited my old elementary school and had a heart-to-heart with my mentor of over 16 years. She welcomed me with open arms and told me it was absolutely fine that I was the way I was. I began volunteering to help out and in the process, I had the pleasure of meeting and tutoring some of the most down-to-earth, funny kids. I exchanged stories with one particular fourth grader, who went into details about his broken family life. The straight confidence and gall of this kid when divulging the most personal moments of his life took me by complete surprise. He owned his story and accepted it as a part of him, almost as if it was something to be proud of. Only then did I understand it all: I never really accepted the past and considered it shameful and embarrassing; rather than considering it a weakness, I began reversing the negative and spinning it as a positive, rising above my situation with humility. This was my story, my journey. It will always be me. Furthermore, since then, volunteering has been one of my major side hobbies and it's something that I pursue actively.
I came out of that experience a new person with a refreshed mentality. Time was urgent. It was now or never, do or die. I nutted up and went after what I wanted. Amidst all of the finance classes I was taking, I pushed myself to pursue another side passion: clothing/fashion. I began interning at a clothing company, doing both design and finance work for them. At heart, I've always possessed a creative leaning and that entire experience was fascinating. The ridiculous amount of diligence, attention to detail, and the whole buyer-seller process was extremely interesting to me. I knew I wanted to combine this Consumer/Retail passion with finance and find a medium between the two. To this day, I still do. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was simultaneously interning at a few places, notably wealth management (kind of a rite of passage) and hedge funds, culminating in an S&T SA this past summer.
As you can tell, 2012 was a rather hectic year for me (5in a 1.5 year span), but by far, the most enjoyable one in quite a while. I chuckle whenever I reflect on it; as many of some great WSO industry people know, hard work and a proactive mindset beget success. Everything was just continuously building on top of each other and working, my family life was improving, my career was finally growing, and WSO was a massive help throughout all of this. When you build momentum and reap the fruits of your labor, it feels personally fulfilling. Keep this momentum going. For now, I'm back in the hedge fund/ world and I'm loving it. I have no offers in hand, but I'm still pushing. My ideal position would be something along the lines of Corporate Strategy/Development for a Consumer/Retail company (maybe F500?). The goal for now is breaking into IB (preferably MM).
Looking back at everything, I admit I've had some missteps and made a ton of mistakes along the way. However, I'm incredibly proud to say I've been humbled by the people I've met, the experiences I've been through, and the struggle I've endured. I'm beyond grateful for the little successes I've had in this difficult journey called life.
I'm nowhere near successful at all, but if there's anything I've learned the hard way from meeting industry people and life in general, it'd be these:
1.) Be nice to people. Ask for help and help them if you can. In this industry, I think it's important to show people that you're not just a "pump and dump" kind of individual. I remember seeing a topic on here in which someone asked "How can I use this person/connection?" I don't think I was pissed as much as I felt bad for the guy. Eliminate "networking" from your vocabulary; instead, maybe call it, oh I don't know, "meeting/befriending new people."
2.) Stay humble and grounded. Say thank you. Be tactful/smart and have some etiquette, especially in social situations in a corporate setting. Appreciate your circumstances and make the best out of the cards you've been dealt. Dress conservatively until you get to be a BSD (at which point, I can definitely be your stylist consultant, given my experience, haha).
3.) Put your head down and work hard. As a junior analyst, I know how it feels to be just a cog in the wheel, in the grand scheme of things. You will be surprised at how far you can go when you push yourself to the limit and keep striving for what you want. And most of all, don't be afraid to ask questions (within reason, of course),a notebook/notepad and pen with you at all times, and don't half-ass anything. At the most junior levels, your work represents you. Let it speak for you. When things really get rolling, responsibilities increase, and trust is built, your hard-earned reputation will be one of your strongest assets.
4.) Find mentors in the industry and outside of the industry. I am truly thankful to have a few mentors who have went to bat for me in the industry and who gave me a chance when nobody else did. One particular mentor jokingly calls me his "young grasshopper," taking into consideration the parallels and similarities in our backgrounds. These relationships have been incredibly conducive to keeping me sane and on track with both my career and my personal life. My "secret to (minimal) success" has been a combination of right place, right time, and right person to pull me through.
5.) Fuck preftige. Get money. Take care of the people who care about you. Don't compare yourself to others (I'm at major fault with this one). Enjoy your life while you build the career/path you want. Travel overseas and experience different cultures. Nobody lies on their death bed and thinks, "Damn, I wish I aligned that flowchart better in that CIM/[insert common banker language here]."
I'd like to conclude this by thanking AndyLouis, Patrick, BlackHat (the first person I talked to here on WSO, not so surprising if you think about it), rufiolove, duffmt6, SirTradesALot, ANT, karypto, as well as other WSO members who've helped with advice/tips. Insight/opinions/criticism are much appreciated. Thanks for reading this wall of text, fellow monkeys. It feels truly cathartic to finally get it all out.