I randomly discovered WSO nearly seven years ago just weeks after I secured a FT MM IB position. The website was extremely nascent at the time with only a few thousand registered users. The majority of the users were college students with only a handful of people actually working in investment banking. Like many new users today, I became engrossed in learning as much as I could about banking and spent a tremendous time reading everything on the site.
Throughout my two banking years, I did my best to share my experiences with the community. As one of the most senior members on the site (as an analyst, no less), there were relatively few people who could answer my questions about PE or assist me in building my career. At the time, I felt as though I wasn't getting anything out of the site despite putting a lot of effort in.
Fast forward to my first PE job and I was finally in a position to really mentor people looking to break into banking and PE. I started getting a lot of inquiries from not only college kids, but bankers as well. Luckily PE isn't as taxing hours-wise and I had the time to email/talk/meet with folks and do my best to help them out. I still hadn't seen any tangible benefit from my now 1,000+ hours on WSO, but at least I was having fun.
After two years in PE, I moved on to another firm in a more senior position, complete with more responsibility and pre-MBA associates to do my bidding. It was at this point that all the benefits of my time spent on WSO flooded in.
It hit me a bit suddenly, but I started getting emails from folks that I had worked with over the prior years. They were updating me on their new jobs in IB/PE. My network just started to explode. People were joining MM banks (, C.W. Downer, , to name a few). Same holds true for the PE side. One of my earliest WSO connections ended up at a competitive PE fund and has already been promoted once. I just got an email this week from a guy joining to a multi-billion dollar PE fund, which partially inspired the post. I had inadvertently built a powerful network through WSO without even realizing it.
On The Job
At my most recent PE job, I sat on the board of a company that played in a very particular niche. As it turns out, my company's #1 competitor was taken private by another private equity firm. It just so happens that the associate on the deal was a connection that I had previously made through WSO. While I wasn't able to convince him to acquire my business, we shared some insights into the industry. Most importantly, I was able to demonstrate to the Partners at my PE firm that I had a broad network and could contribute to the value creation in ways typically reserved for industry veterans.
Building a Reputation
A few student groups reached out to me, primarily through WSO, and invited me to speak at their schools and share my experiences / insights into the industry. While not the most glamorous events, these have been a great way to start to build a reputation and gain experience at speaking engagements.
You put WSO on your b-school application?
I identified my involvement on WSO as an extracurricular activity that demonstrates my commitment to leadership / mentorship. It is hard to tell at the time but actively participating on sites such as WSO, despite being work-related, enhance one's knowledge base and skillset in many different ways. I'm convinced that it made a difference in my application either directly or indirectly.
I just got a text today from a friend in b-school that is as a summer associate at one of the elite NYC IB boutiques. One of the people I met at last year's WSO conference is an associate there and I set the two up. Hardly groundbreaking, but it never would have been possible without WSO. While I'm not currently looking for a job, I'm personally going out of pocket nearly $1,000 all-in to be at the WSO Conference. Hope to see you guys there.
Mod Note (Andy): #TBT Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted on 1/01/14. To see all of our top content from the past, click here.