Break into Wall St to Break into Tech

My last week on Wall Street. And now I finally have time to reflect and write about my journey. I don't know why I choose to write it here instead of Twitter or my own blog, but I guess I will no longer be visiting this site once I got into tech as a software engineer. I will make this a milestone post for my own life.

Beginner's Luck

Just like most of you here, I entered college naive but ambitious (evidenced here). I didn't know the "why" behind picking this path, but the fantasy of me working in high-finance and dating insta models did release a good amount of dopamine to my brain to keep me going. 

Countless cold emails were sent for coffee chats, internship opportunities, referrals etc. During the second semester of my freshman year, I got an offer for a LMM PE fund for the summer (after got my offer rescinded from BAML due to SSN issues). It was an incredible experience in terms of actually building out LBO models for live deals, DD with CEOs, lawyers, customers etc.. 

Following that summer, I got into a large ($80B) credit fund doing a part-time internship. The brand-name worked very well for me to network with EBs (I was from a non-target school). Everything was so smooth that I almost got a guaranteed internship at an EB for junior summer. Then, Covid came.

Survival Mode

My parents informed me that they could no longer support my study in the US financially. And I was facing a $50k overdue tuition. The financial stress destroyed my mental health, which led to absurdly terrible performances for interviews that I worked hard for two years to secure. And the EB that I almost got a guaranteed ticket for canceled their 2021 summer class recruiting process for non-diversity candidates. 

That's it. In those two or three months of year 2020, everything went away.

Of course, during that time, recruiting was less a priority than the immense financial pressure I was facing. I could not go back to my home country because there's nothing left for me. My parents had sold the house and car to pay off debt they owed. The thought of suicide was haunting me on a daily basis.

Fate was a very interesting thing. A friend appeared just right before I almost gave up. He taught me how to run ecommerce stores. I was super lucky. The ecommerce business went very well -- I was making, at peak, $3k a day; and the stock market, well, was to the moon everyday so I started allocating free cash flows from the ecom biz to options trading.

It was a miracle that I paid off my tuition in less than half a year. But the cost was that I fucked up the most important recruiting cycle in high finance. The ecommerce business was lucrative but it was very labor intensive: I had to carry and manage an inventory, taking photos of the goods, posting, packaging and shipping, dealing with unreasonable customers off-line. I quit as soon as I paid off my tuition.

Then, I was like an aimless fruit fly for that year. I tried out a hedge fund internship, a VC internship, and settled with a small special sits fund to conclude year 2020.

Break Into Tech

At this point, I've seen and done most of the things for junior level professionals, at least on the PE side. I realized that what I enjoyed (modeling, writing investment memos) were just checking the box. The value creation and winning bids had little to do with things I enjoyed. 

I also became quite frustrated by how inefficient Wall Street was. Like creating deal folders, finding files, creating DD trackers, Q&A logs, extracting schedules from exhibits of some legal documents that were poorly scanned, etc.. And hell, managing goddamn data rooms! I started picking up some Python and VBA to automate lots of the tedious works. And I enjoyed it.

That was year 2021. Tech was booming. My high school friend, who's a Comp Sci major, told me that it's possible to transition into tech. I kind of just put that in the back of my head since I thought the chance for me was not that good because of my non-STEM major. But I kept learning and building things on the side, just for fun.

Fast forward to early this year, I joined the company I've been interning at full-time. It's kind of like a dream came true, working in private equity (although it's infrastructure investments) right out of college. I graduated December 2021, and joined the firm in Feb. However, during that one month interim, I got very interested in web3 -- everything from DeFi to writing Smart Contracts. 

The more I built the more I loved tech, and the more dislike to finance works. That dislike peaked when my app got accepted by Apple to app store. 

Start All Over Again

In late April, I started wondering why don't I get a tech internship for the summer? It was a daunting thought because the tech industry had been shitting this year. Layoffs and hiring freezes were rampant in tech. The macro environment was so dire that I actually thought about delaying my breaking-into-tech plan. 

But I realized that the time was against me. I was 23 already (since I re-did one year of high school when I came to the US), it's now or never. 

Yes, I had to start everything from scratch again, while balancing a full-time finance job. Applying to internships on LinkedIn and AngelList became a second-nature. And I started to cold DM founders/CTOs on Twitter. During that searching period, I saw a fool in the mirror on a daily basis. I wondered why on earth I'm doing this. Oh, I also applied to master schools so I can get that CS degree for visa/immigration reasons.

Once I got accepted into a master school for a Computer Science program, I learned that my current work visa will be voided soon. So, I had a very tight timeline to find an internship. Otherwise, I'll be spending this summer doing nothing while having to bleed my savings to support a life in NYC

Big tech firms had already concluded their internship programs last fall. And the few small firms left mostly require computer science degrees or prior tech internship experiences. For a whole month straight, I applied to at least 300 internships (lots of them were posted over three months ago).  Didn't get a single response. Not even rejection emails.

It was mid May when I got interviews from three firms. One rejected me after two weeks. One had no response after the HR round. One was a SF based startup that pays very well (2k/week) for interns and for this one, I got the onsite (kinda like superday in finance) invite after passing the technical round.

I thought I was all set until two days before onsite, I was informed that they had canceled onsite. It's probably because of that YC warning email since it's a YC startup that wants to practice financial disciplines.

Three days after, the other startup (crypto) responded, and I was invited to a technical round with the founder.

But after that round, I heard nothing for another week. I checked their LinkedIn job post, that internship position had 900 applicants. And that they only taking one intern. I thought I was probably a nobody comparing to those with CS degrees and impressive internship experiences.

I was already making other plans for my summer when last Monday, the HR told me that I got the offer. 

New Journey

The weather is amazing today, and Park Ave is teeming with summer interns pursuing their fledgling career. Maybe I've walked past a few of you on the street hahah. 

I have no idea what's in front of me. Perhaps this is the best decision of my life, or it could be the biggest regret for leaving wall street. I don't really have any word of wisdom to sign off this post but I think physical and mental health should not be overlooked.

So long, folks.

Comments (4)

Jun 8, 2022 - 4:05pm
mna101, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Good job man and congrats for beginning of your new journey! 

Array

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jun 11, 2022 - 11:00am

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