Best day of my life. I broke into PE coming from Community College. Here is my story.

I wanted to tell my story on this forum - as WSO has been the sole reason which helped me learn about the industry and how to break in. I am from downstate New York, born and raised. I was a poor student in high school, so much so I didn't even take my SAT's. I was sent off to a residential junior college in Upstate New York, where I hated my life and desperately wanted something better. I got a 3.9 my first semester and then transferred to a 4 year school in the SUNY system.

Throughout my time there I was a fairly mediocre student, my GPA was pi (3.14 cum), largely due to pledging an unrecognized fraternity and massive grade deflation. SUNY is not highly regarded for its academic rigor or prestige, so my school tends to deflate student's grades massively. However, I came across this forum after wanting to break into S&T. I read hundreds of forum posts, and never became disheartened despite my lack of good grades, Ivy League background, and on-campus recruitment opportunities.

Needless to say, junior year came around and I knew I had to make some very difficult decisions as to what I needed to do. Students getting FO roles were generally uncommon, as the best OCR opportunity my school had for the top students (3.7-4.0 GPA) was a JPM Ops internship, I am not kidding. Anyway, an opportunity came around for an internship at Ameriprise Financial. It was sort-of-kind of PWM in my mind, so I took it. Anyway, the advisor I worked for was an absolute bitch, but she left me alone in my corner desk and I spent most of my internship on WSO and financial modeling sites, getting to know the business and how to break in.

I didn't get a return offer (nor would I have accepted it) and went to begin my job search as my senior year began. I interviewed at a few PWM firms - and it looked like I was going to go that route post-grad given my experience. However, a friend's father was an MD in S&T at a boutique and I successfully secured an interview. I got killed in that interview, and knew I wasn't getting called back, so I went home and applied for 200 jobs in IBD, S&T, and PE to vent my frustration.

One day, the CEO of a small PE firm reached out to me for a phone screen. I knew I didn't have the background for it, and I was honest and upfront with him about my lack of banking or formal modeling experience. Regardless, he pulled me in for an interview in person and less than 2 weeks later, I got the job.

So, you're probably asking how the fuck I got through that interview. The answer. I was a person, I was nice, I had genuine interests, I could talk to people. The CEO would put me in front of clients, I gave off an appearance of professionalism, and I minded my manners when I went to dinner with them. I found throughout this experience that sometimes the small things matter the most. You can model like a genius, but if you can't be a real person, it will be difficult. Above all else, I told the CEO of my nontraditional background for PE and how much of an asset I would be because of it. I was hungry, I was passionate about it, he could hear it in my voice. And it was my passion above all else that helped me get the job.

The purpose of this post is not to be braggadocios, but rather to to thank everyone on this forum who has offered insight and aid throughout my years of searching for a position on Wall Street. You have all been instrumental in making a dream become a reality. Thank you, WSO.

Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #20 for the past year

Comments (38)

 
4/30/16

Congratulations! Don't forget how far you've come and how different your life could have turned out. Stay hungry and keep pushing to improve everyday.

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9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

 
5/1/16

Well done - just posting to get my 1500th banana and see if my status will switch to something else than King Kong.

 
5/2/16

Wow, congratulations! You reaped what you sowed.

 
5/2/16

Props to you bro. I'm always amazed by the amount of passion and willpower people can display for anything at all.

Go out there and kick ass. Now that you're in the game, play it well. =)

 
5/2/16

Dude, I had a pi (3.14) GPA too. Congrats!

 
5/2/16

Congratulations. It's always nice to see a fellow former community college student making gains. Your initiative through an unorthodox background definitely earned you that position. Keep up the good work!

 
5/2/16

Law of large numbers FTW. If you apply enough something is bound to happen.

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9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

 
5/2/16

Congrats @SUNYWallStreet !

I think this story really highlights something that is lost on a lot of candidates...probably the most important thing (over and above the technical questions) is your ability to connect with the person across the table interviewing you. This is especially true for positions straight out of college...if they can see that you are hungry, smart and driven, they are more likely to give you a shot.

Great story. Thanks for sharing.

 
5/2/16

Congrats man, don't forget to give back and help others who may be in your situation.

 
5/2/16

Congratulations man! I transferred from community college to a non-target so I definitely relate to how difficult it could be.

"You adapt, evolve, compete, or die." -Paul Tudor Jones

 
5/2/16

Congratulations OP. Really inspiring story. Out of curiosity, how big is the firm that you're working for (rough AUM range and # of employees)?

 
5/2/16

Wait a second. Community College kids don't know the word braggadocios.

Other than that, truly inspirational. I hope to do a similar write up in the future.

 
5/2/16

Big congrats bro! Can relate :)

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

 
5/3/16

Being a genuinely humble person can mean more than knocking out technicals cold and having a 3.8 from Harvard. After all, we are humans, not robots...

Finance

 
5/3/16

Well done.

It's interesting that titans like Steven Cohen "are blown away by the lack of talent in the industry". http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-03/... need to get away from their comfort Ivy zones.

Winners bring a bigger bag than you do.
I have a degree in meritocracy.
Alpha male

 
5/4/16

Unbelievable story, congratulations! Like the "soft skills > technical skills" point.

 
5/4/16

Good for you man. Good luck in your new career.

Ace all your PE interview questions with the WSO Private Equity Prep Pack: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/guide/private-equit...

 
5/4/16

Well done, I would love to hear and read more about your journey such as after you joined, what life is like , the workload, culture, atmosphere etc.

Want to Lose the body fat, keep the muscles, I can help.

 
5/5/16

Congrats! Hard work pays off my Friend....

 
5/5/16

Awesome job! Congratulations!

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

 
5/6/16

thanks for sharing your story!

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

 
5/6/16

damn. You're a savage. I really liked your input in having a model to look at, but also being real( yourself ). Kobe status. Thanks man.

 
5/6/16

Congrats man. Truly inspiring...

 
5/6/16

Curious as to what SUNY school you graduated from ?

 
5/6/16

Congrats! That is an awesome story! It is a story like that, that gives me hope of transitioning from the military into IB.

 
5/11/16

Always makes me happy to hear stories like this. You'll probably be a great employee, and kudos to them for recognizing that.

Something Google found when they crunched their massive pile of HR data is that the best college hires are very much not ivy league grads with great grades. The best college hires tended to have good, but not amazing grades and came from state schools. When they dug deeper, they found that the key factor was having dealt with setbacks and resistance before which helped develop some degree of resilience--single parent homes, immigrants, working to get through school, etc.

Some day the majority of IB will learn this and adjust their hiring accordingly. If you stay in this world, do what you can to bring more people like yourself into the fold. The industry will be better for it.

 
5/12/16

Congrats, OP.

You wanted something and you fought for it. You never came across as a try-hard or over eager (hence why you nailed your interviews and so many people on WSO want to emulate your success).

My only advice for OP, keep doing what you're doing. Also, bench 315.

I hope every person reads this thread before they post another
3.4997 GPA
1520 SAT
Target (duh)

I'm a triple major sophomore, am I fucked?

 
3/23/17

That was very inspiring OP, best of luck to you moving forward.

 
7/18/17

I love reading these type of posts. They are always refreshing!

 
7/18/17

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