Can we hear some underdog/grinders (stories) who made it to the top?

I am tired of hearing the "My daddy is rich, so I went to Harvard" BS along with the need to go to Ivys to just get an analyst job or anywhere else. I want to hear stories of people who grinned their way to the top.

Comments (127)

Apr 22, 2020 - 10:50pm


I want to hear stories of people who grinned their way to the top.

haha Chris Rock definitely

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Apr 22, 2020 - 11:47pm

phat chance

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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  • Prospect in RE - Comm
Apr 23, 2020 - 12:08am

I'll do one for someone close to me

He grew up in a divorced household in a flyover state. Mom worked 3 jobs and dad was an alcoholic out west. When he started high school he moved in his Dad, and despite their poor relationship, awful finances and constant debt, ended up being valedictorian, and a top athlete in the county. I won't say the sport, but he was able to land athletic offers from 3 ivies. Sadly, he couldn't afford them and so he settled for a state school after getting into his 2 childhood schools. Skip forward 2 years and he is near flunking out of college-he's relying on a part time job at a dry cleaner to keep him fed, and he pretty much has a 3.0- no where near IB caliber. Luckily, he turned it around and by some miracle got a job and a small investment bank in NY-no connections, just cold calling 100s of people a day. Anyway, in NYC he started to thrive, made VP in like 5 years while doing an executive MBA on the side. And just like that it all went south again. Got fired for a deal gone wrong and went into therapy for months, he only got 1 offer from any reputable bank due to a friend from his MBA. He quickly ascended the ranks at this BB again making MD and decided to leave for a small PE/HF/VC firm in 2007. In the next 4 years, his hair turned gray and he made partner, then headlines, and then CIO. His fund is now huge-large enough that many of you would know the name, and he can do whatever the hell he wants. He bought his mom 2 multimillion dollar homes, and has several himself in some well known areas.

He is my absolute hero and the reason I can do whatever I want whenever I want.

  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Apr 25, 2020 - 2:43am

Why would he get fired for a deal gone wrong? Hard to imagine - it would have taken a big fk up to fire someone over one single deal after being at the firm for years

Apr 25, 2020 - 2:20pm

He tried to weasel his way out of it being his fault. The client complained and he got canned. He always tells me if he just would have been honest and accepted responsibility he wouldn't have got fired

May 3, 2020 - 12:41am

It's Bill Ackman.

"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
  • Intern in IB - Ind
Apr 23, 2020 - 1:07am

I had issues with my parents throughout childhood, developed severe depression in hs, and tried to kill myself. Parents sent me away to one of those therapeutic "wilderness" programs where you are out 60+ minutes drive from the nearest town. They take away everything from you including your watch and your only contact with the outside world is writing a letter once a week to your parents. Was in a group of kids with bad drug issues and severe depression and some adult staff that ran the show. They make you break down camp, hike, and set up camp close to every other day. You "shower" with a bucket of water and bandana and shit in a bucket and sleep under a tarp. You get the picture. Early on, you think that if you shape up quickly you will get to leave after a couple weeks and go home once the staff realize that you don't belong there. A few weeks in, you realize that the wilderness program is just a program to assess where you should go next. I was there ~8 weeks and then got shipped off to an all-boys treatment center where I stayed for 12 months. Couldn't leave the building on my own for the entirety of that 12 months and there were a lot of other restrictions, I even got restrained by staff a couple times. I felt pretty helpless but tried my best. I didn't really know what I wanted for myself but I applied to some shitty colleges and ended up majoring in finance on a whim at one of them. Didn't do jack shit my first year but kept a high GPA. Sophomore year I worked hard and got a solid fp&a internship. I didn't know what an investment bank really did before my sophomore year when I met an alum in capital markets. Found IB to be interesting and worked hard to get a BB offer for my junior summer after a lot of cold networking. Got a FT offer and I'm headed there in a couple months (I'm the only student from my school going into IB FT this year). Also in a much healthier mental space. I don't feel like I'm at the top at all but I feel like I turned my life around for the better.

Apr 24, 2020 - 2:32pm

That sucks about the wilderness program mine was amazing

Gun rights activist
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  • Prospect in Other
Apr 23, 2020 - 1:16am

Well I haven't already "made it" per say, but I have advanced myself from a pretty shitty upbringing.
Long story short, I grew up with a single mother in inner-city DC, and was active in dealing to make money. When my inner-city school system gave us access to a larger online database of books, I eventually started reading books like The Intelligent Investor, Barbarians at the Gate, The Quants, etc. and became interested in finance accidentally (the original goal was to expand my distribution business). By 10th grade, I started reading WSO frequently (cringe, ik) and realized I needed to get into a target school to have a good chance at breaking into finance, nevertheless break myself and my mother out of where we are atm. So I started grinding at school, somehow clutched a 35 on the ACT, wound up getting an internship at a defense contractor just by cold-emailing dozens of HRs, and cofounded a unique extracurricular activity program with a kid from one of the DC prepschools that I actually met through dealing. Somehow, that led us to being asked by a couple politicians to speak at meetings, and so I got somewhat of a credibility boost for the org. And in december, blowing my mind away, I got into Princeton REA. Funny thing is that my mom didn't even know what Princeton was.

Apr 23, 2020 - 9:56am

Prospect in Other:

Well I haven't already "made it" per say, but I have advanced myself from a pretty shitty upbringing.
Long story short, I grew up with a single mother in inner-city DC, and was active in dealing to make money. When my inner-city school system gave us access to a larger online database of books, I eventually started reading books like The Intelligent Investor, Barbarians at the Gate, The Quants, etc. and became interested in finance accidentally (the original goal was to expand my distribution business). By 10th grade, I started reading WSO frequently (cringe, ik) and realized I needed to get into a target school to have a good chance at breaking into finance, nevertheless break myself and my mother out of where we are atm. So I started grinding at school, somehow clutched a 35 on the ACT, wound up getting an internship at a defense contractor just by cold-emailing dozens of HRs, and cofounded a unique extracurricular activity program with a kid from one of the DC prepschools that I actually met through dealing. Somehow, that led us to being asked by a couple politicians to speak at meetings, and so I got somewhat of a credibility boost for the org. And in december, blowing my mind away, I got into Princeton REA. Funny thing is that my mom didn't even know what Princeton was.

Awesome man, glad to hear it. Good luck.

Apr 23, 2020 - 11:02am

Awesome turnaround story. Keep it up.

One piece of advice: Edit some of the details in that post for your own sake. Lotta db's out there and it is a favorite hobby amongst people on this site to guess who you are. I would hate to see some of those details bite you in the ass in the future (i.e. use just "inner-city" just "prep school" and "Top-10 or 5 UG")

It may kill some of the weight associated to the story, but there are way too many stories now a days of old tweets, public comments, and the internet f'n people over.

Apr 25, 2020 - 2:06pm

At least you will be one of those who actually take advantage of Princeton. I went to a no name undergrad uni and had to get top grades to get into a target school for my master to have a shot at finance, my sister went to a top UK target uni and I was flabbergasted to see how many people at these universities are there because their parents are rich and pushed them to apply but make 0 effort whatsoever academically or to land a job.

Apr 24, 2020 - 1:31pm


ask me in two years too. just got into a t25 rank MBA at 35,pre coronavirus acceptance.

So graduating from a MBA program is "making it to the top" eh?

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Apr 23, 2020 - 10:20am

Just about everyone I know who has had real success is a grinder. IB, PB/PWM, Corp Banking, Corp Fin, RE, Small Business (the biggest grinders by far - one thing to put your head down and work when you basically know the track and outcome. Completely different when you have all the risk and are in uncharted waters)

My friends include HF PMs (actually founders), IB MDs, Corp CFOs, MBB/B4 Partners, Entrepreneurs, Franchise owners (McD's, State Farm, etc)

To a person, they worked their tales off. No get rich quick schemes. For you younger folks, just get ready to grind, focus on the present (the work in front of you), do a great job, and be that guy/gal that others can depend on. 15 yrs goes by faster than you think. That's really what it takes.

No short cuts!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Apr 23, 2020 - 5:02pm

Keeping this high level for the sake of anonymity. College dropout at age 18, homeless drug addict for five years, got my life together, community college for a year, non target for two (finished three years of classes in two), banking / buyside internships while at cc and the non target, then landed at a upper MM firm doing IB in a tier 1 city. Interviewing for buyside gigs now.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2020 - 6:39pm

I am so fucking fired up after hearing that I wish I was working with you

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 10, 2020 - 5:05pm

Wow, thanks for all the SB's guys, didn't think this would get a ton of traction. If anyone is struggling with similar issues I am happy to share my experience getting my life back on track.

Apr 24, 2020 - 2:34pm

Our stories are similar but you're further along, congrats!

Gun rights activist
Apr 23, 2020 - 5:27pm

I wouldn't call it the top but...

  • Grew up with a single mom in a rural area, was on food stamps, sold drugs in high school

  • went to nontarget school, got ok grades but not good enough for IB, due to both depression and grade deflation

  • got 0 IB interviews, but managed to get into asset management

  • now, got into M7 MBA program

I didn't have the hardest imaginable childhood, but I don't know anyone in a similar place in life today who grew up in a similar environment. M7 MBA is not the end-all be-all either, and many would say an MBA is a waste compared to just getting into a solid career path without it. That said, I feel incredibly lucky for the opportunities I've been afforded, and I feel I am strongly positioned to do well going forward.

  • Research Analyst in HF - EquityHedge
Apr 23, 2020 - 9:09pm

1st gen. American/college graduate. Grew up broke, parents divorced at 6. (Very) non-target public school, non-finance major. Family almost lost their house during the recession. Graduated without a job, worked a $14.00/hour job for a year to make ends meet - couldn't even afford insurance. Finagled a back-office role and worked my way into M&A. Moved into PE, finished a T10 MBA along the way. Now working for a HF. Not at the top yet - but on my way.

Apr 23, 2020 - 9:23pm

Was crippled by multiple severe back problems when I was 17 or so. Got super lucky and had the problem largely resolve itself. Being free of health problems is truly amazing and something I'm grateful for every day. Chronic pain especially is awful, it really sucks the energy out of you and makes life 100x harder

Boostrapped/sold a few companies

Now run a small PE firm (more like independent sponsor).

Making anywhere from ~$1M to $3M a year depending on how you look @ my equity positions.

Advice...find something you love doing and great people to do it with. If you aren't passionate about what you do, you'll never make real money at it and life is too short to do things you don't like. It sounds generic, but I've been working 80 - 100 hours a week doing really sweaty work, but it doesn't really feel like work! :)

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  • CEO in Non-profit
Apr 24, 2020 - 2:34am

Poor as shit growing up - five siblings, food stamps, free lunch at public school, no money for new shoes, drank fucking powdered milk to save money.

Got 1570 on the SAT with books borrowed from the public library, got a full-ride to a semitarget, worked ass off and got 4.0 with a triple major and networked hard and had some great luck along the way. Landed a good role at a BB and I'm doing well financially now.

Nothing in life is a given, and it's really a dog eat dog world out there. You can't control much, but you can control your attitude and your work ethic and be laser focused on what's important to you. Nothings fair, that's just how life is. I'm just glad I'm not eating fucking food pantry beans while listening to my mom crying anymore.

  • CEO in Non-profit
Apr 24, 2020 - 2:42am

America is a deeply unequal society and our "free markets" are a joke. This country is built off of worker exploitation and corporate cronyism, where the rich and their children get richer at other people's expense. While on paper I'm living the American dream, I just wish that people would have a nuanced view of how bad this country really is for its poor people and what a disgrace it is. We are far from a meritocracy, and the top of our society hoards opportunities while the bottom gets nothing.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Apr 27, 2020 - 7:11am

I know a Lower middle-class kid from Pakistan (non US citizen) who attended Williams College on a full / hefty scholarship a few years ago. He broke into IB after school and then joined a top tier PE fund. He now owns a kick ass apartment in NY. His family home and his parental income in Pakistan doesn't come close to the life he's living or has built in states. If the kid had returned to Pakistan, he would never have been able to climb the social ladder. The US is the only place where folks can make their dreams happen. You need to have some hunger to succeed - MOST Americans are mediocre and they're ok with that

Apr 27, 2020 - 1:14pm

everyone hoards though. The poor hoard from poorer, it's systemic at every level and everybody likes to think they're at the bottom. Truth is, even the poorest people in America have it better (social mobility, benefits, etc) than a lot of the world, whether they know it or not.

May 3, 2020 - 12:54am

CEO in Non-profit:

America is a deeply unequal society and our "free markets" are a joke. This country is built off of worker exploitation and corporate cronyism, where the rich and their children get richer at other people's expense. While on paper I'm living the American dream, I just wish that people would have a nuanced view of how bad this country really is for its poor people and what a disgrace it is. We are far from a meritocracy, and the top of our society hoards opportunities while the bottom gets nothing.

Move to China.

"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
Apr 24, 2020 - 1:29pm

Damn this is why I love WSO, respect to you guys . Don't really have much to add to this discussion though, average middle class background.

Apr 24, 2020 - 1:33pm

attended NYU and paid full because my parents could afford to. got a shitty job at JPM in corporate banking in NY. got laid off. raised funds from an african prince. blew that on coke and heroine and other fraud. attended columbia for my mba. graduated unemployed. and got a job with MBB in Australia.

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May 3, 2020 - 12:56am


Read up on Sidney James Weinberg. He rose from janitors assistant making $3/week to CEO at Goldman. True rags-to-riches story

Tell us something we don't know.

"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
Apr 24, 2020 - 3:47pm

Weinberg is an amazing story. I was thinking of another Goldman guy - grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio as the son of an electrician. He struggled with dyslexia and learning how to read, attending four schools (expelled) by the time he was in sixth grade.

He slowly improved his reading - graduated high school, then finished college in three years and began selling aluminum for U.S. Steel. On a business trip to NY, he took an afternoon off on a business trip to wander wall street and took a cab ride with an executive whom he convinced he knew all about options (He knew nothing but read books all weekend and started the next Monday). Began trading options on the NYME.

Was recruited by Goldman in 1990, named partner in 1994, eventually rising to Co-President and COO. Then left to lead the National Economics Council. Gary Cohn.

Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.
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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Apr 24, 2020 - 4:05pm

Not as impressive as many of these, but I think I made it through some stuff.

  • Born in Eastern Europe; parents moved to U.S. when I was 2, but they left me with mom's parents with the intention of bringing me over once they got on their feet in the U.S. Never saw my father again

  • Parents decide to get a divorce when I'm 3. My mom gets full custody, but due to weird native country paternity rules, I cannot leave the country without approval of both parents, even if only one has full custody

  • Custody battle restarts in native country due to point above and lasts for another 4.5 years, during which I continue living with grandparents and see my mom a total of 30 days over those 4.5 year. Get bullied daily at school and was regularly called an orphan. Left a huge mental and emotional toll on me, and it will be the reason I never abandon a child of mine. Ultimately, I forgave my mom as she could not have foreseen this situation spiraling out of control the way it did.

  • Finally move to the U.S. at age of 8 and don't know a word of English

  • Grinded enough to eventually attend a target university on a near full ride (would not have been able to go otherwise). Graduated with near 4.0 GPA

  • Now a 2nd year analyst at mid-tier BB in one of the better groups at the bank, will be moving to larger MM PE shop this summer

Apr 27, 2020 - 2:36pm

Have some similarities to your story. Mine is one of many failures, followed by rebounds. My family came here from eastern Europe when I was 5. We had absolutely nothing, didn't speak a lick of English and were dirt poor living in one room someone kindly provided to us while we got acclimated. After a year we scraped together enough for our own shitty 1BR then began grinding. At age 9 I was deported (w/o my parents) and lived with my grandparents in my home country for three years - I also only saw my parents for maybe 2 weeks during this ordeal. Psychologically, it was very trying for a kid - in the US I was tormented for being a foreigner, then in my home country I was tormented for being a foreigner - I never really felt like I belonged anywhere and this went on until college. All of this ended up being a blessing in disguise because the mental fortitude it instilled in my guides me through this day. At age 12 my mother by sheer luck was able to get me back to the US (some BSD at homeland security heard my story in passing and arranged for my return within the same week). Once I got back I had a laser like focus and found the top magnet school in my state and did everything I could to make sure I was accepted. My family was still poor and I was tired of being broke so I started selling and using in high school, which waned my focus. All targets quickly fell out of my reach, but I still managed nearly a full scholarship at top 20 business undergrad. After two years of grinding in the honors prgram I made it into my dream target school. Once again, after arriving and riding my high of success, I partied too hard and immefiately failed my first semester. Depression followed and I missed all IBD recruiting. No internships and now in full panic mode my senior year, I couldn't apply to any OCR positions due to my shitty GPA. I attended every event on campus and forced my way into interviews through networking. Snagged a BO IT consulting role which led me to a broker dealer client where I stumbled into real estate. I immediately knew RE was what I've been looking for. They formed a new CMBS team and I volunteered my time. They then created a role for me because I asked for it and crushed my trial period. Then my coworker stole this role right out from my grasp due to their political leverage at the firm. Angry as a MF I was determined to shift my career into RE and landed a way better FO role at a top brokerage months later. All pure networking hustle. I then jumped to REPE acquisitions and now I'm in the FO for one of the top developers in the US. The point of my latest run on verbal diarrhea - even if you start at the bottom, you can make it to the top as long as the determination is there. I still have a ways to go. Haters will tell you otherwise to justify their own failures, but never listen to the noise.

Apr 24, 2020 - 5:22pm

Not as bad as some of the stories in here but here goes: Went to a prestigious midwest school, spent 7 years out of school in corporate finance at a large automaker. Fell into a huge rut, wasn't being moved up by 29 years old and job was pretty much dead-end. I bought a house (good), got fat (bad), got complacent (bad). Started to take B-school seriously and took the GMAT twice, scored very well, worked on applications and essays. Applied to M7, was rejected everywhere except two interviews. Turned one into an acceptance and moved to the east coast after living in the midwest my whole life. Worked my absolute ASS off for the first 6 months in school literally doing everything, being involved, making friends, in-semester internship, recruiting. Decided to recruit for IM, landed a job as a SA at a top EB. I know this isn't the most"motivational" thing in the world, but I managed to speak into existence a complete change in the trajectory of my entire life in a mere 12 months.

What I would say is never give up. I almost did and am so thankful I didn't. At least once a week I close my eyes and thank God that I got accepted into school and was able to make this happen for myself. Keep grinding.


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Apr 25, 2020 - 4:50pm

I am definitely not at the "top" yet and have a lot more ahead of me but this is my story: didn't have much growing up but parents raised me with a strong work ethic, dad worked in a factory and mom stayed at home. I am from a "flyover state" and went to an extreme non target college that no one had heard of. I knew I wanted to do IB but had no connections, nowhere to start, and work experience that included fast food and manual labor. I worked hard and landed an accounting internship my freshman year at a decent size company in the area. I would go to school full time in the morning, work the internship in the afternoon, and deliver pizzas at night to pay for living expenses. I networked extensively within the company and essentially created my own position within a strategy team that I knew worked with bankers. I was then able to start meeting with banks through this connection and spoke with well over 100 great people. I knew the SA interview process would be tough so anytime I wasn't working or studying, I was practicing interview courses and learning as much as I could about the job. I spent over $1,000 on study materials and courses. I gave it my all and it got to the point where my roommate told me I was talking about DCFs and excel in my sleep. I applied for 20 banks and got next round interviews for 2 of them. prior to the first interview, I was laser focused and only got 5/6hrs sleep per night because I would be up preparing. I got to NYC, gave it my all, and got rejected. this was devastating but I knew I could either give up or push myself harder. I nailed the second interview and got the offer. if I could share one thing, it would be that it can be done... the odds many not be in your favor, you may come from nowheresville USA, and you might have to get creative... but if you want it bad enough it is possible and it is worth it and I can't wait to give back to all the people that helped me get here

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Apr 25, 2020 - 5:02pm

Probably a tad more hardship than most. When to boarding school in Windsor, England at Eton. Then Princeton, then mckinsey, then KKR.

Every step of the way I have been disappointed but have persevered. I was heartbroken when I got rejected from Harvard, Goldman, and Blackstone, but I think my failures have shaped me and made me the person I am today. You really learn resilience when you fail

  • Prospect in S&T - Equities
Apr 26, 2020 - 8:43am

I wouldn't really say I've made it as per say, but nonetheless I believe I've done pretty well for myself.
I grew up in a very poor area in a council house in England in a single parent household. My dad was an abusive drugged out alcoholic. Parents divorced when I was 13 so I decided to get a job at 14 working in a warehouse which paid pretty well to cover my house bills. At this time I was attending one of the best schools in the country on a partial scholarship. Luckily, I was always a pretty smart kid, so I got into a grammar school early on, being the first person in my family and the area I lived in to attend a grammar school. I came close to the top in pretty much all of my classes until at around 16 where I ended up getting a pretty bad mental health disorder which the doctors couldn't diagnose as it was unheard of. Fell into deep depression which took me quite a bit of time to get out of. My grades fell, but somehow I grinded it out, got a string of A*/As at gsce and a levels and got into cass business school. I was also able to secure an internship at a top tier BB firm (think MS, JPM, Goldman) in AM. ..

Apr 26, 2020 - 12:24pm

One of my good friends has a crazy story, ill keep it short - not necessarily at the top, but this kid is an absolute grinder and it shows persistence can overcome all:

  • Low-income family, his dad sold halal food from a cart in NYC
  • Absolute garbage student in high school, sub 2.5 GPA, sub 1600 SAT (on 2400 scale)
  • Ends up going to community college (starts reading WSO, reading various finance books, learns about IB)
  • Gets a 4.0 at the local community college and applies to the state school
  • Goes to the state school during spring semester of his sophomore year and absolutely grinds, ends up locking in an operations offer at a BB
  • Spends the whole summer networking in the bank with FO folks and gets a mobility interview for IBD during his summer
  • Crushes the interview, but is rejected because he bombs his performance review at his operations internship so he does not even get an offer for his operations role to come back next year, losing his mobility offer as well
  • Goes through junior year recruiting and ends up getting IBD SA through the normal process at the same bank he didnt even get the Ops interships at
  • Grinds through the summer and ends up getting wrecked in banking paired with some personal issues he was going through, does not secure the IBD FT offer from the BB
  • Grinds for full time recruiting and ends up getting an EB offer at a bank way better than his BB
  • Top bucket at the EB for 3 years, exits for a year at MF PE shop (locks down Post-MBA Associate role), and now is enrolling at H/S/W for his MBA.
  • Intern in S&T - Comm
Apr 26, 2020 - 3:06pm

It's refreshing reading about folks who have made it w/o taking the classic route (~4.0 GPA at target-> BB SA -> BB FT). There's some hope left for the rest of us lol.

  • VP in IB - Ind
Apr 27, 2020 - 12:29am

First gen immigrant - moved during high school. First year in ESOL in a D+ public school. Dad worked near minimum wage retail jobs. Didn't sign up for any benefits outside of free lunch at school.

Went to State U that's pretty decent but not like UVa/ Berkeley good. Pell Grant, state scholarship, federal work study, some student loan - the whole package. Did couple of brand name technical internships. Lucked into a non MBB management consulting job.

Went to top 10 MBA after 4 years. Survived banking as of now and think last year I made 45x+ what my dad made w 1.5 jobs. Slightly younger sibling became a doctor.

Wasn't homeless or lacked food or anything - but lived on a tight budget. Not URM. Some good shots on the goal (most cases I had one offer that took me to next step) and supportive people across the board - whether parents, extended family, teachers / professors and senior people I worked with.

Anytime people blame their failure because URM got the job or thinks of immigrants as burden or goes against benefit programs or supports for people who need it - I roll my eyes.

Apr 27, 2020 - 8:45am

well my sister graduated from auburn with a 2.9 and started at Amazon as a manager in a warehouse and is now a director. I also had a close family friend in Alabama who did not go to college , started as a linemen at southern company and was the last CEO. Also my uncle became a ceo of southern company gas at 40 after losing his job at Enron and a few million in stock options just a few years earlier. my father was able to start a engineering firm after he graduated auburn and over the last 5 years they had began completing globally after a few years of him having only 10-20 employees and a small loan from regions to keep them going. It's not a investment banking success story yet because I'm the only one in my family who wants to get into Investment Banking but hopefully I can show my family investment banking can also quickly allow you to make a few million and that engineering is not the only place smart people are at.

Apr 27, 2020 - 6:36pm

I don't come from an underdog background per say and I know a lot of people would love to hear stories of those that come from nothing and turn life around.

However, being in banking and working with some really noble and wealthy peers, I realized that while a few of them are douches, the other half work extremely hard. I think for a son or daughter of a multi-millionaire to choose to do banking and work 100 hours as pretty noteworthy because I know a lot of people in my local area growing up who would retire if they won a lottery like that.

My main point is that stories from the seemingly wealthy are sometimes pretty impressive and notable even if they are backed by connections and the financing, For example some people come from a wealthy background, but grew up on a potato farm in the middle of nowhere and had to do some impressive things to learn about finance and make it in the field. However, this is just my 2 cents

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Apr 27, 2020 - 7:10pm

Might as well give an alternative to what's in here since I'm doing well for myself. I've never been a grinder academically but I'd consider myself an underdog story. Was raised upper middle class (read on - I know that doesn't give off an underdog vibe) but my parents never really pushed me academically whatsoever (divorced and kinda messed up family structure). So this led me to graduate HS and go into community college. I failed out my first year due to depression, anxiety, and not caring. I just had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I never even really thought about it - looking back I was very entitled. I took a year off then went back and got straight A's and then transferred into a non target "party school". Pretty much fucked around, partied and bar hopped, dated a girl for almost two years and just made her a priority; she wasn't in school at the time but stayed in the college town for whatever reason. Eventually we broke up before my Senior year. My junior year summer my dad pushed commercial real estate onto me quite a bit (he invests on the side and knows people in the industry) - I found this website it and changed everything for me. From that point on, getting good grades and getting a good job was my #1 priority for the first time in my life. I grinded very hard my senior year and graduated with only a 2.9 GPA. I networked decently hard as well and ended up getting lucky and networked my way into a tier 1 firm (also interviewed very well imo). I'm now making really good money for a first year analyst (literally 2x the average of a graduate of my school) and working great hours. This isn't that inspiring, or much of a true "grinder" story I know, but I guess the point here is that it's never really too late.

Apr 28, 2020 - 10:21am

Got kicked out of one high school my junior year and forced to attend an alternative school I still failed to graduate. Spent my senior year of high school on house arrest and court ordered drug rehab after violating my juvenile probation 7 times. Middle class family with good hardworking values but I was rebellious and lost.
Ended up getting my GED and getting a waiver to enlist in the navy. Made rank really quickly and began taking college full time at a private no name (but accredited and not for profit) school while I was in the Navy. Used this site as well as Poets and Quants to educate myself about the MBA. Read everything I could about the business world. Graduated in 2 and a half years magna cum laude, 6 months after getting out of the Navy.
Used Navy money to take a long term unpaid internship overseas for an accounting/consulting firm. Recieved consulting offer at the end of it from the US side of company. Worked there for a short time before getting into a T20 MBA program. Chose the program for location and 100% covered by GI bill. Heading to a top company for a virtual internship for the summer. Not quite there but I know its coming

Apr 28, 2020 - 5:36pm

Willie Wilson

-Born the son of a sharecropper in Louisiana. His grandparents were slaves.
-Left home at age 13, and began his career earning $0.20/hour working in cotton and sugar cane fields.
-Eventually moved to Chicago where he was hired to mop floors and flip burgers at a McDonald's
-Worked his way up to restaurant manager role
-Got a loan to become a franchisee, eventually owning 5 McDonald's
-Sold the restaurants and started a medical-supply company

Apr 28, 2020 - 5:54pm

John Paul DeJoria…

The entire Gore family.…

JK Rowling
Grew up kind of posh. Ended up in poverty and then wrote Harry Potter.

Sidney Weinberg-
Dude was a janitor at GS and eventually became CEO of GS.
He kept GS out of bankruptcy during the great depression.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Apr 29, 2020 - 12:00pm

1st generation college student. Grew up in a town with a population of 2,000 people. Went to a state school. Changed majors four times. H2 Junior year chose finance. During the remainder of college: PWM internship > Corp Finance internship > Accounting PT job > VC internship. Graduated and went to the Bay Area to work at a crooked micro VC that paid minimum wage. Was able to get a better paying job at another micro VC. Corp Dev at F1000. T15 MBA program. Top MM IB post-MBA associate. No substantial personal hardships but had almost no guidance on building a career and nothing was handed to me.

Apr 29, 2020 - 6:47pm

Me and my wife have interesting stories of how we got to where we wanted to go. Mine is still ongoing and I'm writing this to hopefully bring some of the success in this thread my way!

  • I was born into a sports family. Grandfather played in the NHL, dad played D1, my sister was #2 in the state in track.
  • Wasn't very good at sports, but gained a ton of interest, so I didn't try to get into the best college even though I had good grades (3.8+)
  • Did good in school, and majored in finance considered transferring to a B10 school to have a chance at high finance and put some effort in, but missed the deadline.
    -Completely shifted gears and aimed for sports again, specifically coaching. Though, I never played outside of hs ball, so approached university coach and asked if I could help. Coach said I could help with 2 months left before I graduated, so only 2 months experience.
  • Start looking for a coaching job, but who wants a coach with 2 months experience (hint: no one). Landed a job as an asst. at a junior college team.
  • After two weeks, a D1 university calls me and asks if I'm interested in coaching for them, and that one of their coaches knew my universities coach.
  • Work as an assistant for a D1 school. Worse hours than IB. 8am to 12am 5 days a week, and 8am to 7pm on weekends. No day off in 9 months. Less than $50K salary. Ouch.
  • Desire to go back to finance to support myself. Reach out to some guys who went to school with me. Land a financial analyst role at a F500 bank. Lateral to corp dev at the bank.
  • Look to get my MBA, get accepted to an M7, but dating an international girl. Want to marry her and so I forgo that to go get my MBA at T-10 EU school. Best decision I made.
  • Land a job as an associate for a REPE. Way lucky.
  • Covid hits, I get laid off 3 months before graduation with only 1 year of REPE, so stuck between real estate and private investing. Struggling to get interviews in the US with EU MBA, and weird one year REPE associate position.

My wife:
- Born in Thailand. Dad leaves when she is three, has to pick up garbage to sell at her house to make money to buy rice and eggs to eat.
- Loves to cook, but bounces around her family living. Stays with her moms sister, who then commits suicide on her birthday.
- Mom meets a Swede, moves them to Sweden.
- She doesn't know Swedish, or English, but starting high school
- Dreams of going to Uni now out the window as she tries to teach herself a new language.
- Goes to technical school instead to learn cooking.
- I move to her right after she graduates, and we move near my school.
- Lands a job at michilen star restuarant cooking next to a top Thai chef in the world. Has gotten offers already to cook in the US once we move back.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
May 1, 2020 - 5:52pm

My story certainly doesn't compare to being homeless, but I consider it a grinder story.

Grew up in one of the 25 poorest counties in the US. My family wasn't poor (working-class), but very frugal and hard-working, didn't pay for any college but taught me the right values. Public high school where less than 25% of guys attend a 4-year University - I know more people on meth in my hometown than those who graduated University. I scored a 30 on my ACT and had a 4.0+, which was good enough for ~half of my college to be paid for at our state University (non-target). Worked manual labor in summers and after school to pay the other half (think construction/mechanic/car-wash)

In college, had a 4.0 all 4 years, officers in investment and other clubs, also had a job the whole time. Realized my freshmen year I needed internships to get a job, so did the below career track (at bottom). My big break was getting a back-office internship at a leading BB. A lot of people shit on those roles, and even I'm a bit guilty of that now, but for non-Target kids that didn't have any exposure to high-finance its really is making it and I had to do a lot of cold-calls just to get that. When i did the application my University wasn't even in the system, that's how non-Target it was - I applied to at least 30 places and got 2 interviews. Now after grinding for a few years, I was able to crack into first IB and now PE.

I give all the credit to my parents who always believed in me and taught me that it doesn't matter where you start, in America anyone can rise up through hard-work and discipline.

Career track:
Internships (Sales >> Insurance >> Back Office BB) >> FT Offer >> IB at BB >> Mega-Fund P/E

May 1, 2020 - 7:43pm

Worked hard in college, got a 3.9 GPA, but it was a totally non-target school and banks didn't give a shit about me. Started a business in college and hustled my brains out, but graduated in the last recession (2009/2010).

I was probably top 5 in my school, but when I contacted employers, they would tell me they just fired half their group. I had interviews with major buy-side investment firms who told me I just didn't fit into their box. I had interviews with others who said "you have a business, why work for me?" During one major IB interview process (that I only got through stalking an MD's email), there were 5 spots, and I was declared #6, but an alternate. I had fucking nightmares about this. Finally, the MD called me and asked me a bunch of questions (what does a discount rate REALLY mean? How do you value a company with zero revenue?) - I failed and lost the chance.

I took my uncle's Blackberry (yeah, it was a while ago), and spammed 50 people in finance. Magically, I got a hit. Slightly outside my hometown, for only a $50k salary, but doing highly complex securities work. I learned Excel, learned modelling, worked for a brilliant genius, and understood the business. Our assets didn't default during the GFC. Not a dollar of default.

I took that story and sold myself to a PE firm, and I've been there 8 years and am a VP for two. Not at the pinnacle of success, but finally able to breathe. I hope you guys get some inspiration from this. No matter how hard you fall, there are other directions you can take to arrive at your intended goal.

May 1, 2020 - 8:34pm

Complete non target school, battled severe mental illness, graduated college with a 2.8 GPA, started paper trading, fired from 3 of my first 4 jobs out of college within 5 years, took a job in warehouse labor just for the insurance, after 5 years of paper trading developed a winning strategy, now FO S&T making six figures. I still wake up most mornings in disbelief. Anything is possible

May 2, 2020 - 3:00pm

If anyone is interested in the full story I wrote a very long, detailed passage on this. It's titled "The Most Unbelievable True Story: From Warehouse Associate in January to FO S&T Analyst in March". This all came to fruition just a few months ago actually

May 2, 2020 - 5:22am

Not a story of hardship but about as "non target" as you can get.

First person in my family to go University - football scholarship - paid more attention to football than school. Knees and shoulders wouldn't carry the load anymore so they drop you fairly quick. Moved to even smaller school where I could focus. Finished degree - tbh - at that time I had no idea what investment banking or consulting even was. Got a job on the rigs - worked my way up from roughneck to assistant driller working up in the arctic circle and offshore. After a while realized I wanted to use my brain and always had an interest in finance - being competitive lead me to IB. Started doing CFA at night after shifts on the rigs. Managed to get my way into grad school - got myself some internships and managed to get my foot in the door and never looked back.

Never too late to do something new if you put your mind to it!

May 2, 2020 - 8:04am

started school as a mech engineering major, fucking hated it but grades were ok. second semester my 10 year old brother was hit by a car right in front of me and i spent my finals week watching doctors try to bring him back but they couldn't... it sent me into a spiral. bombed that semester, thought i was tough enough to go back in the fall, didn't show to classes because of my depression and ended up dropping out with a 1.3 GPA. got heavily involved in drugs, made decisions that still keep me awake at night, but after watching a buddy of mine get locked up i decided i had to change. went back to school, switched to finance, retook every class i failed on top of taking pre reqs and working full time since my parents put me out (rightfully so i was a total shitbag). somehow managed to bring my GPA up and land a S&T internship in NYC and now im just hoping to graduate on time with all this COVID bullshit. im not there yet, but if you would've asked me 2 years ago where id be today it definitely wouldn't be where im at right now. thanks for taking the time to read this if you made it this far, and please, if you're going through any tough shit, talk to someone about it. made all the difference for me

May 2, 2020 - 2:41pm

Hey everyone,
I love hearing stories like this. My background is a little unorthodox, but nothing as admirable of some that I read.

Graduated HS in 2012, jumped right into college but wasn't sure why I was going. Ultimately dropped out with zero credits and was consistently skipping classes. Decided to join the marines because the thought of the military always inspired me. A week after enlistment I tore my acl and meniscus and was separated from the military. Determined to re-enlist I met all the necessary post OP requirements to eventually set off to marines basic training a year later. On my 2nd day I was disqualified for having keratoconus, which is essentially a progressed astigmatism. Back to square one with no college education and now disqualified from all military branches I felt pretty hopeless. On top of that both my parents have recently been laid off from their FT jobs with no transitional skills to fall back on.

I started working FT to support my parents at BOA as a teller. After a year I was promoted to relationship banker. I quickly realized I like banking but looking for something on a much larger scale. Began attending community college FT on top of FT work. Soon I left BOA and transferred to a local private university and played football on a merrit scholarship which fully covered my cost of tuition. My classes were able to be online which allowed me to work landscaping everyday before football practice so I cant continue to support my parents. I was studying finance and that's when I looked further into different career paths. I came across IB but knew nothing about it. Summer of 2018 I enrolled at the investment banking institute in NYC where I learned about valuation methodologies as well as financial modeling. Most importantly I got to meet a lot of like minded students and career professionals with glamorous backgrounds. I wasnt ashamed to attend my no name private University but knew if I was serious I would need to attend a more prominent college/university. Transferred (a second time) to a well known state University though still a non target. Within the first month I launched the investment banking club and landed a fall internship at a boutique media based IB. Ultimately that internship went on to last a full year as I kept showing up everyday and MDs did not saying anything. I interned 40+ hrs a week on top of my college studies from sophomore to junior year and was still able to provide for parents.

I felt pretty good going into recruiting season and applied to almost everywhere I can think. Fortunately I was able to land a summer IB offer in NYC at a well known bank. I am now finishing my last year of college (may 2021) and continue to work FT landscaping even throughout this covid on top of schooling. Not sure how much of a success/underdog story this is but basically everyone close to me didnt believe I can do it. Even my closest mentors suggested i find a plan B but i failed to quit and knew I was set on this path.

Thanks for reading :)

  • VP in S&T - FI
May 2, 2020 - 8:16pm

Grew up in a major metro area of a flyover state was a decent student and pretty good at sports which led to me getting a pretty nice scholarship to play at a lower end D1 school. Did not really take school (3.1 GPA) or my future career seriously, my attitude was that I would have my whole life to worry about work and my career and that I was going to try to play the sport as long as I could and enjoy college.

I had no idea what I wanted to do but I majored in econ/finance and a lot of my friends and people in my major were going into finance (to give some context of what finance meant in my world at that time the 2 people I knew who I considered to be most successful were going to work in commercial banking at PNC, Regions, BBT, etc those are not bad careers but hardly high finance) so I figured I would give that a shot, with no internships (my resume was pretty much manual labor and restaurant work at that point) and no real idea of how to interview all I was able to get was an internship at a local bank in their mortgage department. The guy who helped me get the job was a guy who I met working at a restaurant.

I was making $11 an hour mostly doing mindless back office work but I was building a resume and learning a bit about the mortgage industry and financial markets. Started to learn that I liked the financial markets and set up my twitter feed with a bunch of financial news outlets and just read as many articles as I could. They did not have any openings full time but I was able to sang another internship with a different local bank in their commercial credit/lending department I think that paid $12 an hour. I think someone I knew from sports growing up worked there and he passed my name to HR.

In addition to the 40 hour a week intern roles I was also doing anything I could to make extra money. I coached and did private training in my sport, worked for a local apartment developer as a leasing agent and also worked for a local RE agent doing admin work. I liked the leasing agent work most because I got to meet a lot of people and there was commissions associated with it and an element of pay was directly tied to performance and I loved the feeling I got when I leased a unit and the financial reward that came from it. I realized that I liked working with people needed that competitive environment with a very concrete way to measure performance to motivate myself.

During the internship in credit/commercial lending at the local bank I discovered WSO and learned what sales and trading was and quickly realized this was a perfect fit for me in terms of type of work and work environment I wanted. I also had zero relevant experience or network in sales and trading and that I needed to find a role that would allow me to build this network and learn about the business and the products in more depth and most importantly meet people in the field. Eventually after 9 months or so at the 2 internships I was able to find a full time role at a slightly bigger local bank as analyst in their treasury group and I was pretty much the junior guy for any capital markets thing the bank did.

Once I got a full time gig I toned down the side gigs and for the first year I just worked as hard as I could to learn as much as possible and to read as much research as I could. I was a client of most of the major firms on wall street and I had access to a ton of information. I was meeting a ton of people and learning a ton. About a year in I started to reach out to the contacts I had made and anyone else I could find online who would talk to me and after about 9 months of networking, god knows how many emails, phone calls and several trips to NYC and Chicago I was able to get a regional dealer to hire me as a trader and after a couple of years there I moved to a BB.

I think moral of this story is that you don't need to go to a target school and your career is not over if you don't get the right job directly out of college. Finding a job that touches what you want to do in some respect and allows you to learn and meet people is going to open opportunities if you are willing to network and hustle.

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