Fake it Until You Make it Stories

Talked to some friends over the weekend got me thinking, does anyone have any examples of times at work (or even outside of work), where they basically faked it until they made it? Could be you were prepping for any interview and talked out of your ass but sounded intelligent, or had to take a test and exactly what you studied was on the test.

I've heard of it going the other way where someone fakes their way into something and gets caught, but haven't heard many times of it working out.

Comments (52)

Most Helpful
Jun 22, 2020

Not sure if it counts like "fake it till you make it", but still, it is a funny story.

I was interviewing for an analyst place at a local stock exchange, didn't know shit about fundamental analysis (in fact I failed accounting in college and got kicked out from the CFA Research Challenge).

When I was asked if I know fundamental analysis, I told: "I will know it by tomorrow". They raised eyebrows and gave me two months of probation period.

The night before my first day, I didn't sleep and has read the whole textbook about fundamental analysis. Worked hell hard through the probation, took a dozen of Coursera courses related to analytics etc., got an FT offer, stayed there for a year, then got recruited by another place with better comp and exit opps.

Now I work in ER and IB (DCM, IPO), teach finance at Coursera, and gave guest lectures at a local uni.

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Jun 24, 2020

What a freakin boss!!

Jun 22, 2020

bump

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Jun 22, 2020

When I was in audit at a Big4, my team was called into a meeting and asked to brainstorm ideas for digital transformation. Most of my teammates had the decency to suggest small things, but when I was put on the spot, for some ungodly reason, I stuttered that I thought a time-intensive portion of the financial statement review process could probably be automated. A few eyebrows were raised, but I didn't think I would hear anymore about it.

Then the partner asked about it at the next check-in.

At the time, I had no coding experience and was also, to boot, a very mediocre auditor. In my own time, I taught myself Alteryx, and began quietly coming into the office on weekends to work on the project when I was supposed to be studying for the CPA exam. Although later I would tell people that I had a vision for the project from the start, the truth was I had no clue what I was doing and was winging it, one module at a time.

3.5 months later, at a groupwide meeting, during lunch, I went from table to table with a one-page explanation of the program and a 30-second pitch, selling my automation to every partner and senior manager who couldn't get away fast enough. When I finally demoed it for our leadership, the program was 8x bigger than anything our digital people had seen... but it worked beautifully, cutting a 60 hour process down to 30 seconds. Projected savings went at over $5 mm annually (the process was one found on every audit engagement).

I wanted to make implementing the project on audits my full-time job, but the firm told me I would have to work busy season and consult on projects in my own time. But being able to talk about this project in interviews was a game-changer for me, and I went on to land a junior analyst role at a fundamental equity l/s shop... very much because I said something stupid in a meeting in August and chose to lean into it.

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Jun 22, 2020

Could you share some more details? What code language did you use, what rough processes were you able to automate and how?

Always keen to get inspired to see what can be automated, I'm somewhat technical myself (eng level SQL and decent Python).

Jun 22, 2020

Alteryx w a R-powered text parser -- don't want to give away too much here, feel free to PM :)

Jun 22, 2020

That is FANTASTIC. That's like a Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill) story of getting a spark of inspiration and doing everything necessary to see it through to where it could take you, no matter what.
Nice courage - love it - was worth it!

Jun 22, 2020

I feel that's the standard big 4 response

Jun 22, 2020

You're not wrong.

Jun 22, 2020

Lol. This automation is something one good engineer could do in couple weeks.

Financial Data Science

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Jun 22, 2020

Probably, or one bored accountant, for free, in a couple months.

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  • Intern in IB - Restr
Jun 23, 2020

And yet only a self proclaimed "mediocre auditor" thought to develop it?

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Jun 24, 2020

Wow all these finance people who don't know Jack shit about technology throwing MS at me I see.

This was an educated time estimate from someone who's done engineering work and works with technology.

Financial Data Science

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Jun 23, 2020
Laurens Bancroft:

When I was in audit at a Big4, my team was called into a meeting and asked to brainstorm ideas for digital transformation. Most of my teammates had the decency to suggest small things, but when I was put on the spot, for some ungodly reason, I stuttered that I thought a time-intensive portion of the financial statement review process could probably be automated. A few eyebrows were raised, but I didn't think I would hear anymore about it.

Then the partner asked about it at the next check-in.

At the time, I had no coding experience and was also, to boot, a very mediocre auditor. In my own time, I taught myself Alteryx, and began quietly coming into the office on weekends to work on the project when I was supposed to be studying for the CPA exam. Although later I would tell people that I had a vision for the project from the start, the truth was I had no clue what I was doing and was winging it, one module at a time.

3.5 months later, at a groupwide meeting, during lunch, I went from table to table with a one-page explanation of the program and a 30-second pitch, selling my automation to every partner and senior manager who couldn't get away fast enough. When I finally demoed it for our leadership, the program was 8x bigger than anything our digital people had seen... but it worked beautifully, cutting a 60 hour process down to 30 seconds. Projected savings went at over $5 mm annually (the process was one found on every audit engagement).

I wanted to make implementing the project on audits my full-time job, but the firm told me I would have to work busy season and consult on projects in my own time. But being able to talk about this project in interviews was a game-changer for me, and I went on to land a junior analyst role at a fundamental equity l/s shop... very much because I said something stupid in a meeting in August and chose to lean into it.

With some light changes, this could be a B-School application essay. Pretty solid.

"Millionaires don't use astrology, billionaires do"

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  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Jun 23, 2020

Are you talking about the analytical review part of audit? It's been maybe 4-5 years since I've been in audit so can't rmb all the details but from memory it was things like controls, process and actual sample collection and supporting documentation and review writing that took time? Most of it was just rolled from prior year.

Surprised alteryx wasn't proactive in approaching big 4 firms with this solution

Jun 25, 2020

It was not - more for the review of client-provided longform contracts - I think it would fall under substantive procedures, if I remember that correctly.

Jun 24, 2020

You winged it in the moment

But were smart enough and driven enough to learn and go through with it in the end

I think- therefore I fuck

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Jun 22, 2020

my whole life lawl

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Jun 22, 2020
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Jun 22, 2020

He's a good man

Jun 22, 2020

I'm still doing it

Jun 22, 2020

"I lied to him all the way to the airport." -Gary Cohn

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Funniest
Jun 22, 2020

A guy I knew's uncle started a small manufacturing company. I think at the time it was just him and MAYBE one other employee, but somehow he landed an interview with a major company (like Proctor and Gamble or something). To prepare for the meeting, he rented an office, warehouse, and hired about twenty actors for a few hours. The company came and visited his rented office, while tons of the actors were running around busily, printing bullshit orders out, and answering fake phone calls. The company didn't know the difference and he closed the sale. He turned his business into a multi million dollar business essentially overnight.

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Jun 22, 2020

if you never had impostor syndrome you never shot high enough amirite boys

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 22, 2020

Wow, you are back!

Jun 23, 2020
Prospect in IB-M&A:

Wow, you are back!

bunch of hungry ghosts roaming the halls. shit's not good.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Jun 23, 2020
GoldenCinderblock:

if you never had impostor syndrome you never shot high enough amirite boys

Guess who's back, back again
Goldie's back, tell a friend
Guess who's back, guess who's back?
Guess who's back, guess who's back?

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Jun 23, 2020

I think one can become a PUA god and not get stuck in Simpville.

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Jun 23, 2020
lubar:

I think one can become a PUA god and not get stuck in Simpville.

is that the guy who used to do the funny bro workout videos? my sounds off

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

Jun 23, 2020

yeah -- except now he's older and tatted.

Jun 23, 2020

Any maxims on stretching the truth in interviews?

Jun 25, 2020
Zoon:

Any maxims on stretching the truth in interviews?

underpromise and overdeliver, pussy.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Jun 23, 2020

Mentioned above but to elaborate - Gary Cohn was selling aluminum siding and convinced a trader in NYC on a Friday afternoon cab ride that he knew all about options. From his commencement speech at American University:

"I said, here's my shot. I've got 45 minutes, in traffic on a Friday afternoon to convince this guy that I'm hirable and need a job. He literally went through and grilled me on my knowledge of financial markets, grilled me on my knowledge of certain aspects and I think I moderately passed. By the end of the taxi ride, he says, 'what do you know about options.' I said, 'everything.' He said, 'great, I want you to come back Monday, I want you to interview. I said, 'no problem, I'm your guy.'"

He knew nothing about options. Went out and bought "Options as a Strategic Investment" by Lawrence McMillan. Read it four times (not bad for a kid with dyslexia). Showed up Monday and the rest was history. Legend.

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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Jun 24, 2020

I always think of finance in a way as actors, some people do great and stick around a while, some people are known for one thing, a lot of comparisons.

In acting, a lot of times actors are looking for work and will completely lie about having certain skills.

Carl Weathers did this for Rocky. Said he had acting experience, didn't have any. He came in for a read with Sly Stallone (who he didn't know was also the writer and director), and Carl kept flubbing his lines. Carl goes, "I'm only doing bad bc this guy (Stallone) sucks, I'll get it when I get a real actor." He was then told that Stallone was the guy he was playing against, Carl just looks at him and goes, "Maybe he'll better."

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  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 24, 2020

Swish Goswami

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Jun 24, 2020

going into China to do local PE using my broken Mandarin was def a fake it until make it. Kinda didn't work. I was taking night tutoring in Mandarin at the office though. But certainly was an effort in the 'build the glider while already falling'

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Jun 24, 2020

I showed up to the one and only BB internship interview I applied to during OCR, and was told to wait in reception while the interviews were conducted in other nearby rooms. I sat in the corner closest to a room where interviews were taking place and could vaguely hear technical questions being asked through the wall. I showed up early enough that I got to hear almost two full interviews worth of basic technicals before my interview. As I did not know a single thing about accounting or finance, I memorized the answers off Google. I completely lucked out that the room I could hear was the one where they were asking technicals (multiple rooms were running at once). I did not know what the three statements or a DCF were but I mechanically gave out the answers line by line from Google. I was asked the exact same questions as everyone else and managed to secure the internship as those were the only technicals I was asked.

After somehow getting the job, I showed up to the first day of intern training having done no prep up to that point, so I still knew nothing. Thank god the training was good and the program was designed for morons like me. Unfortunately, I still had not wised up and focused 100% on my work attitude, doing the slides I was told, and never needed to model once. I had retained basically none of the minimal finance knowledge I received during training. Worse still, I spent my senior year enjoying life and did exactly 0 prep even in the days leading up to full-time training.

THANK GOD for full-time training. I learned accounting and valuation from scratch after doing the exercises, reading a ton and drilling very hard during the weird off-time / down-time we had during the day. I carried that through to my first few months on the desk where I went "full hardo" and would stay in the office an extra 2-3 hours a day to model and practice for PE interviews (something I had just learned about during training) on top of the random hours during the day where I had downtime. PRO TIP: Use that random downtime to your advantage. That first few months of full-time work spent drilling helped me get my MF offer and the rest was history.

It's only been a few years, but I wonder if college kids today could still get away with that.

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Jun 25, 2020

With the internet it may have things.

Prior to internet, employers didn't have a solid method of checking your background, but also, you wouldn't have been able to look up answers so quickly.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 26, 2020
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