Posts like these are a dime a dozen, but I need to tell my story so that the next kid can take inspiration if they ever stumble onto this post. This is a long post, but I promise it's worth it.
Was born and raised in Australia to immigrant, lower-class parents. We left when I was about 12 years old to a shithole country for dad's work. I grew up believing I wanted to become a doctor, immersing myself in pre-med subjects like Biology and Chemistry. I never particularly enjoyed any of that, but had my heart set on becoming a physician. I attended university in said country for a year, enrolling in a pre-med degree but utterly hated it. Wasn't doing so well and figured "screw this", and decided to reevaluate my options.
Biggest change came about when the family moved back to Australia, which I initially believed was my second chance to pursue medicine (thanks to the undergraduate MBBS system we have here). I took all the tests and ended up falling short of being admitted into med school.
My life spiraled out of control. I slipped into depression and didn't know what to do anymore. I initially considered re-starting my pre-med degree at a brand name university we have here but the mere thought of studying pre-med made me miserable. Thankfully, had a cousin who was sympathetic with my situation, and began advising me as to what to study.
He took me down to the city, where for the first time in such a long time, I was walking between skyscrapers. I hadn't seen a proper city setting since leaving Australia as a child, and just being there was incredible to me. Cousin then takes me out for lunch, and tells me:
"This could all be yours if you want it bad enough"
Those words got me. As a kid that grew up in a not-so-ideal setting, the thought of me being a part of all this was nothing short of miraculous. In a desperate plea, I asked him to tell me what I should pursue at university. He told me finance/economics was the way to go, since he knew I was pretty good with math.
He then proceeded to tell me about IB, and what the job entails. Went home and stayed up all night researching what investment banking was and how to break in. The money got to me (obviously). The prestige was all there. I now had a second chance to prove to myself that I could make something of myself. That I could buy the nicer things in life, like I had seen in the movies. This was my only shot.
Immediately enrolled at the best university in the country to study finance and economics. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Pre-med was the only thing I ever knew, and I had never taken any economics or business studies in school, so naturally I was very intimidated, but determined.
I found finance fascinating. Didn't even know what a stock vs bond was. But who cares, I began reading and developing a genuine passion for learning finance and economics. I loved it all, which is what makes the next part so puzzling to me even till now...
Baptism by fire. That's what I use to describe my first year at university. Nearly failed my first 3 subjects. So much for being determined, aye? No excuses, I fucked up pretty bad. I let the chip on my shoulder - the fact that I was restarting university after almost 2 years - get the better of me.
This was the lowest I had ever felt in my life, and lemme tell you, it isn't pretty. Never before had I questioned myself and my abilities to pursue a respectful career. I felt so stupid, since I had given up so much to be here and I was doing so bad. At this point, I considered dropping out of university all together. Clearly wasn't cut out for this shit, I told myself, crying myself to sleep.
In my depressed haze, I was browsing Google when I stumbled across WSO. Thank God I found WSO. Where would I be without this forum, I constantly ask myself. Began religiously reading every post I could find. Began learning the importance of networking, work experience, the need to be competitive both academically and outside of university.
I had found my last lifeline. This would be it. My very last chance. And I'd be fucked before I fell short again.
Spent most of that summer applying for internships at small boutiques. Sent probably 250 emails until I got a shot at a small VC fund. It was unpaid, one day a week and involved a lot of cold calling, but I was so thrilled to get that opportunity. Spent around 5 months there, soaking up everything I could, and loving every second of it. I was doing a good job, receiving great feedback from the associate I worked under. Hell, they even started telling me I was welcome to join as a graduate when I finished my studies. I also began picking myself up academically, hitting a 3.0 GPA for that semester. Things were starting to improve.
I was still set on IB, and figured this place would give me some great experience to put on my CV and could be a good place to kickstart my career from.
Got a call from work one day, saying they no longer required my services since the partners at the fund had a falling out and the fund was in the process of unwinding. I was devastated. However, I knew I had step things up and networking with other boutiques. I wanted IB more than anything, so leveraging what I already had, I began the hunt again.
As sheer luck would have it, I networked with a director at a boutique advisory firm who happened to be an advisor at the fund I interned at. He was happy to take me on board as an intern and help him out. It was glorified data entry work, compiling investor lists and spreadsheets. But I was happy. I was getting more experience.
In the meanwhile, I became good friends with a director at a well established PE firm. Nicest guy ever, and gave me regular suggestions. Told me to apply to the Big 4 in their CF division for an internship. I remember laughing:
"My GPA is so shit they'd bin my CV before even meeting me."
He insisted I give it a shot, telling me I'd be pleasantly surprised if I tried. Figured meh, may as well waste some time and apply. Still to my shock today, I got in. Turns out he made a few calls and made sure I got the opportunity. Impressed the hell out of them, securing a graduate offer. Couldn't believe it. Still don't believe it.
The power of networking, boys and girls. Never underestimate it.
I made It
Academically, past two years I really pulled my socks up. Wasn't gonna rest on my laurels and half-ass my way through the remainder of my degree. I'm proud to say I didn't get under a 3.7 for my remaining semesters. I'll be graduating with a 3.0, which I know isn't by any means impressive, but considering I had a 1.8 in my first year, I'm rather proud of myself for recovering so quickly.
As I finish my last week of university, I have secured another graduate offer with a well-regarded boutique. I will be choosing them over the Big 4 CF. The deal exposure I'll be given is incredible, and financially speaking is much better than the CF offer.
Looking back, from my very shaky start to now, I feel I can give some key points to summarize:
- Don't ever give up. Sounds cliched but trust me, things can get pretty tough. You were born to succeed.
- WSO is a godsend. Exhaust it as much as humanly possible.
- Network, network and network some more. This was by far the great 'equalizer' for me and many others.
- Never forget how bad you want to make it. Set your goals and annihilate them.
- Some of us came from nothing, and that's OK. Work twice as hard.
And here's a massive shout out to WSO's very own 'IB Prep Guide'. It's incredibly comprehensive and covers absolutely everything you could ask for when trying to enter IB. It's worth its weight in gold and I highly recommend it to anybody who really wants this. It's uncanny how many questions I've been asked in real interviews that appear in the guide.
Thanks to all that read the entire post, and apologies if it isn't coherent. I just hope that one day someone that was in my situation stumbles upon this post and takes inspiration.
And here's a special thanks to all those that contribute on WSO. You the real MVPs.